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50 Federal Communications Law Journal 483 (1998)


In November 1995, the prominent CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes refrained from broadcasting an important interview with a former vice president of Brown & Williamson for fear of being liable for tortiously interfering with a confidentiality agreement between the employee and the tobacco company. This event illustrates a new concern facing media: specifically whether liability arises from broadcasting information that would be considered protected speech had the source not been a party to a nondisclosure agreement. It also illustrates an area of First Amendment jurisprudence that is as yet uncharted and for which there is no established standard that is easily applicable. To protect the First Amendment interests at stake—, freedom of the press— are implicated in tortious interference claims, the courts should establish a standard under which there is no liability for conduct that has the goal of gathering information about public entities on matters of public concern and does not have the purpose of harming or competing with the plaintiff. Such a standard would preserve the newsgathering function of the press while respecting the right and need of corporate plaintiffs to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information to competitors.