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back to article Gizmodo faces visit from cops over 'found' iPhone

A tech blog that paid five grand to the finder of a prototype iPhone is under police investigation, as it seems buying found property is against the law. Gizmodo paid $5,000 to the chap who found a next-generation iPhone in a bar, and the blog made merry with the device before returning it to Apple - after forcing Cupertino to …

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Bronze badge

Criminal Offence?

Surely not....if the finder has tried to return it and the owner (or the owning company's representative) has disclaimed ownership then surely title simply moves across at that point. It is not like the guy who found it tired to pull a fast one, he did the decent thing and was rebuffed. The lawyers may make merry (and stretch the bill) but no matter how much 'an indignant corporate body' may try to stir things up there cannot be a case to answer here.

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Stop

Re: Criminal Offence

Under California Law, if the found item is valued over $400 (some reports conflict, saying $100), the finder has to hand the item to the Police if the original owner can't be contacted.

He knew it was something special. Otherwise why post pictures of it?

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But...

But the owner was contacted, and Apple said they didn't want it. If someone leaves a laptop in a bar, I hand it them and they say "no, don't want it any more", I'm pretty sure I can do what I want with it...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Criminal Offence

They knew who the true owner was and yet they sold it anyway, without making any attempt to contact the owner.

That's illegal in most countries and morally dubious everywhere!

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FAIL

Did you read the article?

Did you read the article?

He did contact the owners, they said they didn't want it and told him where to go.

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Anonymous Coward

Trousers down, boys

"But the owner was contacted, and Apple said they didn't want it"

Mm. It didn't occur to the finder (or Gizmodo) to put it in a Jiffy bag with '1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino' on the label?

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FAIL

Not only did Apple not want it

They also claimed it was a cheap Chinese knock-off (or so the story goes). If this is true, then the finder probably has a reasonable argument that, at this point, he figured it was worth less than the $400 or $100 that people report California law requires you to return the goods. Of course, this view changes rather a lot when he sells it for $5k!

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The law as it is written

"..if the found item is valued over $400 .."

Ah,... so what is the retail price of this item?

The person who 'sold' it on to Gizmodo was not selling the phone itself, He was selling an opportunity to an author. After that author had finished a session of deep admiration of the item, he returned it to its original owner. There was never any intention to deprive the rightful owner of the item and many efforts were made contact the owner and make arrangements to return it.

It was the owner's responsibility to go to trouble of making proper enquiries and then traveling to pick it up from the finder, not the other way around.

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Bronze badge

WRONG

Apple never said they didn't want it, the customer service people logged his call but didn't return his calls. Get the facts right before issuing a statement.

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Err

But the device was returned to Apple.

What does it matter if gizmononododo paid someone for the pleasure of returning the device themselves?

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Grenade

defence

Surely the defence is that the seller didn't know who owned it, as Apple had told him so.

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re: defence

The seller said he discovered it was an Apple device after opening it up. He says he called Apple a few times, didn't get anywhere so sold it - it's been confirmed that he didn't say anything to the bar (where the guy who lost it had been phoning frantically) or report it to the police. He also has a pretty good idea of the name of who lost it and where he worked after looking at the Facebook app on the phone.

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Coat

Wrong

On all counts there is no defence at law until ther is an offence.

Never defend yourself to the bill. Let them tell you what you have done and what they are going to do about it.

The go to your lawyer and tell them everything.

Then, and only then and only that if you are satisfied with what the lawyer comes up with...

Wait for the bill to do what they said they were going to do.

Then when they change there minds be prepared to confront their next ploy.

Once they start looking, they don't stop until you stop talking to them.

Ergo nil logo schtumo.

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Boffin

CA law is a bit more specific than that.

If you find something, you must make reasonable attempts to identify the owner. If you cannot do this, you must then turn the thing over to the police if its value is > $100.

Failure to do the second part is theft. Subsequently selling the item (which, because you asked Gizmodo for $5000) you know is worth more than $100 is fencing.

The owner had at that point been identified because Gizmodo published his identity (his phone contained his Facebook profile).

There are any number of ways they could have returned to the phone to its owner, most of which involve a jiffy bag, the phone in it, and "FAO Apple Legal" written on it.

Personally I'd have rocked up to 1 Infinite Loop and asked for, in exchange for the phone, nothing more than a tour of the campus and a coffee with The Steve.

Gizmodo and their source are in for a vigorous bumming.

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Joke

Too holy to touch.

"in exchange for the phone, nothing more than a tour of the campus and a coffee with The Steve."

LOL, you probably would have never been heard of again. The Steve has plastic sheeting on the floor in his office.

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Joke

Ah I see!

Has Steve just bought a new puppy too?!

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This.

"Gizmodo and their source are in for a vigorous bumming"

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Go

Hope they get taken...

...to the cleaners, not because I have any love for the Cupertino mob, but for publishing the name of the guy who lost the phone.

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Found but unreturnable

It would seem that after reasonable attempts at returning are being rebuffed, the finder is the rightful owner. Who can sell it at an outrageous price, and also the buyer doesn't break any laws.

However, I don't see reasonable attempts have been made: the facebook app took him straight to the engineer's homepage, so he could have left a message there and I'm sure a meetup could be arranged and even some small payment. Given that facebook info, I don't see that some spotty call centre drone can be expected to know about prototypes, and/or how to reach the wanted engineer; it's not in the script.

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FAIL

Bottom Line

If they're too incompetent to take it back when offered to them, that's their own fault - He tried to return it, they didn't want it.

'nuff said

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A title goes here

Hardly - from what I understand, the bloke who found the phone tried giving it to one of the Genius Bar blokes, who understandably went "you wot?" and told him they hadn't a clue what he was talking about, which they almost certainly didn't. If I found some nifty new prototype-tech thing on a train, 1st-line support would not be my port of call.

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FAIL

RE: Bottom Line

Umm, they made NO attempt to contact the OWNER.

They didn't even leave a message in the place they found it so that the owner could get in touch.

They found the guys Facebook page - did they post there with a message saying that they'd found the phone?

They contacted his employers, despite knowing exactly who he was.

If I found your phone and called the main desk of your company, would they know what the hell I was talking about?

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Coat

errr...

If I found your phone and called the main desk of your company, would they know what the hell I was talking about?

probably not, but they would find out.

And something tells me that if they had lost a prototype jesus phone then everyone at apple would have known about it. I recall when i was a lad a prototype ford escort getting nicked one time in swansea EVERYONE knew about it. INSTANTLY. and on the lookout for a weird looking escort (reward see!)

The article says he was told it was a knock off and to go away... maybe he is taking the piss a little, as subsequent events reveal he clearly had some idea what it's worth - or at least found out.

but my balanced opinion is..... it apple, so fuck em

mine's the one with the pre construction magical and revolutionary crap in the pocket

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History is malleable..

"That person apparently tried to return the handset to Apple, but the support desk staff (who don't have access to the goings on in the R&D department) told him it was just Chinese knock-off and not to bother them with it."

Call me cynical if you like, but I wonder if he/she (the 'finder' - oh the irony) has any proof they did that and what Apple's response was. If they haven't and it ends up being Apple's word against theirs well... I wouldn't advise booking any holidays soon. I do know that Gizmondo wouldn't have paid 5 grand for a 'chinese knockoff', which suggests they at least knew that wasn't true.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, the SOP round these parts if you find some lost property in your local is to hand it in to the bar, where they keep it in case the owner comes back looking for it. The fact the finder didn't do that puts him/her on very sticky ground, as does the fact they didn't try to contact the engineer bloke himself, given they had various ways to ID him from the phone. Going to an Apple shop and talking to someone who logically would have no clue either way looks very much like an attempt to observe 'the letter of the law', which I doubt the court will consider sufficient.

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SOP

"As has been mentioned elsewhere, the SOP round these parts if you find some lost property in your local is to hand it in to the bar, where they keep it in case the owner comes back looking for it. The fact the finder didn't do that puts him/her on very sticky ground..."

If the finder actually worked in the bar he was following the SOP for barstaff - found something, no-one claimed it, kept it.

This is how my brother normally gets a new phone so be wary of keypad locks that prevent him going through the phonebook and calling numbers stored as mum/dad/home etc when he's cleaning up the bar and finds your phone.

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Hey conspiracy theorists

If the iPhone was a plant, we can expect someone to own up soon. Or does this alleged marketing stunt extend to a willingness to go to jail?

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WTF?

Please

"Of course, our man tried to return it, but Apple didn't want to know."

The thief (yeah, I said it) did in no way "try to return it". What he engaged in was merely the flimsiest of attempts to cover his arse. Given that the thief knew the name of the owner, had access to their Facebook page and knew that the owner would most likely return to the places he had been in order to try and locate the item, there were many more effective and honest things that could have been done to "try and return it".

Instead, the thief sold something which they knew was not theirs, and the bottom-feeders at Jizzmodo bought something which they knew had been obtained dishonestly (would you pay $5000 for something you suspected might be a cheap fake? Get the fuck out of here, they knew exactly what they were buying).

This is not, under any circumstances "freedom of the press". This is borderline industrial espionage, and I look forward to that smug tossrag Jason Chen having his back door kicked in by Bubba and his mates at one of California's finest hotels for the light-fingered and stupid. Just as a nice payback for their appalling treatment of someone else's career as collateral damage in their grubby pursuit of page views.

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Smooth...

to suggest that a Prison Gang-Rape is somehow fitting for this issue - would you be so happy to partake?

It's a phone.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Smooth...

I missed that lovely, apt Bubba vignette there, it got in under my radar. Thanks, Ian. Now bloody behave yourself or I will delete you in the face.

How many times? No prison rape jokes, you cretins.

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No...

...but then I wouldn't have bought a stolen phone - knowing full well what the consequences might have been for the poor sod it was lifted from - and then swung my dick all around the interwebs like a grinning, drooling retard.

What's your point?

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Coat

Well it wasn't a joke...

...but point taken.

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Trade secrets

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the US, and Gizmodo counts as "press" in this context, so trade secrets can be published - but this is a physical thing, an actual item for which money was paid, and that changes the situation considerably."

It has been reported that Gizmondo could be in trouble under the Californian law, The Uniform Secrets Act:

"(a) “Improper means” includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means. Reverse engineering or independent derivation alone shall not be considered improper means.

(b) “Misappropriation” means:(1) Acquisition of a secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the secret was acquired by improper means; or (2) Disclosure or use of a secret of another without express or implied consent by a person who:(A) Used improper means to acquire knowledge of the secret; or (B) At the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that his or her knowledge of the secret was: (i) Derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it; (ii) Acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or (iii) Derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or (C) Before a material change of his or her position, knew or had reason to know that it was a secret and that knowledge of it had been acquired by accident or mistake.

(d) “Trade secret” means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that:(1) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (2) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."

http://thetradesecretsblog.wordpress.com/trade-secrets-law/california-civil-code-§§-3426-et-seq-the-uniform-trade-secrets-act/

The Act also says:

"§ 3426.6. An action for misappropriation must be brought within three years after the misappropriation is discovered or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered. For the purposes of this section, a continuing misappropriation constitutes a single claim."

In which case Apple's lawyers may have something to do....

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Jobs Horns

Must have been Stevie

He's calling in the headmaster again.

Snitch.

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Happy

Nothing To Worry About....

....Arrested, theres an App for that...

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Badgers

Does anybody still care?

One thing is for sure, this episode has generated lots of publicity for Apple. it may be a cute PR stunt, maybe not - does anybody care any more?

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Anonymous Coward

UK vs. US law

I don't know about US law but over this side of the pond the law is very clear on what you must do with found property. You must either return it to it's owner or hand it over to plod. If you retain it you are committing the offence of "stealing by finding". Saying you had made an effort to return it to it's owner would not be a defence. If your efforts failed you should have handed it over to plod. Knowingly buying found propterty would be dealing in stolen goods. The only defense you could try would be that you didn't know the goods were stolen, but that would still leave you out of pocket and minus the phone.

Furthermore the finder could be charged with both stealing by finding and dealing in stolen goods, although the way things work over here he would probably be charged only with the more serious of the two offences.

I doubt that US law is so much different to ours that this isn't a clear cut case.

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Anonymous Coward

Hacktually

That's not quite right.

If the item has been abandonded by the owner/operator then you are free to 'salvage' it. You are NOT legally obliged to hand ANYTHING over to the police, you are, however, obliged to INFORM the police of what you have found and they will then decided whether or not to take it off you.

In this guys defence Apple saying "not our product, not our problem" is, to most resonable minds, abandonment. That works for the UK but US law is a very different beast in which the guy with the most money/best lawyers will always win.

Loving "stealing by finding" though :D

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Correct

A finder is obliged to notify the Police - but not to surrender it. I once found a very valuable ring & gave it to my mother to hand in. She took it to the Cop Shop but refused to surrender it, after the counter staff said they intended to 'transfer it across London' (but refused to say where to). Outcome - she retained custody of the ring & 6 weeks later could keep it.

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Hmmmm

My first reaction was "well he made an attempt to return it and Apple refused it", but at that point he didn't know Apple were the owners, so that wasn't an attempt to return it to its owner. That'd be like me finding a phone in the street and taking it back to the vodafone shop.

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Stop

This article only mentions...

Gizmodo being investigated. Surely the bloke who sold it should be also?

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Give it time.

I'm sure once they know the identity of the thief they'll be popping along to see him too.

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well...

To be fair, I don't think there's been any mention of Gizmodo, rather just implied. The original CNET story is that the cops are looking into the case of the stolen phone. I should think that covers both the thief and Gizmodo.

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Anonymous Coward

Title

In all honesty as far as I can see no-one really comes out of this smelling of roses - the bloke wot lost it, the bloke wot found it, Gizmodo for buying it off him or Apple for either a) letting a key piece of strategic hardware out of a controlled environment or b) engaging in a pretty tawdry piece of publicity

For me the real bad guys in this are the scum-suckers who thought it would be OK to publish the name of the silly sod that left it in the bar in the first place - whether he did that deliberately or not, they don't know that so they have to assume it was a mistake - it's a crap way to play with someone's career.

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Black Helicopters

In the middle of "Tech Central"

The DA must prosecute for no other reason then "pour encourager les autres".

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Headmaster

Please make this the last story on this?

RIght that's enough! You, you and you, sit down! You, give my that phone! If you can't look after it, I'll have it! Come and see me in detention at the end of the day when you can write a 500 word essay about why it's important to stop being a tell-tale and a fibber!

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FAIL

eh?

"Apple for either a) letting a key piece of strategic hardware out of a controlled environment or b) engaging in a pretty tawdry piece of publicity".

I'd got with A ( presumably they didn't think they'd need to tell their staff to avoid necking several jars of memory inhibitor while in possession of one of the test units) but how exactly is B at all true? All Apple have done is send Giz a letter asking for their property back after Giz made a big song and dance about having it. A private communication which Giz then put on their front page.

They didn't squeal about it. They didn't publicly call for Giz to be dragged off to the nick, they just sent a letter asking if they could have back something which it appears there is a good argument was stolen from them.

Just what exactly have Apple done at any point in this that can at all be described as tawdry, especially compared to Giz, who paid five grand for something they almost certainly knew they shouldn't be buying and pretty much kicked an innocent bloke's career into touch for the crime of losing his phone?

F'ing norah, talk about double standards.

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In defence of Apple

Blimey, I never thought I'd defend Apple, but I can't see that they've done anything wrong in this case. OK, the engineer in question may have been ill advised to neck enough beer to forget the phone, but I'm not casting any stones there - I have a missing camera for the same reason. The two sinning parties are the finder and Gizmondo, both seem to have acted amorally if not illegally. Perhaps our engineer might like to move to Redmond, I hear there's a company there crying out for people who can develop decent phones...

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Anonymous Coward

Another Title

@ Jonathan White and Sandman - you're right, my intention with point B was to appease the conspiracy theorists who reckon the whole thing is a publicity stunt on the part of Apple. If that were true then I think it's tawdry getting into bed with chequebook journos

For the record I'm more inclined to believe that A is more likely in that it was a mistake by the guy that left it in the bar, but if that is the case I think Apple should have better control of their kit than to let people take it out of the office like that, especially when it's kind of important to their future strategy

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Anonymous Coward

@Beaker's Love Child

I completely agree with you.

"scum-suckers who thought it would be OK to publish the name of the silly sod that left it in the bar in the first place".

WITHOUT at any point contacting him via the details they had and saying "we've found your phone".

Basically, they had a phone that they knew wasn't theirs. They even knew whose it was but they made no attempt to return it. All they did was phone the front desk at Apple HQ, who understandably said they knew nothing about it... exactly as the theives knew would happen...

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Jobs Horns

@AC 13:26

Erm...they did contact the guy that lost the phone. He past the reporters details on to Apple legal, hence the request to have the phone back.

Oh and for all the muppets saying that Giz screwed trhe guy's career up, I suggest checking out Giz/Wired's story about the engineer who showed Apple co-founder the Woz an Ipad before he should of... the guy got fired, the guy who lost the phone...still at apple.

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