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HP's logo is displayed on the entrance to the Hewlett-Packard headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. - 


SCOTT JAGOW: The Hewlett-Packard spying scandal was a big deal last year, but the criminal case against HP executives pretty much fell apart. Now three of the journalists who were spied upon are planning to sue Hewlett-Packard. These reporters for CNET are trying a legal strategy companies have been using for years. Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN: Corporations have long used lawsuits as a tool to fight back against aggressive journalists. Instead of challenging the truth of reporters' stories, these suits shine a bright light on how reporters do their work.

But when three reporters announced plans to file an invasion of privacy suit against Hewlett-Packard, it raised eyebrows.

TOM ROSENSTIEL: There has been growing debate in journalism circles about when should journalists sort of fight back or when is it appropriate for the press to become more than an observer.

Tom Rosenstiel is the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He says when HP directors hired investigators to spy on more than a half dozen reporters, it set off alarms inside many newsrooms.

ROSENSTIEL: This is such a novel case that some news organizations said we need to put a stop to this. We need make sure this kind of activity doesn't spread.

Four other reporters and the New York Times are trying to negotiate a settlement with HP. So far the talks have been fruitless.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.