Microsoft Held In Contempt As It Battles A Domestic Search Warrant Demanding Overseas Data

Microsoft has been held in contempt of court after failing to comply with a warrant, following a rejection of a request for appeal on July 31st.

The case stems from a United States government search warrant for data stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft contends that the data is outside the purview of the domestic warrant. The United States government disagrees.

Microsoft has thus far failed to gain traction in court, over several rounds, for its position. The technology industry has mostly aligned behind the software company. That Microsoft is willing to be held in contempt, even though the order appears to be mostly procedural, underscores how the company weighs the matter.

The court order’s tone is almost humorous: Microsoft isn’t doing what it has been told to do, and it thus being held in contempt, but the government isn’t seeking an immediate penalty, and Microsoft is really acting in the current fashion to ensure that it can continue to appeal.

Color me dense, but I don’t quite grok why Microsoft has to land a contempt verdict to push its case forward, but, according to the document:

While Microsoft continues to believe that a contempt order is not required to perfect an appeal, it agrees that the entry of an order of contempt would eliminate any jurisdictional issues on appeal. Thus, while reserving its rights to appeal any contempt order and the underlying July 31 ruling, Microsoft concurs with the Government that entry of such an order will avoid delays and facilitate a prompt appeal in this case.

I think that you can summarize that paragraph as Microsoft telegraphing a middle finger, about half raised, to the American legal process.

The case matters, as it will help set the precedent for the ability of the United States Government to command access to data that stored by U.S.-based companies anywhere in the world — those companies would therefore not be able section off their user data by storing it abroad, protecting foreign nationals from the sticky fingers of the government. Users would not appreciate that. Revenue would fall. Hence the suit.

It appears that Microsoft will get its appeal.