Saying "no" to the government is never a good idea. But Microsoft had little option.
In a little under a week, Microsoft will again head to a Manhattan court in an effort to try to quash a search warrant, sought by the US Justice Department, in an international drugs-related case.
The warrant itself isn't out of the ordinary, but it does contain a crucial facet: It is demanding data on an email account stored by Microsoft in a data center in Ireland.
Microsoft argued the search warrant goes way beyond the means of a traditional search warrant because it forces the company to hand over data it stores in another country, which in itself is subject to different laws and regulations.
This one case will determine - effectively - how far the US can use its own legal system to compel companies doing business within its borders to hand over data it stores overseas.
As one report put it, the case will determine whether data has a "nationality."
Two US judges - a magistrate
and a district judge
- have already agreed with the government. After dancing with the government's lawyers on technical issues, Microsoft vowed to carry on fighting at the appeals level. Microsoft swallowed a contempt of court charge
in order to continue, which gives judges wide discretion to seek fines or even the prosecution of individuals
"Big deal," you might think. "Why should I care?" Because the case is the first of its kind, it sets up the possibility that - should the government win - that it can do this on-demand in the future, without using the courts.