Graphics software specialist Adobe has launched an all-out legal offensive against Mac News Network (MacNN) after the Apple-watching Web site's AppleInsider page posted a sneak preview of the next version of Adobe's flagship title, Photoshop.
Not to be satisfied with a mere 'pull the story or we sue your ass off' - the usual approach taken by the computer industry in such cases - Adobe has gone the whole nine yards and filed a lawsuit alleging MacNN "willfully and maliciously misappropriated... confidential and proprietary information" in violation of California's Trade Secrets Act.
The upshot, Adobe claims, is that the company's business has been irreparably harmed - presumably it believes no one is now going to buy the current Photoshop release - and wants significant punitive and actual damages from MacNN. Adobe has "tens of millions of dollars" in mind, which probably explains why it's asking for a jury trial.
The suit also calls for temporary and permanent injunctions against MacNN and AppleInsider from doing anything similar ever again.
The suit, however, has wider implications. Adobe's claim is that AppleInsider's request for inside information from companies working in the Mac market is unlawful since it encourages the distribution of protected trade secrets, again in violation of the California Civil Code. If successful, Adobe would be setting a precedent against numerous Web-based rumour sites, not only in the Mac arena but those covering the wider IT market.
Adobe does have a case here. Its pre-release material is confidential (and almost certainly clearly marked as such) and it has a right to ensure that it remains so. It's questionable whether releasing such material - details of a new version that everyone knows is coming anyway - without permission is in the public interest.
That said, Adobe does seem to have been rather heavy handed in this case. Previous leaks, such as a German Web site's reproduction of Apple photos of the then unreleased iMac DV, are usually pulled after a stern request from the aggrieved company's lawyers. We can only assume Adobe asked first, and MacNN told it where it could stick its threat.
Which is likely to prove a decision MacNN will regret, assuming there's no out-of-court settlement (though we suspect there will be).
Incidentally, Apple Insider looks like a pretty good source for beta software leaks. The site also features "An Inside Look at Office 2001: Microsoft Word 2001".
Dated 13 June, 2000, the piece kicks off: "For some time now, the Macintosh Business Unit over at Microsoft has been hard at work on the successor to..." - and then:
"Article Remove 9PM EST By the Demand of Microsoft Corp, Inc." ®