Michael Malone Cites the Supreme Court’s Landmark Finders v. Keepers Decision

Michael Malone, in an opinion piece for ABC News, says the Gizmodo/iPhone prototype story shows that “journalism has lost much of its muscle”:

A couple weeks ago, Jason Chen, an editor/blogger at the tech site Gizmodo (part of the large gossip blog family Gawker Media) found himself in possession of a prototype of the new Apple G4 iPhone and proceeded to post photos of it on the site. As you can imagine, all hell broke loose as the Web buzzed with speculation about the source of the images, whether the device was stolen, and whether it really was Apple’s newest super-product.

What we now know is that the device was indeed a G4 iPhone, not scheduled for formal introduction for weeks hence; and that it wasn’t stolen, but accidentally left by an Apple employee in a Silicon Valley beer garden. Whoever found it was knowledgeable enough to know what it was — and proceeded to sell it to Gawker for a purported $5,000.

There’s a whole swath of criticism regarding Apple’s decision to report the incident to law enforcement, and law enforcement’s decision to break down the door to Jason Chen’s home and confiscate his computers, that goes along the lines of Malone’s argument above. (Cf. Jon Stewart’s segment on The Daily Show last week.)

To wit: Ignoring that the phone was stolen. California criminal law could not be more clear: the finder of a lost item must either return it to the owner or hand it over to the police; to do anything else is theft. “Finder keepers, losers weepers” is not the law. You don’t have to break into someone’s house or pickpocket them to steal a phone. If you pick up a lost phone and treat it as your own, you’ve stolen it.

Jason Chen did not “find himself in possession” of a prototype iPhone. Jason Chen and Gizmodo bought a prototype iPhone from someone who they knew had stolen it. At least Jon Stewart’s take was funny.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010