The tech blog Gizmodo paid a source $5,000 earlier this month for a prototype of a new Apple iPhone that had been left behind in a beer garden. It was a small investment, considering the huge audience for its posts about the device. But Apple is now pushing for criminal charges and Gizmodo is crying foul, saying investigators overreached when they seized the scoop-writer's computers. It's right, even if its brand of checkbook journalism seems wrong.
According to Gizmodo, a young Apple engineer left the prototype on a Redwood City barstool in March. After trying unsuccessfully to return the device, the person who found it offered it to a few tech-related websites. Gizmodo bought the phone in mid-April and published a long piece by Jason Chen describing its hardware. Apple quickly sent Gizmodo a letter demanding that the device be returned, and Gizmodo complied. San Mateo County investigators later raided Chen's house and seized computers, other electronics and credit card records. Their search warrant indicated only that they were investigating a theft, and prosecutors haven't identified the target.