Stolen, in my view, and poor media ethics to boot.
Here’s Jeff Bercovici‘s “Why Apple Could Sue Gawker Over ‘Lost’ iPhone Story”.
I understand the moral calculus they used. We all feel intuitively that picking up something that someone else left behind is not as bad as seizing it by force, stealth or deception. But in the eyes of the law, it’s still stealing. And buying stolen goods is a crime.
In those rare cases where a journalist commits a crime and receives the benefit of prosecutorial discretion, it’s usually because he can demonstrate there was a compelling public interest at stake. There is no such interest here. The only parties who benefited from Gizmodo’s story are Gawker Media and Apple’s competitors.
I’m not normally one to root for manufacturers over journalists, or for Goliath over David. But what Gawker Media did here was egregious. I doubt Steve Jobs will sue, but if he does, he will have justice on his side.
I understand the plain ol’ curiosity and feelings of ‘competitive pressure’ the guys at Gizmodo felt … but they handled this badly, trying to white-wash the finder/thief’s actions in fencing the ‘hot’ item to them. Other media declined.