Apple iPhone Leak: Crime, Marketing Ploy or First Amendment Issue?

The iPhone 4G leak story has sparked lively debate online.

ByABC News
April 27, 2010, 12:58 PM

April 27, 2010 — -- The repercussions of tech blog Gizmodo's blockbuster iPhone scoop continue to build. The latest development: Police have put a criminal investigation of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen on hold until it's determined whether journalistic protections apply to this case.

The leak has sparked lively online debate, triggering arguments as to whether bloggers are journalists, whether Gizmodo's actions were illegal or merely unethical, and whether Apple orchestrated the whole to-do as an elaborate marketing ploy.

For those just tuning in to the story, here's what's happened so far: After the new generation iPhone was left behind in a bar by an Apple engineer, Gizmodo said it paid $5,000 to the person who found it, and the blog's April 19 analysis of the prototype quickly dominated headlines.

On the night of April 23, California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team raided Chen's home while the blogger was out and seized four computers and two servers.

Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, fired back in a letter to police, claiming that the search warrant for Chen's home was invalid under California's penal code.

Shortly after, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said both state and federal laws protect Chen. In an interview with Wired, Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the federal Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits the government from seizing materials from journalists and others who possess them for the purpose of communicating to the public, also protects Chen.

The question of whether journalistic shield laws protect Chen, a blogger, has sparked much debate. L.A. Times technology blogger Dwight Silverman isn't sure they apply: