CNET reports that police “have seized computers and servers belonging to an editor of Gizmodo” a tech blog in the Gawker Media Network, parent company of Deadspin.
After an apparent prototype of Apple’s iPhone 4G was allegedly left and found in a San Jose bar, Gizmodo last week said they paid $5,000 for the device. Editor Jason Chen spotlighted the gadget in a vlog on April 19.
An investigation was launched on Friday, and on the same day police seized computers and servers belonging to Chen.
Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office obtained a warrant on Friday and searched Jason Chen’s Fremont, Calif., home later that evening, Gizmodo acknowledged on Monday.
While my immediate red flags arise over the “finding” and purchase of the goods at hand, Gawker has turned the debate into one that echos an ongoing BwB discussion – defining how bloggers are classified, and subsequently treated. Gawker’s chief operating officer Gaby Darbyshire via the NYT’s Media Decoder:
“Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,” she wrote in a letter to San Mateo County, Calif., authorities on Saturday. “Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” she continued, adding that he works from home, his “de facto newsroom.”
“It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,” Ms. Darbyshire continued.
I’m no lawyer (thank the Lord), but as a blogger, my Spider senses tell me that if I were to purchase something for that substantial amount of cash on the black market, I may be liable for purchasing stolen goods.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told CNET on Monday: “This is such an incredibly clear violation of state and federal law it takes my breath away. The only thing left for the authorities to do is return everything immediately and issue one of hell of an apology.”
Dalglish said that the San Mateo County search warrant violated the federal Privacy Protection Act, which broadly immunizes news organizations from searches–unless, in some cases, the journalists themselves committed the crime.
At the very least, I’d have to question my ethical standards. But the real question that’s being ignored by First Amendment flag wavers is not if Chen/Gawker should be considered journalists, but if there was a crime committed.