Judges Ponder Whether Bloggers are Journalists

Buried in this week’s U.S. Court of Appeals decision requiring reporters to disclose their sources in the CIA leak case is a fascinating discussion by the judges about whether bloggers should be afforded the same First Amendment protections as journalists. A few excerpts:

The Supreme Court has observed that “… freedom of the press is a ‘fundamental personal right … not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets …’”

“… does the privilege also protect the proprietor of a weblog: the stereotypical ‘blogger’ sitting in his pajamas at his personal computer posting on the World Wide Web … ?”

“If so, then would it not be possible for a government official wishing to engage in the sort of unlawful leaking under investigation in the present controversy to call a trusted friend or a political ally, advise him to set up a weblog (which I understand takes about three minutes) and then leak to him under a promise of confidentiality …”

To read the judges’ exchange on the issue, you can get a copy of the decision at the court’s website (it’s a PDF file), and then search the document using the word “blog.”

This question is one the courts are certain to return to, perhaps in the various legal actions Apple is bringing against fan and insider websites for allegedly publishing leaked trade-secret information.

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