Sun Microsystems has threatened a UK-based tech hardware site with legal action over a story that included product information that was mistakenly posted on Sun's Web site.
The action is the latest instance of companies threatening legal action against journalists who use information that was already made available -- though unintentionally -- on the companies' own Web sites.
Mike Magee, editor of The Inquirer, said he received a letter from Sun lawyers Nabarro Nathanson on Tuesday morning instructing him to remove several stories from the site by 5.30 p.m. on Thursday or the computing giant would seek a court injunction. "They more or less ordered me to take the story down," said Magee. "I protested and told them that they had published the information themselves on their site. They admitted this but said they had then taken it down."
Magee said he subsequently took down the story together with two others referring to it, but said there was another demand that he found more difficult to comply with. Sun's lawyers had also told Magee to surrender or destroy a PDF document and to sign an undertaking saying he has done so. "I cannot sign the undertaking because it asks me to get rid of documents I never had," said Magee.
"These people published information themselves on their own site, and they are now trying to stop a journalist writing about a mistake they made," Magee added.
In a message to readers posted on the site explaining the issue, Magee said: "We have written back to Sun's English pleaders and said that we have no objection to taking the stories down, not on the grounds that we feel we've done anything wrong, but because we don't think they're very interesting stories anyway.... We faithfully promise never to write about Sun Microsystems ever again, unless it goes bust, carries its threats through and sues us -- we'll have a courtroom reporter there -- or unless we write a satirical story."
Sun did not respond to requests for comment.
Sun's action follows a similar incident last month when Swedish company Intentia International, which makes collaboration software, filed criminal charges against Reuters, claiming that the news agency broke into its Web site to get access to an earnings report.
Reuters argued that the information was publicly available on the company's Web site, and said there was "no substance" to the charges. According to news reports, the report was accessible to anyone who knew the correct address. Although Intentia said the report was not linked to through any public means, Reuters said the information was not accessed from a private or password-protected site, but from the public Internet.