Long story short: Yesterday Gawker issued a bounty on information on the Apple tablet. Today, Apple’s famously heavy handed lawyers issued a cease and desist (and send us anything you get) order.
The legality question is: Is anything that Gawker gets a violation of contract or theft of Apple’s trade secrets? Certainly most of what they are asking for would seem that way.
But perhaps there is some gray area: Their $50,000 prize is for a picture of Steve Jobs with a tablet. If you were at a restaurant and the guy next to you was Steve Jobs and he was showing off the tablet to Al Gore, and you snapped a picture, would it be against the law to sell it?
In any case, Gawker is getting what they wanted in the first place with this contest: Publicity and pageviews. So it doesn’t really matter if they end up with a tablet or not.
They got Apple to come out and react to the contest which means that there probably is a product of some sort on its way out of Cupertino soon…if you hadn’t already heard.
FWIW, the contest is still going on. Letter pasted below: