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Apple Bites Back

Posted by Rick · March 9th, 2005 · 9 Comments

The First Amendment of the Constitution is perhaps only second (no pun intended) to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments in terms of the way it’s being trampled by local, state and federal government in the United States these days.

The First Amendment is different, however, in that it has a greater potential to affect us all — either as purveyors, or as consumers, of information. We don’t have the benefit of not caring because it only affects people we don’t like.

In the old days — as old people like me are wont to say — people who wanted to “publish” something had a relatively difficult task before them.

Forget the issues involved in building up a readership. Those problems continue to plague anyone who wants to publish today, from Air America to those who would enter “the traditional press” to bloggers. The problems facing pre-blog, pre-Internet, pre-computing days were much steeper than that. Technology was unsophisticated and expensive; compared to today, it was the Dark Ages even for printers until around the mid-1400s when Gutenberg invented the first printing press. Even after that, if an ordinary person wanted to have something printed, she was out of luck unless she could convince a printer to print it.

One of the drawbacks was that the narrow distribution of presses made it easy for anyone who wished to control the flow of information. And those in power did just that.

Without “the press” — which originally meant, of course, “the printing press” — it’s pretty much a sure bet that we, as a society, would not be where we are today. Other technologies would not be as advanced as they are. The invention of the press allowed for the widespread dissemination of knowledge, including medical knowledge, knowledge about agriculture and all other forms of technological know-how that has made our way of life possible. Without the press, there would likely have been no cars, no skyscrapers, no bridges on the order of the Golden Gate in San Francisco and definitely no Apple computers.

In the days of King George III, the press — now arguably meaning “the group of news publishers who owned printing presses” — were frequently arrested and/or subject to what we call “prior restraint” (being forbidden from publishing without some government official checking the story to make sure it was okay with them for you to publish it; you couldn’t publish until they reviewed it and you had permission). I say “arguably,” because the King not infrequently cracked down on publishers of books as well as “newspapers” or “gazettes.” And it didn’t just happen in the realm of King George III; the monarchs of other countries similarly controlled publication of things they didn’t like.

And so when the United States of America was founded, the set of Amendments to the Constitution known as “The Bill of Rights,” began by enshrining freedom of belief, thought and communication:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I (emphasis added).

Over time, “the Press” (usually with a capital “P”) came to mean a specific group of newspaper owners and reporters. With the advent of technology — and before Faux “News,” CBS, ABC and the others became 24-hour commercials and wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party — this definition extended to television news station owners and reporters. Although still applicable to publishers of books, it came to be wedded in the mind of most people to those who owned high-profile channels for the ready dissemination of information.

Today, we don’t need printing presses. Citizens (almost) regardless of social standing — even some relatively “poor” people living in one-room apartments and some inmates in prison — have access to technology that allows them to accomplish what could only be done with a printing press in the past.

Among the technologies available to these “ordinary” folk are the Internet and blogs. In no small part because of the transformation of the meaning of the word noted above, these folk are not known as “the Press.”

And therein lies the rub. For over time, the current King George — King George, Jr. (the Georges having abandoned the numeric designators of their intellectual [and I use that term loosely] ancestors) — and his cronies have been quite successful at controlling the traditional Press. They have paid “journalists” to shill for them. They have installed “journalists” who write for fake news agencies approved by Republicans into White House briefings to lob emotionally-laden softball questions for the Republican White House to respond to with more propaganda. (This, of course, is the natural outgrowth of “news” entertainment where one reporter plays stupid and asks another reporter questions to which he or she already knows the answer, so it will look like a live interview.)

Whether we realize it or not, the White House — which has directly attacked other constitutional rights relating to the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and even Eighth Amendments “in the interest of national security” — has found a way to neutralize the First Amendment.

Except for some bloggers.

And that pisses off those in power. They can’t stand the idea that there are folk out there who can publish at will. And even though our government today is little more than a front for a Coalition of Corporations, it’s not just the government that wants to shut up bloggers. Freedom of speech and the press is much too serious a right to be left alone — or left to the government. Corporations such as Apple Computer are taking a direct, hands-on approach.

Information may want to be free. But free information does not readily fuel profits. Even RedHat figured that out.

If corporations such as Apple Computer had existed in the 1700s, you can bet your butt there would have been no American Revolution. The so-called Federalist Papers would never have been published. But even more than that, we would all still be living in the Dark Ages not just with respect to political freedoms, we’d be literally “in the dark” because things like light bulbs would probably not exist.

“Progress” (such as it is) does not happen without a free press.

Are bloggers part of “the press” protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment)? That depends on how you define “the press.” It’s worth remembering — as I noted above — that “press” as used in the Bill of Rights referred to printing presses, not “news organizations,” faux or otherwise.

I wonder if the “strict constructionists” (ha!) and “originalists” (ha! ha!) on the Supreme Court will argue for the understanding of “the press” the Framers must have had in mind when the First Amendment was written.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Meanwhile the rest of us might consider this: It was essentially the invention of the printing press that put an end to the time period officially known as the Dark Ages.

And some people are working very hard these days to turn out the lights.

Categories: Blogs & Blogging


9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dirty Flower Girl // Mar 10, 2005 at 7:34 am

    Dissolving The First Amendment?

    Rick has asked for some help in spreading the word about issues concerning our First Amendment rights. “Attacks on the First Amendment has a great potential to affect us all either as purveyors, or as consumers, of information. Unlike the…

  • 2 Ole Blue The Heretic // Mar 11, 2005 at 5:08 am

    Admistration policy

    Ignoring the constitution

  • 3 Rick Horowitz // Mar 11, 2005 at 6:04 am

    I’m not sure who Ole Blue is, but apparently he has a heretical way of posting trackbacks. 😉

    For those who might have wondered, the correct link to his trackback article for this post is here.

  • 4 Blue // Mar 11, 2005 at 10:29 am

    Haha did I do that!? What an ignoramoose!
    Wanna maroonie!



    [Editor’s Note: I’ve done “a few” dumb things in my life, too. No biggee! Thanks for the trackback and for visiting!]

  • 5 Chepooka // Mar 12, 2005 at 10:11 am

    Wierd, I posted two trackbacks yesterday (twice) and I don’t think it worked. *sigh*

  • 6 Ray // Mar 12, 2005 at 8:45 pm

    Looks like the judge is sidestepping the issue of journalism classification. Apparently he’s focusing on the criminality of trade secret theft and/or dissemination which isn’t protected speech.

    Still, it may be an interesting case for further defining trade secrets or something like that.

  • 7 Rick Horowitz // Mar 12, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    I admit that it’s been awhile since I read the cases relating to publication of stolen information, but if I recall correctly, the only way to prosecute the publishers is if you can show that they participated in or encouraged the theft.

    If someone else stole information and provided it to a publisher, I don’t believe the publisher is either liable or precluded from publishing the information.

    I’m pretty sure there are cases from the Watergate Era that deal with that, but since I’m supposed to be studying evidence right now and not posting this comment, I can’t take the time to hunt for them. 😉

    At any rate, that’s somewhat irrelevant in this case, since the specific issue (as stated in the SFGate story about it which I linked) is whether the bloggers are covered by the same laws that protect “recognized” journalists.

    And the real question here is, “What counts as ‘the Press’?”

  • 8 Anonymous // Mar 19, 2005 at 8:34 pm

    Are you aware that Judge Kleinberg’s wife, Judy, is Executive Director for the American Electronics Association? Gee, what connection does that Association have with Apple Computers? Unfortunately, it’s probably seen as too indirect to be something he should have revealed before hearing the Apple case. But in the old days, I’ll bet a judge would have revealed this type of connection. Being a lawyer, I can’t very well sign my name.

  • 9 Apple II: Contemptuous Court // Sep 17, 2008 at 8:26 am

    […] other day, in my original “Apple Bites Back” article, I noted that there was a question pending in a California courtroom over whether or not […]

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