Think Secret, a popular source of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) gossip and news, will be shutting down, per a settlement of a trade secrets lawsuit brought by Apple in 2005. In a statement, publisher Nick Ciarelli described the agreement as “amicable”, but offered few details. Apple, which gets a lot of PR mileage from Steve Jobs’ keynote product announcements, has been fighting a multi-front effort to stamp out news leaks. The suit against Think Secret was separate from a broader effort to force blogs to reveal their company sources. As noted in the statement, Think Secret was not forced to reveal any of its sources as part of the agreement. Announcement.

Not surprisingly, the news has prompted some very angry reactions:

– Techdirt: “The guy behind Think Secret notes that he never gave up the source, and calls this settlement amicablebut it sets a horrible precedent for plenty of sites, and may create quite the chilling effect on reporters and bloggers alike. It’s really a shame that Apple even decided to pursue this vendetta, and the fact that it ends with Think Secret being shut down completely is a travesty.”

– Rex Hammock: “‘Positive solution for both sides’? There’s another side here. My side. (I’m speaking collectively for readers, of course.) And there’s nothing positive about this settlement for my side. Think Secret itself is an amazing story and I’ve already called its creator one of my heroes. It was started in 1998 by a 13-year-old middle-schooler in New Woodstock, N.Y. named Nicholas M. Ciarelli who used the clever alias Nick dePlume. … One thing is certain: Nick Ciarelli is to online journalism what Lebron James to the NBA. He’s already changed the game and he’s barely started playing. Oh, and another thing is certain: this sucks.

– IPDemocracy: “Even if Ciarelli had support from public interest groups and free speech advocates, litigation is one of the worst things that can happen to an individual, behind only death, disease and death of a loved one. The torture of litigation is magnified by some geometric multiple when a giant corporation guns for a sole person.”

Update: Bits: The site’s closure is part of a settlement of a suit that Apple filed in 2004 in an effort to stop Think Secret from publishing what it called trade secrets. In March 2005, Think Secret responded by filing a motion under a California doctrine that is meant to prevent baseless lawsuits that inhibit free speech. These are known as anti-Slapp laws, short for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. The case has essentially been on hold since then, with all hearings postponed. Ciarelli told Bits: “We mounted a very aggressive First Amendment defense. Apple basically took no action to move the lawsuit forward. It is because they knew they were going to lose.” He declined to discuss terms of the settlement, other than to say he was “very satisfied.” Several lawyers who followed this case closely said Ciarelli’s claims of satisfaction indicate that he received a substantial cash settlement.