Gizmodo threatens lawsuit over raid on editor's house

The fun and games over Gizmodo’s new toy continues to run and run. San Mateo police have raided an editor’s house, Gizmodo is threatening to sue, Apple is calling for the death penalty… no, sorry, we made that last bit up.

For anybody that’s spent the last week in a coma, the story began when a hapless Apple employee, a little the worse for wear, lost a prototype of the upcoming iPhone 4.0 in a bar.

The finder apparently attempted to return it to Apple, but couldn’t get hold of anybody there who seemed terribly interested, so sold it to Gizmodo instead. Apple really wasn’t pleased.

The raid, on editor Jason Chen’s house, took place last Friday, when San Mateo police broke into Chen’s house and seized six computers.

But Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, now reckons the raid was in breach of a California law which limits searches of newsrooms and is considering legal action.

In a letter to the police, COO Gaby Derbyshire cites the California Penal Code, which says: “A publisher, editor, reporter or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication, or by a press asscoaition or wire service, or any person who has been so connected or employed, cannot be adjudged in contempt by a judicial, legislative, administrative body or any other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to discose, in any proceeding as defined in section 901, the source of any information procured while so connected.”

He ends by demanding the return of the computers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has also waded into the fray. In her own legal analysis, the EFF’s Jennifer Granick concludes: “While a court may conclude that under particular facts and circumstances that a reporter must divulge sources or unpublished materials, or that he is liable for his misdeeds, police may not decide on their own to ignore free speech protections for journalists merely by claiming that the reporter may have committed a crime.”