As everyone reading this is probably aware, last Monday the website Gizmodo announced an exclusive look at Apple’s iPhone 4, which hasn’t been officially released yet. In their post (here), they said “you are looking at Apple’s next iPhone. It was found lost in a bar in Redwood City, camouflaged to look like an iPhone 3GS. We got it. We disassembled it. It’s the real thing, and here are all the details.” The post was written by blogger Jason Chen, and featured video of him showing details of the phone, and a lot of photos.
As time went on (see all the posts here), it came out that Gizmodo had paid $5,000 for the phone. The guy they bought it from wasn’t the phone’s owner, but had merely found it in a beer garden back in March. An Apple employee had lost it there.
So, if they bought it from someone who wasn’t the owner, and they knew it was supposed to be a secret, did the folks at Gizmodo commit any crimes here?
Law enforcement got involved very fast. By Friday, law enforcement in San Mateo had gotten a search warrant (viewable here) to seize Jason Chen’s computers, disks, drives, and any records pertaining to the Apple prototype 4G iPhone.
The search warrant was executed that same day, and a bunch of computer stuff was seized (the inventory is also viewable here).
Yesterday, the chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County told the WSJ’s “Digits” blog (here) that nobody’s saying a crime happened or not. They’re still investigating.
Meanwhile, however, Gawker Media (the owner of Gizmodo) issued a letter on Saturday (viewable here) stating that “under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist.”
In support of that statement, Gawker Media cited California Penal Code §1524(g) (viewable here), which prohibits search warrants for items described in Evidence Code §1070.
Evidence Code §1070 (here) says a judge can’t hold a journalist in contempt for refusing to disclose his sources, or for refusing to disclose unpublished information gotten while preparing a story.
So we have to ask, does Gawker Media know what it’s even talking about?