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EMAILED ON January 14, 2020 BY Conor Grant

Tech giants are fighting big legal battles. Here’s why they matter

This week, several of the tech industry’s biggest heavyweights are duking it out in high-profile legal fights. 

The outcomes of these matchups could have far-reaching consequences not just for tech giants — but also for you, the people who use their sh*t. 

So, what’s actually going on in these burgeoning brawls? Let’s have a look:

Matchup #1: Google v. Oracle 

What’s happening: Oracle accused Google of copying its code, but Google defended itself by saying that the code was publicly available. After both companies won victories in lower courts, the case is headed to the Supreme Court. And in a twist fit for the federal stage, both IBM and Microsoft filed briefs to the court in support of Google.

The stakes: The conflict is not just about a snippet of code — it’s about 2 different visions for the future of the internet. Team Google wants public code to be open source and available to everyone. Team Oracle wants public interfaces to be protected by copyright. 

Matchup #2: Apple v. the Justice Department

What’s happening: US Attorney General Bill Barr publicly demanded that Apple unlock 2 iPhones that belonged to the Saudi Air Force cadet who killed 3 people at a Florida naval station last month. Apple has insisted that — while it’s happy to continue cooperating with the investigation — it will not build “backdoors” for law enforcement.

The stakes: The outcome of the case could shape the relationship between tech companies and law enforcement. Law enforcement officials make tens of thousands of requests for digital evidence from major tech companies each year… yet still want broader latitude to gather evidence. Tech companies argue that customer privacy trumps law enforcement accessibility. 

Matchup #3: Sonos v. Google

What’s happening: The speaker company Sonos is accusing Google of stealing Sonos’ wireless speaker tech and abusing its massive market power to stifle competition.

The stakes: The case is a referendum on the platform power that enables tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon to control both markets and the products within them. Other smaller companies have also criticized these companies for stifling competition, and since federal antitrust regulators are currently investigating anti-competitive practices in tech, the outcome of this case could determine whether regulators will crack down or not.

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