Gawker pays for purported iPhone prototype


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Gawker Media’s Gizmodo blog dropped a bomb on technology enthusiasts Monday with information and pictures of what looks like a prototype for Apple’s next iPhone. Gawker paid for access to the device from a person who found it at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., Gizmodo editor Jason Chen said.

Gawker founder Nick Denton coyly acknowledged in a tweet Monday that his company has paid for exclusives before. Chen confirmed in a phone interview that Gawker paid for the iPhone prototype.

Gizmodo published a follow-up post explaining how the blog got its hands on the gadget. It details the encounter at the bar, but does not say how much Gawker paid for the iPhone, though speculation online is rampant. The original post titled ‘This Is Apple’s Next iPhone’ has been clicked on more than 3 million times.


[Updated, 8:15 p.m. Denton told the Associated Press that Gawker paid $5,000 for the iPhone.]

Apple didn’t return calls for comment. Two Redwood City police units said they could not find records of an Apple device reported lost or stolen.

Chen said he’s had access to the iPhone prototype for about a week. Engadget, a competitor to Gizmodo, first posted pictures of the device, which was then supposedly found in a bar in San Jose, not Redwood City. Both blogs are convinced that this shiny gizmo with a front-facing camera for video conferencing and a flash on the back for low-light photos is indeed the real deal.

This wasn’t the first time Gawker offered money in exchange for info of a highly anticipated Apple product. In January prior to Apple announcing the existence of the iPad, Gawker’s Valleywag said it would give as much as $100,000 to anyone who would provide evidence of an Apple tablet computer. The winner, Valleywag wrote, was Apple, which demanded that Gawker call off the scavenger hunt.

Noted Apple commentator John Gruber wrote on his Daring Fireball blog suggesting that the iPhone prototype was stolen, not lost. ‘Folks, listen to me, this is NOT a ‘controlled leak’ by Apple,’ Gruber added in a tweet combating rumors that the Cupertino, Calif., company was attempting to ward off the new Android phone from Verizon called Incredible. ‘Apple doesn’t do that, and if they did, it wouldn’t be to Gizmodo.’

Whether it was stolen or not, Gawker may be in the clear.

‘Journalists generally do not get prosecuted for being in receipt of stolen documents, as opposed to the person who received the documents and turned them over,’ said Henry Weinstein, a professor at UC Irvine’s law school and a former legal affairs writer for the Los Angeles Times.

The TechCrunch blog published documents stolen from Twitter last year. The French hacker who took the docs was arrested last month, but the blog saw no repercussions.


Weinstein, a former reporter, doesn’t support checkbook journalism. ‘Generally it’s not considered good journalistic practice,’ Weinstein said.

[Updated, April 20, 10:59 a.m. Clarified that Weinstein’s quote was in regards to paying for information.]

-- Mark Milian