This spin is being promoted:

Gizmodo didn’t “buy” the lost/stolen/disassembled 4G iPhone prototype for US$5,000 … they just paid that money for “exclusive access” to it … that’s part of Brian J Hogan’s attorney’s positioning statement referred to here.

Brian J. Hogan, a 21-year-old resident of Redwood City, California, says although he was paid by tech site Gizmodo, he believed the payment was for allowing the site exclusive access to review the phone. Gizmodo emphasized to him “that there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press,” according to his attorney Jeffrey Bornstein.

Oohhh, I see. So not selling stolen property, Brian? Uh, OK.

So this from Brian Lam at Gizmodo’s smart-arse letter to Apple in reply to the request for their device back, was … what? A slip of the tongue?:

Happy to have you pick this thing up. Was burning a hole in our pockets. Just so you know, we didn’t know this was stolen when we bought it. Now that we definitely know it’s not some knockoff, and it really is Apple’s, I’m happy to see it returned to its rightful owner.

“We didn’t know it was stolen when we bought it” Oops.
i.e. Not “…when we paid for exclusive access to it”.

Watch for more slip-sliding.