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Media coalition urges court to keep antitrust information accessible

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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 25 news entities and open government groups today…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 25 news entities and open government groups today urged the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware to recognize the public interest in open discovery in an antitrust case between two multi-million dollar technology corporations.

In a letter brief submitted Wednesday, the Reporters Committee argued that the parties should not be permitted to use a broad protective order to keep important facts from the public in the high-profile case.

With the defendant accused of coercing customers to create and maintain an unlawful monopoly on microprocessors, the Reporters Committee argued that access to evidence in the case is crucial so reporters can keep the public informed.

“Such allegations, if proven true, have serious implications — monopolies injure the public by forcing consumers to pay higher costs and crippling progress by prohibiting innovations from entering the market,” the letter brief said. Moreover, “the press serves as the eyes and ears into the judicial process” for the corporate parties’ shareholders and employees, both of which “may feel the effects of this litigation.”

“We know that in high profile cases involving major corporations, the parties’ instincts are to hide as much discovery information as possible from the public,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “We want to make sure that journalists have access to enough information to thoroughly report to the public what is happening in this important case.”

The parties in AMD v. Intel are negotiating a stipulated Protective Order. The case involves two companies that provide microprocessors that run the Microsoft Windows and Linux families of operating systems. The plaintiff, AMD, alleges that Intel has used economic coercion to maintain a monopoly on the microprocessing industry, forcing its customers into near exclusive deals, conditioning rebates or other benefits on customers’ agreement to forego purchasing from AMD, and threatening to retaliate against customers who offer AMD computer platforms.

The Reporters Committee expressed its concern to the court that, “if improperly crafted, [a protective order] will hide from public scrutiny many facts uncovered through discovery” and alerted the court that by cautiously supervising a protective order now, it will “help minimize intervention and press access litigation later.”

The letter brief emphasized that under the law of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, courts must “always consider the public interest when deciding whether to impose a protective order.”

The letter brief is available at: www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20051130-lettertoco.html