The seizure of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s computers is illegal, says Gawker Media, the parent company of the blog.
As a journalist, Chen is legally protected from divulging his sources of a story: in this case, details of Apple’s 4G iPhone, which Gizmodo purchased after an Apple engineer left a prototype in a bar. Gawker says the authorities are not allowed to search his computers in pursuit of a suspect, presumably the person who sold Gizmodo the iPhone.
Gawker cites section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code protecting journalists’ sources. It further cites O’Grady v. Superior Court, which extends the protections to online journalists. The O’Grady case is another Apple case, but one that the company lost. Apple tried to force Jason O’Grady to divulge his sources after his PowerPage website published details of another product Apple was working on.
Earlier, Gawker’s COO and legal rep, Gaby Darbyshire, had written Chen a note detailing the above. He was instructed to cite the various case law if police tried to search or seize his property. However, when Chen showed police the note, they took it into evidence.
The police also used a classic interrogation technique on him — trying to pretend it’s not a big deal. According to Chen’s notes:
The detective in charge… said something about this possibly being a misunderstanding that could be cleared up if I answered some questions. I didn’t say anything in response to that.”
Gizmodo: Police Seize Jason Chen’s Computers