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Journalist's email subpoenaed

A computer game maker subpoenas a Texas reporter, demanding she turn over emails used in reporting a story that was critical of the company.

A computer game maker has subpoenaed a Texas reporter, demanding she turn over emails used in reporting a story that was critical of the company, the newspaper said.

Christine Biederman, reporter at the Dallas Observer newsweekly, said she received the subpoena over the weekend. She added that the subpoena, served by Dallas-based ION Storm, demands she turn over emails used to write an article claiming the game maker's business is in disarray.

During the past few years, email has become a favorite tool of litigators. Email has the frankness of a telephone conversation and the permanence of a written document, and it can be sent to a large number of recipients with little effort. Biederman contended that in her case the email demand is inappropriate.

"We believe we have a reporter's privilege to refuse to reveal anything that was given to us on the condition of confidentiality," Beiderman said, adding that her lawyers filed a motion to quash the subpoena two days ago.

Representatives for ION Storm were not immediately available for comment.

According to Biederman's article, ION Storm, which has three yet-to-be released games under development, is showing "signs that the company is imploding." The article said that more than half of the company's 85 original employees have left and that two of the company's six original owners have been ousted, prompting a nasty lawsuit that is set to go to trial in mid February. The story quoted email that had been leaked from the company suggesting that its star programmer, a person named John Romero, had all but jumped ship.

Many states have so-called shield laws that prevent reporters from having to divulge materials used to report stories. Reporters also fall back on the protections of the First Amendment, which has been construed to prevent them from divulging confidential sources in many instances.