The saga of the “stolen” iPhone 4G that was revealed last week by Gizmodo editor Jason Chen has taken an ugly turn. Police have confiscated three Apple laptops, a Samsung digital camera, a Seagate 500 GB external hard drive, USB flash drives, a HP MediaSmart server, a 32GB Applie iPad, a 16GB iPhone, and an IBM ThinkPad, according to Gizmodo.
According to Jason, he and his wife returned home from dinner around 9:45PM to find their garage door half-open. They were met by police officers who said they had a warrant to search his house and any vehicles on the property. Gizmodo has posted scans of the search warrant along with Jason’s account of the events.
This now appears to be a very interesting legal case pitting 2 laws against each other. The defense is claiming this search warrant violates the federal Privacy Protection Act, which immunizes news organizations from searches, unless the journalists themselves committed the crime.
However, there is a California law that says any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be but “appropriates such property to his own use” is guilty of theft.
My feeling here is that the federal law (Privacy Protection Act) will trump the California law, since the federal law specifically immunizes journalists and news organizations from this exact scenario.
Unfortunately, I think this case is only going to serve to make Apple, and Steve Jobs, look very bad. The cat is already out of the bag. All they can hope to do is make other journalists too afraid to touch this the next time an iPhone prototype falls in their lap.