The Gizmodo-iPhone Case: Editor Brian Lam's Off-Record Email to Steve Jobs

Well, journalists, just remember: off-record don't mean nothing to a court subpoena. Gizmodo, who had a huge, huge story when they paid for an iPhone prototype that was lost in a bar, is now experiencing that wonderful tidbit of information. Their editor, Brian Lam, shot Steve Jobs' public email address -- which he'll sometimes pick through and personally answer from -- an email regarding the case. Via Paid Content, it looks like this:

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Wonder how that's going to play out in court. Hysterically, Henry Blodget is asking -- rather naively, or rather transparently for clicks -- if this wouldn't have happened had Apple played nicer and not favored other larger outlets (like The New York Times) over Gizmodo, to which the answer is: Maybe Brian Lam the Person wouldn't have, but Brian Lam the Employee of Gizmodo -- the website, belonging to Gawker Media -- well ... yeah, no. Not in a million years. In other words, there are such things as stupid questions.

Other fun revelations that are coming out:

Gizmodo offered $10,000 for the phone, not $5,000, as was previously reported.

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A scared roommate ratted out the guy who had the Apple engineer's lost iPhone prototype. When asked about the implications for said engineer -- the now-infamous Gray Powell -- his response: "Sucks for him. ... He shouldn't have lost his phone."

Outside council to Apple told the San Mateo, California, police department that the the entire episode of this phone was "immensely damaging," and that what Gizmodo had in their hands was "invaluable."

In other words:

(A) Gizmodo got this thing at a premium.

and

(B) Apple went to the cops and had them go after Gizmodo.

The entire story is unraveling everywhere as documents are made public, but the best place to look right now is over at Paid Content. Meanwhile, one question has yet to be asked, really, or answered much beyond being asked:

Who is the law in this situation? What, if any interest, do they hold in busting Gizmodo, professionally or otherwise? Who broke into Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house without the consideration of whether it was a newsroom?

Sounds like the kind of story Nick Denton's Gawker would typically take on. And also, right now, the kind they can't touch, hold one plucky intern. Here's hoping there's more where that came from.

[*Full disclosure: I used to work for Gawker Media! Do I have to say that every time I report on them? I really don't know, but we have readers, they raise concerns, and we answer them! Issues. "Can haz" them.]

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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