Sticklers for journalistic propriety have always frowned upon checkbook journalism, which is far more rampant now thanks to the internet. Thankfully for checkbook journalists though, their critics can do little more than protest. But buying a story is one thing, and flouting the law in doing so a totally different affair.
Last week, when Gizmodo proudly flaunted what it claimed to be a misplaced prototype of the next iPhone, it prompted many to question the legality of the way in which the phone was acquired – the blog’s editors avowedly paid $5000 for the misplaced phone. Under state law, a finder of goods who can determine the owner of lost property is under legal obligation to return it to its original owner, and the failure to do so makes him guilty of theft.
It has now emerged that cops investigating the matter raided Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house on Friday and confiscated four computers and two servers. According to Jason Chen, cops bust into his house in his absence and were busy scouring the place for evidence when he and his wife arrived from dinner at around 9:45PM. The cops were carrying a search warrant issued by the Superior Court of the County of San Mateo, California.
Gawker Media COO Gaby Darbyshire believes that the search warrant against Gizmodo's editor contravened section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code, which states that “a publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication” can not be forced to make any disclosures with regards to the source of any information obtained by them in their official capacity.
Darbyshire isn’t the only one raising a stink, though. Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told CNET that the search warrant was issued in violation of the federal Privacy Protection Act . "This is such an incredibly clear violation of state and federal law it takes my breath away. The only thing left for the authorities to do is return everything immediately and issue one of hell of an apology,” she said.
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