Apr 272010
 April 27, 2010  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Surveillance

Brian Stelter and Nick Bilton report:

Gawker Media said on Monday that computers belonging to one of its editors, Jason Chen, were seized from his home on Friday as part of what appeared to be an investigation into the sale of a next-generation iPhone.

One of Gawker’s blogs, Gizmodo, published articles last week about the future phone after purchasing the device for $5,000 from a person who found it at a bar in California last month.

Read more in the New York Times.

Greg Sandoval and Declan McCullagh cover the story on CNET, with more emphasis on the search and seizure aspect involving journalists:

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told CNET on Monday: “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.”


In 2006, a California appeals court ruled that the definition of “periodical publication” protects Web logs. “We can think of no reason to doubt that the operator of a public Web site is a ‘publisher’ for purposes of this language…News-oriented Web sites… are surely ‘like’ a newspaper or magazine for these purposes,” the court concluded.

The federal newsroom search law known as the Privacy Protection Act is broader. It says that even journalists suspected of committing a crime are immune from searches–if, that is, the crime they’re suspected of committing relates to the “receipt” or “possession” of illegal materials. (Two exceptions to this are national security and child pornography.)

Read more on CNET. You can see the warrant on Gizmodo‘s site.

Update 1: Both Eugene Volokh and Orin Kerr address some of the legal issues in this case over on the The Volokh Conspiracy, with Orin addressing the legality of the warrant.

Update 2: The Atlantic Wire has links to a number of commentaries about the case.  I’m sure there will be many more to follow.

Update 3: Avram Piltch of Laptop has an interview with Jennifer Granick of EFF where she offers a legal analysis suggesting that both federal and state laws may have been violated by the search and seizure.  Granick also spoke with Threat Level.

Update 4: Defense attorney Scott Greenfield discusses the legality of the warrant and asks where the probable cause was.   Elsewhere, Simon Cowens gets some reactions from some editors  as to whether Jason Chen should be considered a “journalist.”

Update 5: Declan McCullagh and Greg Sandoval have a second story on CNET that lays out some of the legal issues nicely and points out that Gizmodo may have an uphill battle claiming that Chen is a journalist as they are on record as previously saying, “We may inadvertently commit journalism. That is not the institutional intention.”

Update 6: Matt Zimmerman of EFF provides a legal analysis in OverREACTing: Dissecting the Gizmodo Warrant

Update 7: Paul Ohm offers his commentary on Freedom to Tinker in The Gizmodo Warrant: Searching Journalists in the Terabyte Age

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