An Apple Lawsuit Finally Ends - The UpStream

An Apple Lawsuit Finally Ends

posted Thursday Aug 11, 2011 by Scott Ertz

An Apple Lawsuit Finally Ends

Here is something I never thought I would get to report: one of Apple's many frivolous lawsuits has finally been settled. You might remember a long time ago in a galaxy very close to here, an Apple engineer left a prototype iPhone 4 in a bar. You might also remember that the person who found the phone, instead of returning it to Apple, sold it to a Gizmodo writer, Jason Chen for $5,000.

Shortly after the news broke that he had a prototype iPhone in his possession, law enforcement officers raided his house, breaking down his door, taking computers, drives, documents and more, all at the request of Apple. The resulting case finally came forward in the San Mateo County district attorney's office and they have decided not to charge him. The people who originally "found" the phone at the bar, however, will be charged with 2 misdemeanors.

Why is the lack of charges against Chen important? Hit the break to find out.

The 1st Amendment of the Constitution protects the press from a number of things, including the seizure of a reporter's notes. Take, for example, Deep Throat, the informant who gave information to The Washington Post in 1972 which ended up forcing President Nixon to resign from office. If Bob Woodward, the reporter on the story, had been forced to reveal the identity of the informant, who we now know to have been the FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, he could have lost his job or worse.

The same conditions are in play here, but on a much smaller scale, of course. The district attorney's office agrees, saying,

We had a conflict between the penal code and the 1st Amendment and California shield laws. We felt that the potential Gizmodo defendant {Chen} had a potential 1st Amendment argument -- one that we weren't prepared to address on this particular set of circumstances.

It's nice to see that local enforcement still believes in the Constitution because I'm not so sure Chen would have won this if it made its way to the Supreme Court. I'm very glad to see the legal system doing the right thing here, though it took too long to happen. The initial seizure of the hardware was the beginning of improper behavior.

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