The dispute between Gizmodo and the San Mateo County, Calif., sheriff's office regarding the iPhone 4G prototype continues. CNET News reported Wednesday that Gawker Media, Gizmodo's parent company, may sue the sheriff's office for the search last week that resulted in the seizure of computer equipment from blogger Jason Chen's home office.
Thomas Burke, a partner in the San Francisco office of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, told CNET that Gawker has a cause of action "because search is not the appropriate method in this situation." California shield laws and the federal Privacy Protection Act require police to use subpoenas to obtain information and other evidence from newsrooms.
And the authorities involved here reportedly considered those laws before making the raid on Chen's home. San Mateo County's chief deputy district attorney, Stephen Wagstaffe, told CNET the prosecutor's office "considered [the shield laws] right off the bat," but decided the warrant was proper anyway.
Though the story doesn't indicate why authorities decided as they did or whether Wagstaffe even offered those reasons, some have noted that the shield laws would not apply if Gawker or Chen were suspected of committing a crime. If that were the case, any civil suit that Gawker pursued against the sheriff's office likely would not succeed.
However, though authorities still have possession of Chen's equipment, they have agreed not to actually search the equipment unless and until it is determined that the shield laws do not apply.
Perhaps most interesting, though not at all surprising, is that Apple requested the investigation that led to the search, even after Gizmodo had returned the prototype. NetworkWorld reports:
... Apple officials called the local DA and requested an investigation. Why? Because Apple wants to send a message. It's not looking to quietly punish transgressors; it's looking for a public execution.
Stay tuned. This one is far from over.