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The Risk of Blogging a Scoop

Apple’s recent decision to sue fan site Think Secret for publishing rumors (which look like they were too close to home) about an upcoming Apple product got me thinking this week about where I as a blogger who rights about technology would stand with regards to publishing such information. On a number of occasions in the past two years of blogging I’ve been given significant information on yet to be released products including specifications, names and even photos.

Some of this information comes from within companies, others from anonymous tips and sometimes they are from mistakes companies have made in publishing pages on new products too early. Its a real buzz when you get such a scoop but what are the ethics of it? Just as an important question is what are the risks involved with such scoops? Is it worth publishing such information if we could be sued? As smaller operators could we even afford to foot the legal bills for such legal action?

This week I received an email from an employee of Samsung who requested that I take down information that I had posted on my Camera Phone Blog on threeconcept phones‘ (or phones in development) that Samsung had not officially launched. I did not obtain the information or pictures that I posted illegally, but rather from another site that had published it (with links back to them).

I considered my options and ended up deciding to remove the content of each post and replace it with an explanation of why I had done so for readers. My decision was not really based upon my relationship with Samsung or because they asked me to – but because I could not afford to take on the expense of a legal bill for leaving the information online.

Whilst I can understand Apple and Samsung not wanting technical details of their unreleased products appearing online I am left wondering if it is actually in their best interests to take such an approach with publishers. Whilst I’m committed to reporting news in an objective non biased manner – I wonder what will linger in the back of my mind next time I come to review a Samsung camera or phone. I wonder what suing one of their most comprehensive fan sites (which has tens of thousands of avid apple fan readers) is doing for the publicity of Apple this week?

Jason Calacanis has an open letter on his blog to Apple after the Think Secret debacle which sums up some of my own thinking on the matter:

‘You’ve worked the public into a frenzy over your products, and we as the press are covering that enthusiasm. Your employees and partners send us tips all day long, and we as journalists cover those tips. That’s what we do!

Sometimes those tips pan out, most times they don’t. It’s all part of the pop and circumstance of the technology industry.

Don’t you think it’s fun that everyone is playing this game of cat and mouse? Don’t you appreciate that people are so obsessed with your work that they launch a site called Think *Secret*? Most companies would love to have this attention, and your response it to sue the press that feeds you?

If you want to sue someone sue your employees who send us the leaks, or your partners who tip us off. They are the ones who sign agreements with you not to talk—not us!’

What is your opinion on this topic? What would you do if asked by a company to remove content on an unreleased product?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jon Wright says:

    As an Apple fan for longer than I care to remember, I have always enjoyed the rumour sites that report new product releases. It makes the actual launch of these products more exciting for the potential user and keeps us mere mortals in touch with what may or may not be going to happen. Now by actually sueing one of its biggest allies in ThinkSecret, it makes me wonder how much damage this lawsuit will cause and its impact on the Mac community and Apple.

    I have always thought of the Mac community a strong alliance and one that has a certain amount of influence over what Apple may or may not decide to do with regards to future products. This is the power of democracy and to some degree that has been taken away.

    2005 is the year of the blog and nobody can stop this thriving phenomenon. So I agree with you, Apple should jump on to the insiders who leaked the information and leave itsbiggest fans and allies alone. Besides its not as if we have not been close to the mark before, so why now.

  2. Darkside says:

    Well, we all know rumors are an essential part of the Apple Product Cycle. [http://www.misterbg.org/AppleProductCycle/] :-)

    But seriously, unless (1) you personally signed an NDA, or (2) the post also includes pictures, especially those from leaked manuals or screenshots, all you’re doing is reporting information. Apple has no right (legally, AFAIK) to demand you remove simiple text. Especially if you aren’t alone in reporting it; strength in numbers.

    If the information was leaked by someone who -did- sign an NDA, they’re probably leaning on your to get at your sources so they can prosecute them. That’s John Gruber’s theory [http://daringfireball.net/2005/01/plugging_leaks]:

    “If you break an NDA to supply me with information, Im not bound by the terms of the agreement you signed.”

    “Apple wants two things here. First, they want the identities of Think Secrets sources…. the second thing Apple wants: to discourage future leaks.”

  3. Geoffrey says:

    This was a boneheaded move by Apple. The decision was probably made by the lawyers, not the business people.

    The fact is that Apple probably has a valid claim. But suig Ciarelli was not smart.

    See analysis and other links here:
    http://blawblawblawg.blogspot.com/