NYT Story on Computers Seized From Jason Chen

Brian Stelter and Nick Bilton:

Legal experts said there was little doubt that bloggers qualified. “Of all places, California is probably the most clear that what Gizmodo does and what Jason Chen does is journalism,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

He said the case could hinge on whether there is an exception in the law involving a journalist committing a crime, “in this case receipt of stolen property. He said “this seems unlikely based on the plain language of the statute.”

In other words, if the only target of the criminal investigation is the kid who found the unit and sold it to Gizmodo, then yes, Jason Chen should be considered protected by California’s shield law. They should have issued a subpoena (which means asking Chen to talk to them), and not used a warrant to break into, search, and confiscate items from his home.

But if Chen (and, presumably, his employer, Gawker Media) is himself the target of a felony investigation, the shield laws aren’t relevant. The shield laws are about allowing journalists to protect sources.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010