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12/20/2007
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Apple Forces Shutdown Of Think Secret Web Site

Apple sued Think Secret publisher Nicholas Ciarelli in 2005, charging him with disclosing trade secrets.

Apple and Think Secret publisher Nicholas M. Ciarelli, who the computer maker sued in 2005 for disclosing trade secrets, have reached an agreement that calls for the closing of the popular Mac enthusiast Web site.

According to a press release posted Thursday on the site, the confidential settlement was a "positive solution for both sides." No sources of the information that sparked the lawsuit were revealed, the release said.

Apple sued Ciarelli, who was 19 years old at the time and a Harvard undergraduate, after he revealed details about the Mac Mini computer and other Apple products before they were announced at MacWorld in January 2005. The suit, which also named Ciarelli's company dePlume Organization, was filed in Santa Clara County, Calif., Superior Court shortly after Apple unveiled the products at the conference.

On Thursday, Ciarelli said in a statement that he was glad to have the legal wrangling behind him. "I'm pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits."

Apple accused Ciarelli, who was also an editor at the Harvard Crimson, of "inducing" company employees to break their confidentiality agreements with the company by disclosing trade secrets. The complaint argued that Ciarelli obtained the information illegally by posting a request for people with inside information to contact the site.

Ciarelli, who launched Think Secret when he was 13 years old as an avid fan of Apple products, claimed to have used the same newsgathering practices of other journalists, and therefore was entitled to the same protections. "I talk to sources of information, investigate tips, follow up on leads, and corroborate details. I believe these practices are reflected in Think Secret's track record," he told the Crimson in January 2005.

Ciarelli's attorneys had argued that the information was legally obtained, and Ciarelli was protected by the right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled that journalists can't be prohibited from publishing information that's lawfully obtained.

In his court filings, Ciarelli claimed that Think Secret received an average of 2.5 million page views a month. After the lawsuit was filed, the number of page views jumped to 5 million, according to the filings.

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