The entire tech world sat up and took notice this week when a prototype of the next generation iPhone was detailed by Gizmodo. Apparently Silicon Valley law enforcement was paying attention too, and have now launched an investigation into the incident. The goal of the inquiry, which is headed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, is to determine if there is sufficient evidence to file a criminal case.
The next-gen iPhone was lost in a bar by an Apple engineer that was testing it, or so the story goes. An unnamed party found it, and upon realizing it was not a normal iPhone began shopping it around to gadget blogs. Editors at Gizmodo disclosed on their site that the person who found the phone was paid $5000 for it. It is currently unclear if the investigation is targeting Gizmodo’s parent entity, Gawker Media, or the individual that sold them the phone.
California law makes clear that knowingly receiving stolen property is in almost as much trouble as the one who stole the property. Going after Gawker, however, would likely run afoul of 1st Amendment freedom of the press issues. Of course, all this is completely separate from any civil action Apple might take against Gawker for the leak. What’s your take? Does the phone count as stolen? If so, should Gawker/Gizmodo be held liable.