In case you haven’t heard there are a few stories flying around about just how shielded bloggers are with regard to sources and protection afforded other journalists under the law. Yesterday we talked about one instance in New Jersey. Today we move cross country to the home of all things tech and watch as Gawker Media’s Gizmodo editor, Jason Chen, becomes the center of a legal and ethical conundrum of sorts.
Gawker Media said Monday that computers belonging to one of its editors, Jason Chen, were seized from his home on Friday in an apparent investigation into the sale of a next-generation Apple iPhone. Gawker suggested the action violated California’s shield law for journalists.
The technology blog Gizmodo, which Gawker owns, published articles last week about the phone after buying the device for $5,000 from a person who, according to the site, found it at a bar in California last month.
Found it in a bar. Good one. Did the dog eat your homework too? Sorry, that was my own editorial. Bottom line for the Internet marketing world is just how protected are bloggers, be they independent or corporate, and do the freedoms afforded bloggers as ‘reporters’ allow them to cross lines without repercussions? I find it somewhat amusing how many bloggers won’t call themselves ‘journalists’ but will certainly jump the fence if there is a need for legal protection.
The story of the 4G iPhone may turn into one of Silicon Valley legend and lure but right now it just seems pretty silly. Unfortunately for Chen he is now likely to be a pawn in a chess match that may decide how blogging is done in the future.
Gawker is protecting their guy with the following argument
Gawker’s chief operating officer, Gaby Darbyshire, said in a letter to the authorities on Saturday that shield laws protected Mr. Chen and his computers. She said Gawker expected the immediate return of his property.
“Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,” Ms. Darbyshire wrote. “Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” she continued, adding that he worked from home, his “de facto newsroom.”
“It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,” she wrote.
Another Gawker heavyweight weighed in
“Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out,” Nick Denton, the founder and president of Gawker Media, wrote in an instant message Monday.
You can get Gawker’s entire history of this ‘issue’ here.
Of course a fight like this will be left for the lawyers and the early results seem to favor Gawker’s claims. That is unless the ‘found’ iPhone is determined to be stolen and there can be a connection made to the ‘purchase’ of the phone which Chen did do.
Legal experts said there was little doubt that bloggers qualified. “Of all places, California is probably the most clear that what Gizmodo does and what Jason Chen does is journalism,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
He said the case could hinge on whether there is an exception in the law involving a journalist committing a crime, “in this case receipt of stolen property.” He said “this seems unlikely based on the plain language of the statute.”
Well, one thing can certainly be said for this whole thing as it relates to Internet marketing. Gawker Media got boatloads (Hey, Carol!) of attention and likely increased site traffic that will make a $5,000 ‘investment’ and some potential legal issues for an employee look like a sweet deal. Call me a cynic but what it maybe, just maybe, that was the plan after all? I’m just sayin’ ………