It’s the Theft and Purchase of the Unit, Not the Publication of Photos and Information

Really dumb piece by Tim Wu at Slate on the Gizmodo/iPhone saga. Wu writes:

Apple has indicated it believes a serious felony was committed. The company appears to regard Gizmodo’s acts as larceny, or misappropriation of trade secrets, or both. Here is where the case gets serious: If we accept that journalists can be punished severely for publishing information gained by others in unsavory ways, that’s a bad thing for journalism. Nearly every truly big story, from the al-Qaida photos on down, involves a leaker of some kind, often one who has broken some law. If the publishers of such materials—as opposed to the leakers—are treated as criminals, journalism will suffer.

If you agree with that, read the following sentence slowly, so it sinks in. Gizmodo isn’t being “punished severely for publishing information gained by others in unsavory ways”; they are being investigated by law enforcement for committing a felony themselves.

Note that Engadget “published information gained by others in unsavory ways” — they ran a photograph and a description of the phone (including revealing the front-facing camera) two days before Gizmodo. The photo and description came from the sources who took the phone from the bar and eventually sold it to Gizmodo. Yet Engadget is not in any trouble at all.

Gizmodo isn’t in trouble for spoiling Apple’s secret; they’re in trouble for breaking the law.

Wu writes:

But Gizmodo, for one thing, says it wants to give the telephone back, and so it may lack any intent to possess the phone permanently. That matters, legally speaking.

No, it doesn’t matter, legally speaking. When you borrow someone else’s property without permission, that’s called theft. (Also, Gizmodo gave the phone back to Apple on April 20, the day after this. Hello, Slate?)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010