The . . . question is whether the application of these statutes [that purport to ban distributing illegally obtained material, even when one wasn’t involved in the distribution,] in such circumstances violates the First Amendment. [Footnote: In answering this question, we draw no distinction between the media respondents and Yocum.]
And the Bartnicki Court cited New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 265-266 (1964) — the case treated the media and non-media speakers equally, and a passage on those pages stressed the rights of “persons who do not themselves have access to publishing facilities” — and First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 777 (1978), which is a passage that stresses the rights of all speakers to speak.
Now, while knowingly possessing tangible stolen property would often be a crime for both the media and others, possessing copies of illegally leaked materials is generally not treated the same way. See Pearson v. Dodd, 410 F.2d 701 (D.C. Cir. 1969). But in any event, remember that, whatever First Amendment rules may apply, the media has no more First Amendment rights than the rest of us.
See Jacob Gershman (Wall Street Journal Law Blog) for more.