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Apple Deal Kills Blog That Leaked Product InformationSome say Apple sued hard to win little, but to others, shutting down a site with early product info is ominous development
Blogophiles are hoping that a cease-fire between Apple and a young blogger spells the end of the computer company's legal assault on Web sites peddling rumors about its new products. But some media lawyers say that the part of the settlement that shuts down Think Secret, an Apple rumor site run by Harvard senior Nicholas Ciarelli, is a little ominous. Apple previously lost a separate bid in state court to pry sources from several blogs that wrote about products the company was developing.
The Recorder2007-12-21 12:00:00 AM
Blogophiles are hoping that a cease-fire between Apple and a young blogger spells the end of the computer company's legal assault on Web sites peddling rumors about its new products.
But some media lawyers say that the part of the settlement that shuts down Think Secret, an Apple rumor site run by Harvard senior Nicholas Ciarelli, is a little ominous.
Ciarelli, who had posted stories about the Mac Mini that the company claimed violated trade secret laws, announced Thursday that the long-running case filed against him by Apple had been settled. Ciarelli's lawyer, Terry Gross of San Francisco's Gross & Belsky, said his client was "very satisfied" with the deal. He declined to describe the terms of the settlement beyond Ciarelli's announcement that he would shut down his site and that no sources were revealed.
Apple previously lost a separate bid in state court to pry sources from several blogs, including Apple Insider and PowerPage, that wrote about products the company was developing. In that case, the company also claimed that trade secret laws had been violated. The courts didn't agree, and Apple was forced earlier this year to pay the bloggers' legal fees, to the tune of $700,000.
Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation who fought Apple in the previous case, said the settlement with Think Secret is a win for bloggers.
"I don't think it creates a bad precedent for other sites," Opsahl said. "Apple went through a lot of effort and time to not get much."
But Guylyn Cummins, a media lawyer with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in San Diego, was a little more circumspect about the settlement.
"What bothers me about this whole thing is that it's shut down an entire site," Cummins said.
The settlement came two years after Gross sought dismissal with an anti-SLAPP motion in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Gross said Apple put off the hearing and settled because it was afraid of losing, which would've meant paying attorney fees.
"The only reason they did that was, obviously, because they knew they were going to lose," he said.
Gross said that Ciarelli didn't shut down the site because he was afraid of Apple, but because he wanted to move on with his life -- he said his client started the site when he was 13.
Gross, who originally took the case pro bono, declined to comment on whether attorney fees were part of the settlement.
Apple's lawyer, O'Melveny & Myers' George Riley, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Apple representatives also did not respond to e-mail requests for comment, but were widely quoted Thursday as saying the settlement was good for all parties.
Thomas Burke, a media lawyer with Davis Wright Tremaine in San Francisco, said he hopes that companies will stop suing blogs that actually help their business by getting consumers excited.
"You gotta ask yourself at some point, how much harm is there to creating buzz for a product?" he said.