“Gawker Media said on Monday that computers belonging to one of its editors, Jason Chen, were seized from his home on Friday as part of what appeared to be an investigation into the sale of a next-generation iPhone,” Brian Stelter and Nick Bilton report for The New York Times. “One of Gawker’s blogs, Gizmodo, published articles last week about the future phone after purchasing the device for $5,000 from a person who found it at a bar in California last month.”
“Gawker’s chief operating officer, Gaby Darbyshire, said it expected the immediate return of the computers and servers,” Stelter and Bilton report. “‘Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,’ she wrote in a letter to San Mateo County, Calif., authorities on Saturday. ‘Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,’ she continued, adding that he works from home, his ‘de facto newsroom.'”
“‘It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,’ Ms. Darbyshire continued,” Stelter and Bilton report. “The letter was shared on Monday afternoon by Nick Denton, the founder and president of Gawker Media. ‘Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out,’ Mr. Denton said in an instant message.”
MacDailyNews Take: Can a blogger, or a journalist (which for quite some time, in America at least, is a blogger who pretends to be impartial) commit a robbery at gunpoint and then claim journalist shield laws protect him from handing over or having the gun seized by warrant or from even being charged with a crime? Are bloggers and/or “journalists” allowed to do whatever they want and then hide behind freedom of the press? If so, cool. We’re off to the bank, we’ll be back in a jiffy assuming things go smoothly.
Seriously, though, there are many questions: Gizmodo is claiming they didn’t know for sure that the device was Apple’s, so that’s why they rolled the dice and bought it for $5,000, but once Gizmodo established that it was Apple’s property, did they have the right to publish information about it, including photos, videos, and even going so far as to publish an amateur teardown of the device? Do any industrial espionage laws apply in this case? Did the police take Chen’s computers and devices in order to find out who sold the iPhone to them? If so, does that breach the blogger’s right to protect his source(s)? Should the cops have used a subpoena instead of a search warrant? What’s the difference between finding lost property and theft? What, if any, are the penalties for selling lost or stolen property in California? What, if any, are the penalties for buying property that you know or suspect is lost or stolen in California? Obviously, there are many open questions left to be answered.
Stelter and Bilton report, “According to people familiar with the investigation, who would not speak on the record because of the potential legal case, charges would most likely be filed against the person or people who sold the prototype iPhone, and possibly the buy.”
Full article here.
John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball, “In other words, if the only target of the criminal investigation is the kid who found the unit and sold it to Gizmodo, then yes, Jason Chen should be considered protected by California’s shield law. They should have issued a subpoena (which means asking Chen to talk to them), and not used a warrant to break into, search, and confiscate items from his home. But if Chen (and, presumably, his employer, Gawker Media) is himself the target of a felony investigation, the shield laws aren’t relevant. The shield laws are about allowing journalists to protect sources.”
Full article here.