Nicholas M. Ciarelli was not even old enough to shave when he started getting under Apple Computer Inc.’s skin. As a 13-year-old middle-schooler, the New Woodstock, N.Y., native built a Web site in 1998 and began publishing insider news and rumors about Apple, using the alias Nick dePlume. Three years later, ThinkSecret.com was first to report that the company would debut a G4 version of the PowerBook laptop series. The product launched soon thereafter, along with ThinkSecret’s reputation among Apple’s legendarily zealous fans, generating millions of page views per month.
Apple Computer Inc. argued Thursday that neither a journalist nor a blogger has the right to publish a company’s trade secrets, in a case that could determine just how much protection publishers — online or off — have in the digital age.