May 26, 2021 • 10M

🗞️ Apple makes a big admission to end Epic trial

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Raad Ahmed
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This week: Apple and Epic close their case, and Florida pushes anti-tech laws to the furthest limits yet. Plus, what legal repercussions would you have if that Chinese rocket debris had hit your house?

🍏 The end of Apple and Epic…for now

Apple and Epic have finished their trial over whether Apple exerts too much control over the App Store. As The Verge notes, it “was bookended by Tims” -- Sweeney for Epic and Cook for Apple. After three weeks of testimony, here are a few key details that stand out:

  • Cook admitted video games like Epic drive their App Store revenues: He said in-app purchases in video games, of which Apple gets a 30% cut, make a majority of Apple’s App Store revenue. In a potentially bad sign for Apple, judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers responded, “The gaming industry seems to be generating a disproportionate amount of money relative to the IP that you are giving them and everybody else. In a sense, it's almost as if they're subsidizing everybody else.” 

    Cook also made the key point Apple has been making throughout the trial -- that Apple exerts full control over the App Store for security purposes. 

  • But we’re not talking about only “games”: Using the descriptor video game to describe Epic didn’t make it too far in court. After Apple said it wanted to narrow the scope of arguments to games -- rather than any entity in the app -- Epic countered that it was a “metaverse, a social place.”

    So apparently there’s no legal agreement on what constitutes a video game.

  • The potential flaw in Epic’s argument: During the debate-style closing arguments, the judge brought up an interesting point regarding Epic’s stance that it should be able to sell in-game purchases without Apple getting a cut. She said, Epic “is attacking the fundamental way in which Apple is generating revenue.” 

  • A long time coming: It could take several weeks and potentially months before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers makes a ruling.  

🤷 Florida will fine social media companies that ban politicians

And it could be a giant legal mess. 

  • This is a direct response to the suspensions and bans of Trump: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on Monday, making it illegal for tech platforms like YouTube and Facebook to ban politicians for longer than 14 days, while also setting up strict guidelines for why they kick any users off their platforms. He said, “If Big Tech censors enforce rules inconsistently, to discriminate in favor of the dominant Silicon Valley ideology, they will now be held accountable.” 

  • What he didn’t say is a constitutional challenge is almost a guarantee: This is a case of Florida telling private companies what they can and can’t do with regards to speech. That is protected by the First Amendment. “This is so obviously unconstitutional, you wouldn’t even put it on an exam,” University of Miami law professor A. Michael Froomkin told WIRED.  

Section 230 is at play, too

The well-known federal internet law preempts state law, and the new Florida law is likely in conflict. 

The Verdict

Odds are this law will be taken down in a court battle before it ever gets put to use.

🚀 What would’ve happened if China’s rocket fell on your house? Introducing the latest in space law 

You may have heard a few weeks ago about a massive piece of a Chinese rocket falling back toward the earth. There was an unlikely chance that it might strike a populated area and cause some major damage. 

The rocket ended up crashing into water near the Maldives. But what if something bad would’ve happened? 

  • Space law expert Timiebi Aganaba broke it down in the WaPo: For crash landings, it’s a matter of diplomacy, thanks to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Had the rocket destroyed your property, the U.S. would’ve had to take legal action against China. As an individual you would have to depend on the two countries resolving a claim. 

  • And space debris has never hit someone’s house: It has fallen on land, though, including in Canada and Western Australia, and countries have reached settlements -- sometimes with controversy. The Soviet Union, for instance, only paid Canada $3 million for what was a $14 million cleanup.

The trickier questions are about the space junk that never falls to the earth

China’s malfunctioning rocket is far from the only piece of debris hovering in the upper realms of the atmosphere, and there are no defined punitive measures for countries or corporations littering the cosmos, making it a tragedy of the commons situation.   

The Verdict

Aganaba said we should think of space law like environmental law and start to think of space debris as something that can harm something far bigger than a house.  

💌 What else we’re forwarding

Why being a lawyer should sometimes feel like working in retail: It’s all about plain-language and problem solving. 

To end COVID trial gridlock, states are holding court in weird places: Imagine having a trial at a venue for wedding and high school proms. It’s happening as jurisdictions try to get through a backlog of cases.

🎧 Music we’re working to

Today we’re listening to Lord Tusk, a London-based master producer, sound curator, and connoisseur of unplayed and elective Audio Waves, a London-based electronic producer. Metropolistic , takes its influences from video game soundtracks, corporate muzak, and lo-fi house…and is a great, up-beat album.

Metropolistic - Lord Tusk (30m, a couple moments of vocal FX)
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See ya next week,

🧐 Raad