Gizmodo bought a machine for $5000. They were told it was an Apple prototype device that got left on a barstool. They bought it. They took it apart to examine it, and decided it probably was the iphone 4G.
Apple said, “It’s ours, give it back.” And Gizmodo said, “sure.”
Then the police busted in wanting to know the name of the person from whom Gizmodo purchased the phone. At this point things get fun.
If I, Kirk Spencer, citizen, get property I know belongs to a company and use it (take it apart to examine, then tell everyone what I found), I am knowingly possessing stolen property. If I, Kirk Spencer, REPORTER, do the same thing, I’ve made a scoop. In the former case refusal to tell the police my source of the device is contributing to a felony. In the latter I’m protecting a source, and there’s a lot of grey law about that.
If I, Kirk Spencer, BLOGGER, do all the above, am I a citizen or a reporter? That is where this case is headed. Gizmodo has no print presence. Its authors are not, according to the company’s editors, journalists. Its editors have frequently described the site as a blog. And yet, it regularly seeks out information of interest to its readers and posts in regular fashion — it commits, dare I say it, journalism. Gizmodo could potentially redefine a LOT of case law in resolving a question: What is a journalist?
It’ll be interesting to watch.