A very bright and enterprising 13-year-old boy launched a blog a few years ago dedicated to rumors about Apple. A true manifestation of the Apple fanboy mentality, Think Secret was a big hit with Apple enthusiasts who liked to hear any scuttlebut about upcoming Apple products. Steve Jobs hated it, mostly because it was very accurate, as most of the rumors appeared to be coming from employees of Apple. Well, Jobs likely either used the cost of litigation or a plain old-fashioned payoff, but Think Secret is no more.
The specter of Steve Jobs, a billionaire computer executive, seeking damages from a teenage Apple fan for stealing the thunder from a Macworld keynote address caught the eye of the national press, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Electronic Frontier Foundation helped arrange legal representation and Ciarelli was soon firing back at the company. As Think Secret reported:
“Apple’s lawsuit is a affront to the First Amendment, and an attempt to use Apple’s economic power to intimidate small journalists,” [it] wrote in court filings seeking dismissal of the suit. “If a publication such as the New York Times had published such information, it would be called good journalism; Apple never would have considered a lawsuit.” (link)
Apple’s lawyers complained in particular about a box on Think Secret’s front page headlined “Got Dirt?” that invited Apple insiders to submit anonymous tips. They claimed the solicitation was a violation of The Uniform Trade Secrets Act, adopted in one form or another by California and 44 other states.
It's fascinating to see a State Statute, designed to keep proprietary information about how something is made from being stolen, stretched to cover information like release dates - or even an item's very existence. The information was essentially glorified gossip. In a way, Apple is a very old-fashioned business model, a vertically integrated corporation hell-bent on controlling every aspect of supply, distribution, and information about their business, the same way they control all aspects of the products they offer right through to the delivery of the content the items use. Perhaps Apple was unwise to trade the enthusiastic press they got from Think Secret, for free, for the bad press they had to pay lawyers to get for them by crushing the little blogger like a bug. Don't worry about the blogger overmuch; he's an editor at the Harvard Crimson now.