Apple has more to lose than gain from its attempt to get three Mac news Web sites to reveal their sources, according to a report today.

Business Week writes: "Apple has the right to use the legal system to help it punish those who have misappropriated its trade secrets, or to identify employees or partners who may have broken confidentiality agreements. But going after the Web sites or forcing them to divulge their sources will put the company in the middle of a freedom-of-speech firestorm that will be a costly distraction for management, and could tarnish the Apple brand."

This behaviour is out of sync with Apple's original conception of itself as a "free-thinking company breaking the Big Brother dogma of the computer industry," writes Business Week, referring to the Orwell-inspired Big Brother ad that launched the Mac during the 1984 Super Bowl.

The report states that: "Through conscious marketing efforts, Apple has long stood for innovation and creativity, and has been embraced creative sorts like artists and writers – not people who usually care for big corporations pursuing lawsuits against 19-year-olds."

Reporter Peter Burrows compares the Blogs under fire from Apple to fanzines, suggesting that "by trumpeting news of Apple's upcoming wares, they're only fanning the bonfire of interest in all things Apple."

"Steve Jobs should thank his lucky stars that there is enough interest to support this cottage industry," he adds.

"Do the leaks hurt Apple?" he asks. "The increasing frequency and accuracy of the leaks out of Apple's Cupertino headquarters haven't made a dent in Apple's ability to get publicity for its new products," he writes.