Gizmodo Publisher Said Unlikely To Back Down To Apple, Police



Gizmodo’s publisher Nick Denton is not likely to back down to Apple or the police, says a publishing industry executive who has followed Gawker closely for years.

Denton, who owns Gizmodo’s parent company, Gawker Media, relishes a fight in the courts, says the executive, who asked not be named.

On Friday, Silicon Valley police investigating iPhonegate raided the home of Jason Chen, the Gizmodo editor who detailed the iPhone 4G prototype for the site.

It appears police are searching for the identity of the person who found Apple’s iPhone prototype in a bar and sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000.

Although police seized Chen’s computers and other property, including mobile phones and external drives, they did not arrest nor detail him. However, Chen is described as a “suspect” and “defendant” in court papers.

Gawker argues that the search was illegal because Chen is protected by California shield laws, which prevent authorities from searching reporter’s belongings in search of suspects. Section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code states that search warrants can’t be issued to publishers, editors or reporters (in print or electronic media) in relation to stories they were working on or their sources.

“We raised our objections over the weekend and met in person with the authorities today,” Gawker’s general counsel and COO, Gaby Darbyshire, Tweeted on Monday. “They’re reviewing the shield law issue.”

Denton has a history of digging in and fighting:

  • Denton paid for the McSteamy sex video and is preparing for a court fight. In 2009, Denton paid “big money” for a threesome sex video featuring “Grey’s Anatomy” star Eric Dane; his wife, Rebecca Gayheart; and former beauty queen Kari Ann Peniche. Dane and his wife sued. Gawker is putting up a vigorous defense, the publishing executive says.
  • The Dell/Consumerist exchange. A Dell lawyer threatened Gawker’s Consumerist blog for running insider information from a former sales manager. Gawker COO Darbyshire responded to Dell with a sharply-worded refusal, and Dell backed down.

The publishing executive says Apple may be opening a can of worms by targeting Gizmodo. In his opinion, Gizmodo is in a position to become a cause célèbre if they win and strengthen the case law. And even Gizmodo loses the legal case, it will get credit for fighting the case in the first place.

He says Denton would like nothing better.

Denton didn’t respond to requests for comment.