Did Apple call the cops on Gizmodo?

Apple Online Store“The question of who got the ball rolling in the case of the missing iPhone is still unanswered,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune.

“”My inbox is chockablock with messages from those who think Apple initiated this,” writes Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, who has been one of Apple’s biggest defenders throughout the affair… ‘This is a criminal investigation, not a civil lawsuit,’ he writes. ‘Apple gets to decide whether to file civil litigation. The San Mateo district attorney gets to decide whether to launch a criminal investigation. We don’t know yet whether Apple has been in contact with the DA, but, why wouldn’t they? They can tell the DA what happened. They can’t order the DA what to do.'”

Elmer-DeWitt reports, “Which leaves open the question of whether Apple ever asked the authorities to look into the matter.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: All very interesting, but what we really want to find out is who found the iPhone, who removed it from the bar, and sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000? And, was it one person who did all three things?

52 Comments

  1. haters hate and spinners spin.

    people will believe what they want to believe in order to justify their biases.

    apple is powerful, but not so powerful to tell the DA what to do.

    however, apple pays a lot of taxes and hires a lot of people, Caesar would want to protect it’s money cows too.

    tough call.

  2. Gizmondo asked for info on the next iPhone. Gizmondo was offered the prototype phone and bought it for $5000. Gizmondo knew the person selling the phone was not the owner. Gizmondo bought stolen property and knew it was stolen when they bought it. Gizmondo, through their agents, committed a felony.

    Why is this all about Apple’s actions in the case?

  3. Did the guy really leave the iPhone in the bar, or did someone take it before he left?

    Apple has every right to report this to the police. Millions of dollars of intellectual property … plus free advertising, I mean press… are at stake.

  4. Do you know what you REALLY shouldn’t do if you don’t want to have a criminal investigation launched against you?

    Post a blog on the Internet with explicit details of you illegally procured a stolen device that is protected by the laws of your state.

    Talk about making the DA’s job easy … If only all criminals would get online and tell the whole world how, when and where they committed their crimes.

  5. It is prudent to investigate and protect against indistrial and IP theft. Companies that employ tens of thousands of employees and supply their products world wide, contribute to the US economy substantially. They need to be protected against any pirating and compromising, in any way, by unlawful acts.

  6. Jason Chen probably won’t be making any more videos of himself proudly showing off stolen property, and broadcasting it over the Internet.

    And the identity of the person who took the iPhone and sold it to Gizmodo will eventually be discovered. It’s probably already known… the best course of action is being decided.

    Amazingly, Apple is far from hurt by all this extra media attention. It would have been bad if it happened three months ago, but at this point…

  7. @Big Al… There lots of Apple loathing people (and entities) who make up all kinds of crazy theories about Apple. Like the lulu about Apple making Mac software subject to Apple’s approval. Apple’s success is galling to some.

    This whole thing will backfire on whoever the culprits were… big time!

  8. I don’t really understand why there is any confusion about what is wrong here. A person finds property owned by someone else. He/She turns and rather than turns it in to police, or lost and found, he/she makes the decision to sell it to a website.

    Then the website, dismantles the item and takes photographs and publishes them on the internet. Had the website not bought the phone, that is one thing. They took possession of property that was not theirs. If anyone does not find this unethical, criminal, and immoral, then they need to be slapped by some justice.

    They guy who sold the phone should go to jail. The owners of Gizmodo should go to jail. Both should be sued til they have no clothes left.

    Just because a big company was the victim, does not justify these criminal acts. Although everyone is lawyering up, this is not going to end well for the folks who stole the phone and benefited from it.

  9. As people pointed out, Apple would only need to “call the cops” if no one in the DAs office or the police department read a newspaper, watched the TV news, or looked at the Internet. Sounds like Gizmodo got the ball rolling.

  10. The constitutional protection for the press is for the written or spoken word. Receiving and paying for property known to belong to another person or company is a criminal matter, not a free press issue. Charges if any will be related to the physical chain of custody of the lost iPhone. The person who sold it to the web site may be guilty of theft, but the web site reporter may be guilty of receiving stolen property, which is actually more severe a crime than theft. All of this is alleged at this point but there seems to be enough evidence to get the police interested, which is not a good sign for Gizmodo and the person who sold the iPhone to them…. The person who found the iPhone reportedly tried to return it to Apple but was told it was likely not really an Apple iPhone but rather a knock off. If that is true and due to being wiped, the finder could not find the person who lost it they might have a defense. However, they could have turned it in at the bar which was the right thing to do. Gizmodo apparently was convinced enough it was an Apple iPhone they were willing to pay a lot of money before they confirmed it was actually an Apple product. If they contacted Apple as soon as they confirmed it was actually a real unreleased Apple Iphone they would have some defense against the charge of receiving stolen property. If Gizmodo is an Apple developer or has any contractual relationship with Apple, the problem with releasing the information may be more contractual than criminal…..

  11. Come on everyone – Gizmodo didn’t care about the property, (as evidenced by the fact that they gave it back within a few hours of when apple asked for it,) they cared about the information.

    Gizmodo paid a source for information – just like any other news media organization would.

    Gray Powell lost a phone – something any of us might do. I have done it several times, that’s why I have a mobile me subscription. Someone else found it after midnight. CA law says he should have handed it over to the bar, but he didn’t, he took it home. Who can blame him? He was tired and didn’t know that California law required him to give it to the bar. What he did next (a few hours later,) was try several times to give it back to Apple. Apple wasn’t interested. He then asked if anyone in the tech news business would be interested in seeing it. Gizmodo didn’t even know it was real, much less stolen… Have you seen the number of fake Chinese iPhones there are?

    Gizmodo wanted to find out more about it, so they gave a source money in order to continue investigating.

    These actions are protected by the first amendment.

    (To paraphrase: congress shall pass no law limiting the freedom of the press.)

  12. People, it’s just not that simple. If the phone was stolen, then it’s an open & shut case. But if it was found, there are actually laws about allowing found items to be kept and even sold, so it’s a MUCH grayer call.

    Let’s just all take a deep breath and wait and see how this pans out.

    And while Apple did lose a lot of free advertising, the more (financially) painful part is the lost 3GS sales (i.e., people waiting for the iPhone HD). However, even this is partially Apple’s fault. Because of their secretiveness, leaks about new Apple hardware gets exploded over the news. Think about it, Verizon just announced a new Andriod phone “coming soon”. Theoretically this should kill sales of all existing Android phones but it doesn’t. Why not? Because no one cares because there’s no “sex appeal” about yet another phone on the market (or computer or MP3 player or whatever Apple’s competitors announce). Only Apple has this secret allure they’ve built up over the years. And so, when something like this happens, they are partially to blame for the lost sales due to the news coverage (just turn it around- if Apple didn’t have this veil of secrecy- would anyone really have cared? Would it have made Letterman? I doubt it).

    Now, don’t get me wrong- clearly Apple has been hurt- but they bring this kind of coverage on themselves and let’s not forget that it was their employee who screwed up. This simpley cannot be compared to industrial espionage (like someone broking into their labs).

    Personally, I think Apple should take responsibility for the screw up and just let it go. In the bigger scheme of things, it won’t mean anything after June 2010…

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