Gizmodo has dodged criminal charges related to its dissection of an Apple iPhone 4 prototype lost in a California bar in 2010. But others weren't so lucky.
prosecutors apparently have no plans to file charges against Gizmodo employees
who purchased an iPhone 4 prototype in 2010. The tech blog's Jason Chen
publicly dissected the device online, attracting millions of readers and the
considerable ire of Apple, which likes to keep its upcoming products hidden
behind a thick veil of secrecy.
difficulty we faced is that Mr. Chen and Gizmodo were primarily, in their view,
engaged in a journalistic endeavor to conduct an investigation into the phone
and type of phone it was, and they were protected by the shield law," San Mateo
County Assistant District Attorney Morley Pitt told the Associated Press Aug 10.
He added: "We
concluded it is a very gray area; they do have a potential claim and this was
not the case with which we were going to put the envelope."
started when Apple engineer Gray Powell lost the prototype in at the Gourmet
Haus Staudt restaurant in Redwood City, Calif. The device's discoverers
subsequently sold it to Gizmodo's parent company, and by April 19, Gizmodo had
its now-infamous dissection posting online.
later, on April 23, members of California's REACT (Rapid Enforcement Allied
Computer Team) arrived at Chen's home with a warrant issued by the Superior
Court of San Mateo, Calif., authorizing them to take digital property
associated with the prototype iPhone. REACT's 25-company steering committee
reportedly includes Apple.
"My wife and I
drove to dinner and got back at around 9:45 p.m.," Chen wrote in an April 26
statement posted on Gizmodo. "When I got home, I noticed the garage door was
half open, and when I tried to open it, officers came out and said they had a
warrant to search my house and any vehicles on the property -in my control.'"
seems to have escaped any legal consequences, prosecutors are filing charges
against the two men, identified as Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, who found the
prototype. If convicted, according to AP, "each faces a maximum of a year in
county jail, plus fines and probation."
The early leak
had a negligible effect on sales of the iPhone 4, which remains the linchpin of
Apple's smartphone line. Analysts and pundits widely expect the company to
release the next iPhone, popularly dubbed the "iPhone 5," sometime in the
September-October time frame. It's questionable whether Gizmodo will be invited
to the launch.
left Gizmodo to work for Lifehacker.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.