While I appreciate your position philosophically Renegade, it doesn't jive with California law, which is what I was trying to point out:
2080.1. (a) If the owner is unknown or has not claimed the property, the person saving or finding the property shall, if the property is of the value of one hundred dollars ($100) or more, within a reasonable time turn the property over to the police department of the city or city and county, if found therein, or to the sheriff's department of the county if found outside of city
So, according to what I understand of the story yes, what the finder did was illegal. Now how does that affect gizmodo? Well, the legal interpretation of what the item in question becomes when the statute above is not followed is a bit unclearer to me; does it become stolen property then? I don't know. But if that is the case, then Gizmodo absolutely committed a crime by "buying, acquiring, or possessing" stolen property.
Anyway I'm not the only one that doesn't see it as clear cut as you seem to:
Good points. Not sure if I'm willing to give up that fast though.
(Although I really don't care for laws at all and still don't see Gizmodo as having done anything wrong. i.e. Just because something is legal or illegal doesn't make it right or wrong.)
If you can value the phone at under $100, then the laws there are moot and it can't be claimed that the phone was stolen.
I think a strong case can be made there:
1) Used iPhones go for around $60 or so, well under $100. Used iPhones on eBay
2) In addition to being used, the product wasn't even finished. What is the value of an phone that you know doesn't work properly? This should further devalue it.
3) There is no support for the product, so if there are any issues, it's basically a worthless chunk of plastic and metal. This again should further devalue it.
4) That Gizmodo paid $5,000 is not relevant. Would you pay for dirty underwear? Probably not. The value of dirty underwear is zero. But, there are people that will pay for dirty underwear. That doesn't make them generally valuable though. The existence of 1 person/agent that will pay for something doesn't necessarily give that something an intrinsic value.
To make that last point in a different way... Take my dirty underwear. I do not sell it to people, and neither to I give it to anyone. It isn't on the market. So, it is unobtainable. Nobody can get any of my dirty underwear. There is an incredible scarcity of it on the market. So, does that scarcity of my dirty underwear elevate it's value? Is it priceless? A work of art, or rather, a work of fart.
Ok, very silly, I know. But, the general principle still holds.
In a perhaps more relevant way, take some insignificant personal item of yours that you attach some sentimental value to. Now, to anyone else it has no value, but to you, the value is, well, whatever you attach to it, which can easily be more than $100.
Apple's attachment of more than $100 (or Gizmodo's attachment of $5,000 to it) does not necessarily give it that value.
Those 3 criteria generally make something less valuable.
For most people, the phone would only be a curiosity and utterly useless with no value at all.