John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Gizmodo’s Next Exclusive: A Peek Inside the CA Legal System

The Apple (AAPL) iPhone prototype that Gizmodo revealed to the world last week reportedly cost the site $5,000, but it may set it back quite a bit more in legal bills over the next few months.

Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s department raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen last Friday as part of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the sale of the prototype to the gadget site. And they came armed with a search warrant citing probable cause to search Chen’s home for property that “was used as the means of committing a felony.”

Among the items seized in the raid:

  • All records and data located and/or stored on any computers, hard drives, or memory storage devices, located at the listed location including digital photographs and/or video of the Apple prototype 4G iPhone.
  • E-mail communications pertaining to the sale of photographs of the prototype phone and/or the sale of the physical prototype 4G Apple iPhone.
  • Internet history, cache files, and/or Internet pages pertaining to searches and/or research conducted on Apple employee Gray Powell.
  • Call records, contact lists, text messages related to the sale of photographs of the prototype iPhone and/or physical prototype iPhone and indicia that identifies the owner and/or operators of the computer or electronic device.
  • Printed documents, images, and/or notations pertaining to the sale and/or purchase of the stolen iPhone prototype and/or the sale and/or transfer of trade secret information pertaining to the iPhone prototype.

Gizmodo parent Gawker Media is disputing the validity of the warrant, claiming it violates California’s Shield Law, which protects journalists seeking to maintain the confidentiality of their sources.

“Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire wrote in a letter to the detective handling the case. “Abundant examples of his work are available on the Web. He works from home, which is his de facto newsroom, and all equipment used by him there is used for the purposes of his employment with us. Perhaps you are not aware of section 1524(g) of the CA Penal Code.”

Section 1524(g) of the CA Penal Code is the California Shield law to which I referred earlier. Darbyshire argues it is “abundantly clear” that the search warrant used to raid Chen’s home violates it. This, of course, assumes that authorities don’t suspect Chen and Gizmodo of committing a felony (buying stolen property), which isn’t yet certain. It also assumes the court will view Chen as a journalist, which isn’t certain either.

As Gawker CEO Nick Denton said in a statement to his employees: “Do bloggers count as journalists? I guess we’ll find out.”

I’m sure we will, though it’s worth noting that Denton seems to have answered that question for himself last year.

“We may inadvertently commit journalism,” he told The Washington Post. “That is not the institutional intention.”

[Image credit: TopherChris]

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald