Talking tech since 2003

Following the leakage of pre-release iPhone 4.0 images and specifications last week, the San Mateo County sheriff’s office executed a search warrant on the home of Gizmodo author Jason Chen.  In said search warrant, the local police seized computers, electronic media, and other miscellaneous “evidence” that they felt could prove that Gizmodo committed a crime by purchasing and releasing details about the next generation iPhone prototype, which had been lost at a bar earlier in the week by Apple employee Gray Powell.

There are several reasons why this search is important, not the least of which being that it may have been conducted illegally.  This being, in the United States an authority needs to have proper reason and justification in order to obtain and execute a search warrant.  In the case of the iPhone prototype, it is extremely possible that no crime had been committed on the part of Gizmodo, and therefore that there was no justification for the police to obtain and execute a search warrant, and that ultimately their doing so may have broken civil and constitutional rights.

Lawyers representing Gawker Media (the company that owns Gizmodo) seem to be positive that neither Gizmodo nor its affiliates broke any laws in the process of purchasing and releasing details pertaining to the pre-release iPhone, and that they are legally in the clear.  Further, they have stated that if it is found that Jason Chen and the Gizmodo staff had not committed any crimes buying purchasing and publishing the pre-release iPhone 4.0, Gawker intends to sue the San Mateo sheriff’s office.

Personally, I feel that Gizmodo would have a pretty good case against the local sheriff’s office, mainly because of the journalism shield laws that restrict the searching that can be done on a newsroom or on news staff.  This law is greatly important, as it also allows Gizmodo to keep the source of the pre-release iPhone (who they bought it from) confidential.

At the same time, if it is found that Gizmodo did indeed commit a crime, then their entire case against the local sheriff’s office would be thrown out, as the police would have had a legal justification to search the home.

All in all, this whole situation has a lot of if’s in it and only time will tell exactly how the legal process will go, and if Gizmodo or its affiliates will be charged with crimes.  Because of this, the only conclusion that we can draw up is that there is definitely a lot of activity in the case, and that because the police did search Jason Chen’s home, it can be inferred that they feel they have a case against him and Gizmodo.

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