Talking tech since 2003

In less than a week, there has been a lot of chatter regarding Gray Powell’s loosing of what is supposedly a prototype of the fourth generation Apple iPhone in a Northern California bar.  Many of you already know the basic details of the story; Gray Powell, a iPhone software engineer working for Apple, was celebrating his twenty-seventh birthday at a bar in Redwood City (Northern California), when he misplaced his iPhone.  The thing was, he didn’t loose any iPhone.  He lost what is now presumed to be a prototype of the fourth generation iPhone.

According to various sources, another patron at the bar came across the iPhone, and realizing it was obviously not a standard iPhone, attempted to contact Apple to return it.  However, after being unable to do so, he sold the device to tech blog Gizmodo for five thousand dollars.

Now, less than a week after the start of everything, another organization is getting involved in what is arguably one of the biggest technology scandals of the year; the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office.  No specific details have been released, but the fact that the district attorney’s office is getting involved is greatly significant, as it shows the potential that a crime may have been committed in the taking of the iPhone, as well as the purchasing of it on Gizmodo’s part.

You see, CNET has stated that the finder, as well as Gizmodo, may be in violation of section 485 of the California penal code.  For the non-lawyers among us, this law states that anyone who finds a piece of property and can identify its owner is required to make an effort to return it to said owner.  This is of significance, because the Facebook app on the prototype iPhone could have easily gotten the finder in contact with Powell.  Thus, whoever found the iPhone may be in violation of the law, and given the publicity of this case, may end up being procecuted.

Additionally, Gizmodo and it’s parent company, Gawker Media, which also owns sites such as Lifehacker, may be in contempt of law for receiving a knowingly misplaced piece of property.

The involvement of local authorities is important, because it shows that a crime was potentially comitted.  For Gray Powell, this may be a good thing, as it may shift some of the blame away from him (loosing a phone isn’t a crime, after all), and make his potentially uneasy situation with Apple a bit better.

As a side note, this brings up another issue; did or will the leaks of the new iPhone hurt Apple? While many may argue that it indeed did or will down the road as it exposed pre-release trade secrets, some may also argue that Apple gained a great deal of publicity from the whole ordeal.  However, this dows not change the fact that laws may have been broken, and that someone may be put into the hot seat.

What do you think?  Did this ordeal hurt or help Apple?  Was a crime committed?  Will anyone be prosecuted?  Feel free to add your opinion to the comments; we’d love to hear your opinion on the situation.

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