The Apple rumour site Think Secret has posted a note saying that it has reached a settlement with Apple over the lawsuit the computer company filed against it for leaking company secrets, and that it is “a positive solution for both sides.” No doubt any kind of settlement that doesn’t involve millions of dollars or jail time is a relief for Nick Ciarelli — the Harvard student who ran the site and has been hounded by Apple for several years now — but I fail to see how it’s positive for anyone.
This case is separate from another case involving bloggers and company secrets, in which Apple tried to get PowerPage, AppleInsider and Think Secret to reveal the names of the sources they got their information from. In that case, a lower court ruled that the bloggers weren’t protected by California’s “journalist shield” law, and that they would have to turn over the information — but an appeals court disagreed, saying they were entitled to the same protection as journalists.
Think Secret was sued separately for divulging trade secrets — and while the site didn’t have to turn over the names of its sources, it has still been forced to shut down. Meanwhile, Apple comes off looking like some power-crazed South American dictator, the kind who can’t stand it when the media reveal government secrets and so arrests the entire press corps. I know that keeping secrets and then revealing them to an adoring public at Macworld is a time-honoured Jobs tradition, but this is ridiculous.
As Mike Masnick notes at Techdirt, this will have a chilling effect on journalists — and I’m including publications like Think Secret and Apple Insider in that description. Apple should be ashamed of itself. My blogging friend Rex Hammock has a moving tribute to Think Secret here.
Ars Technica has a good overview of the case and those that preceded it — and according to the EFF, Nick Ciarelli is pretty happy with the settlement (which the EFF suggests Apple was in danger of losing). If he got a half-decent settlement, then I’m glad. But I still think it sends the wrong message to shut the site down.