By Kyle Austin
April 27th, 2010
The iPhone-leak saga rolled on today as news broke that the home of Gizmodo editor Brian Chen was raided by California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT – couldn’t make this name up) last Friday night. According to Chen’s account of the story, the team broke down his front door without him present, seizing four computers and two servers, in serving a warrant issued by the Superior Court of San Mateo.
The warrant and the ensuing confiscation of Chen’s computers hinges around the investigation into if Chen, Gizmodo and its parent company Gawker Media committed a felony by paying $5,000 for a lost, iPhone prototype. Was picking up the lost iPhone in a bar, asking around a bit and then selling the iPhone to Gizmodo a felony? Was the subsequent purchase of lost goods a felony? John Gruber thinks so.
Meanwhile, Nick Denton and Gawker seem happy to see this saga continue (free marketing and publicity). In fact, they’ve taken the issued warrant and seizure to propose that the Shield Law protects Brian Chen from the search and seizure as a journalist (full Gawker memo below). Denton proposed via Twitter that this case may finally give us the answer to the age old question – Are Bloggers Really Journalists? He may be watching too many old newspaper movies.
The Shield Law was established to protect journalists from having to give up sources that may have committed a crime, which would likely not apply in this case. Especially, if prosecutors are basing the search and seizure on the premise that Chen has committed a crime himself in this case. Therefore, while the reality is that California has been clear in defining bloggers as journalists (especially those working at a media company such as Gawker), the statue may simply not apply.
To make matters even more interesting (for conspiracy theorists) — many bloggers are pointing out that Apple serves on the steering committee of REACT.
Just another day in Silicon Valley.