Updates to this story
Gizmodo received the phone after writing a cheque to a bloke who found it in a bar. After it ran the story about the phone's details it apparently gave the phone back to a red-faced Jobs' Mob.
Now, according to CNET , Coppers have confirmed that they were approached by Apple to conduct a criminal investigation against Gizmodo.
The incident is being handled by a computer crime task force led by the Santa Clara County district attorney's office, the source said.
The purpose of an investigation is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to file criminal charges against a US newspaper for running a news story.
Apparently no one has tried to do that in the US for years, as the only function of the IT press is to publish press releases approved by technology companies.
There is a little problem with making a theft charge stick, as a definition of theft is intending to deprive the owner of the property. Gizmodo has given Apple its phone back.
Apple is completely neurotic about secrecy of its products, and the company has not been afraid to take aggressive legal measures in the past.
It has tried to jail journalists for running stories from “unauthorised sauces” within the company. It that case it took a court ruling to remind Apple about that little thing called freedom of the press. Apple's view is that the press is free to publish nice stories about it that use the company's approved list of words.
In desperation it appears that Apple's lawyers have reminded coppers of 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.
However, again, such laws are stuffed up by that pesky First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press.
The US 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.