The Washington Times defends corporate theft

I approvingly link to a lot of Washington Times pieces, but this one defends Gizmodo for paying $5,000 for the next version of the iPhone.

1) The police are trying to figure out whether Gizmodo purchased a product that they knew was not owned by the person who sold it. If the police can show this, a crime was committed. At this point, Apple can't control or stop the police investigation, just as a woman beaten by her husband can't stop that criminal investigation. We will have to see whether a law was violated, but we won't know without an investigation and If I had to bet, the odds seem very high that the law was violated.
2) This editorial implies that getting a leak about some government activity is the same as getting a leak about some corporate secret for a product that it is making. Do we really want to create a situation where people steal company secrets because they think that the media will pay them for those secrets? If someone broke into a company vault and took the iPhone, would that be acceptable? Even if it is true that "His intention was not industrial espionage," that is the impact that it has on Apple.
3) Apple may think that the review was good publicity, but the question is also when that publicity occurs. The company doesn't want others to know in advance what they are making. This is a highly competitive market and others have been copying Apple's efforts. Two months advance notice simply means that others can get their products out two month faster with those features.

From the NY Times:

Perhaps Gizmodo was involved in the felony theft of property when it paid $5,000 and published photos and videos of the device.

Why did Gizmodo think that the phone was worth $5,000? I assume that they would have been willing to pay even more for it.

Perhaps Jason Chen, the Gizmodo blogger who lost four computers and two servers to the police last week, is not protected by the California shield law intended to prevent the authorities from seizing journalists’ reporting materials without a subpoena (that matter is currently under consideration so the police and county attorneys have held off combing through the computers).

Should journalists be protected from committing crimes? If a reporter broke into an office and stole corporate secrets, would that be protected?

But those are a lot of assumptions, and regardless of how the law shakes out, the optics are horrible for Apple. Anybody with a kilobyte of common sense could have told Steve Jobs that the five minutes of pleasure that came from making a criminal complaint against journalists would be followed by much misery. . . .

Why is this so horrible? Apple and its shareholders have undoubtedly lost a lot of money. Apple's returns to developing new cutting edge products has been diminished. Is that good for consumers? Other companies will be able to start copying Apple's products earlier than they otherwise could have.

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Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

According to various reports, the person who found the phone attempted to contact the owner, attempted to contact apple, but all apple did was ignore him, allegedly denying that it was even possible (despite having remotely bricked the phone).

Now, if someone who finds a lost item contacts you and says "Hey, I want to return your property" and you respond with "That's not my property," that is a speech act. Declaration of ownership by the rightful owner, either positive or negative declaration, changes or maintains ownership. There have been precedents on this matter, in fact.

So, if these reports are to be believed, as soon as Apple denied ownership, it was not theft, and ownership would default to whomever possessed the item in question. At that point, it is not buying stolen property, or even buying unclaimed property, but the purchase of property whose ownership was denied.

You present a slippery slope corporate espionage disaster scenario, but if this is purchase of stolen property, then what does that do to institutions which sell lost goods after they go unclaimed?

5/02/2010 7:22 PM  
Blogger Lazy Bike Commuter said...

I agree with the above commenter--attempts were made to return it to Apple, and they did not take it back.

Apple showed no interest until Gizmodo posted pictures and a breakdown online, at which point they said they would return it to Apple if Apple would only say it was theirs.

The problem is Apple's notorious secrecy and hostility to consumers worked against it and they handled it badly.

5/04/2010 12:39 PM  

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