When Gizmodo posted their photos of the next iPhone prototype, it seemed to me that all the references to cloak and dagger deals to get their hands on a lost prototype was merely Gizmodo covering up a deal with Apple to leak it. Only, once Apple started sending out nasty notices about the missing device, it became clear that that wasn’t the case. I assumed that Gizmodo would be banned from the next few Apple press conferences, but never expected what happened next.
Police showed up at Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house, and executed a warrant, seizing his computers and some personal property. The problem? You can’t use a warrant to seize materials from a journalist. Under shield laws, those sorts of things have to be decided by a judge first- weighing whether or not it violates journalistic shield laws to take them, and then defining what the specific scope is. (Here’s Wired’s breakdown of the situation, with a legal expert weighing in)
What started as a missing iPhone prototype and a major tech scoop by Gizmodo has inadvertently become the next battleground in legal precedence: is blogging journalism? To me, the answer is obvious. Gizmodo isn’t the same thing as an individual’s personal blog, filled with pictures of their puppies and vacations. It is a blog, run by a company, that pays it’s employees to cover technology news and review new gadgetry. The only difference between Gizmodo and say the NY Times’ tech blog is that Gizmodo is not tied to a print counterpart.
Sadly, this has only made me lose even more respect for Apple. I won’t deny that they create quality products. However, it seems odd that the company that created it’s public image of being the computer for artists and free thinkers with the Ridley Scott “1984” Super Bowl ad, has essentially taken the Big Brother position in saying that users cannot modify the computers themselves and that only Apple can determine what content you can access (and possibly that if you dare try to see what’s going on behind the curtain, they’ll send the police to search your home to ferret out the source). Sometime, I’ll post about all those Apple myths that the true Mac-diehards love to spout (those about Mac’s being impervious to viruses, less prone to crash, etc, etc). But for now, let’s leave it at this- if nothing else, it looks like bloggers everywhere will be able to point to this legal scuffle and say that they are indeed real journalists.
Update: I will concede that the DA would have to think that there was a credible enough reason to move ahead with a search warrant, and that ultimately, the problem is with the DA. However, there must have been a complaint from Apple to get the ball rolling.