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Apple has agreed to suspend legal action against three journalists who disclosed advance product information against the company's wishes, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said yesterday.

In December 2004, Apple subpoenaed the three to try to discover the names of individuals who leaked allegedly illegally-obtained information to two news websites. The previous month, PowerPage and AppleInside published stories about 'Asteroid', a still-unreleased Apple device for connecting musical instruments to computers.

Apple's legal action also targeted news site MacNN, which hosts AppleInsider. And the company applied for a subpoena against ISP Nfox.com, seeking emails that it believes will identify PowerPage's sources.

But last night the EFF, an internet rights group, said Apple had agreed to suspend the requests, eWeek reports.

Apple has not commented on the lawsuits - or responded to the barrage of criticism fired its way, particularly for its sideways attack on NFox.com.

"Rather than confronting the issue of reporter's privilege head-on, Apple is going to this journalist's ISP for his emails," said EFF staff attorney Kurt Opsahl in a statement. "This undermines a fundamental, First Amendment right that protects all reporters. If the court lets Apple get away with this, and exposes the confidences gained by these reporters, potential confidential sources will be deterred from providing information to the media, and the public will lose a vital outlet for independent news, analysis, and commentary."

Apple's tactics call into question how far the law can be used to overcome a journalist's right to protect his or her sources, and US online publications' right to the same protections afforded to older media.

Apple is also suing website Think Secret for publishing details of its Mac Mini product ahead of the compact computer's introduction in January. The company claims the publication of the leaked information caused it financial injury, and is seeking compensation.

Apple has long fought a battle of wits with websites and paper publications - including a number of well-known pro-Mac newsstand titles, not to mention the online organ you're reading now - that report and comment upon unannounced Apple products. ®

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French consumer group sues Apple, Sony
Journalists must reveal their sources (if Apple asks)
Mac rumour sites get it completely right
Apple music store smacked with antitrust suit
Apple confirms MacWorld rumors with fresh lawsuit

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