Has Apple really muzzled the lawyers?

One of the new faces at The Daily Beast — the online magazine launched today by former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown — is actually kind of an old face: Nick Ciarelli is the former teenaged blogger behind Think Secret, an Apple rumour site he started when he was just 13, and he has written a piece about how the tech company’s approach to rumours seems to have changed. Just a couple of years ago, Apple was happily suing sites like Think Secret (which shut down after the lawsuit), as well as Apple Insider and PowerPage for posting rumours about new products. Now, Ciarelli says such behaviour doesn’t seem to draw as much attention.

“There are signs that Apple … has thrown in the towel on fighting leaks. This year, advance details about a number of Apple products spilled onto the web, including photos of the iPhone 3G and the latest lineup of iPod nanos. In the past, Apple would’ve fought like hell — including threatening legal action — to get the leaks off the web. But when I spoke to many of the sites that published the images, all of them said that the company’s lawyers had been strangely silent.”

Ciarelli wonders whether Apple has come to the realization that suing rumour sites does two things: 1) Makes the company look mean and petty, and 2) pretty much confirms that the rumour in question is true. If I were to choose which of those would mean the most to Apple and CEO Steve Jobs, I would have to say number 2 — I don’t see number 1 as causing Steve to lose much sleep at all. But it could be that Apple decided silence was a better policy. Ciarelli notes that the rumours are also increasingly coming from mainstream publications, which are harder to sue.

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