By MAY WONG AP Technology Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- A case that could jeopardize the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and give companies more legal leeway to track down supposed leaks of trade secrets is now in the hands of a state appeals court.
Apple Computer Inc. faced tough questions before a three-judge panel of the 6th District Court of Appeal on Thursday as it argued its case seeking to identify the sources who leaked confidential information about an unreleased product to online media outlets in 2004.
Apple contended the unidentified sources _ presumed to be company employees _ violated its trade secrets. It subpoenaed the Internet service providers of three online journalists to turn over e-mail records to uncover the possible sources.
A lower court last year ruled in Apple's favor but the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose attorneys represent the online journalists of AppleInsider.com, PowerPage.org and MacNN.com appealed. The civil liberties organization contended Apple's protection of trade secrets in this case should not outweigh the journalists' First Amendment right to confidential sources nor the privacy protections of e-mails allowed under federal law.
The appellate panel in San Jose questioned Apple's stance, including its claim that the published diagrams of the unreleased music-related product code-named "Asteroid" amounted to a trade secret.