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Apple and Santa Clara D.A. may file charges for found/purchased iPhone prototype

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 6:36PM EST

It’s bad when a trusted employee has to tell you that they’ve lost a future prototype of the product that single-handedly catapulted your company to the forefront of mobile devices. However, it is worse when the person who ends up with the lost treasure knows exactly what he/she has, and what it could be worth…and this soap opera ain’t sitting well with the folks in Cupertino. CNET is reporting that Apple and the computer crime task force of the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office are investigating whether the sale of the now infamous fourth generation iPhone violated the law in any way. CNET explains where Apple could have a case:

Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be but “appropriates such property to his own use” is guilty of theft. If the value of the property exceeds $400, more serious charges of grand theft can be filed. In addition, a second state law says that any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.

Any prosecution would be complicated because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press: the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that confidential information leaked to a news organization could be legally broadcast, although that case did not deal with physical property and the radio station did not pay its source.

The suit may, or may not, be aimed at tech blog Gizmodo — the purchaser of the found iPhone — as Apple, the Santa Clara D.A., and Gizmodo all declined to comment when contacted by CNET. What do you think? Will this be a landmark case for Constitutional scholars, or is Apple just letting off some legal steam?