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U.S. Department of Justice Sues Apple

Department of Justice vs. Apple header image with logos and relevant text.

By now you have likely heard that the United States Department of Justice, along with 15 States Attorneys General, and the District of Columbia, are suing Apple under the Sherman Antitrust act.

I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever studied to become one. Instead of me trying to decipher everything, I want to point you an article titled Understanding the DOJ’s Antitrust Complaint Against Apple by John Voorhees from MacStories. John is a lawyer and as such he has a much better understanding of the nuances, and the laws, than most pundits talking about the lawsuit.

I have read through John's article and I do want to pull a couple of relevant parts:

So far, all we have to go by in the DOJ’s action against Apple is the DOJ’s complaint. Under federal law, Apple has 60 days to file an answer, and that deadline could get extended. I mention that because it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what the DOJ has filed are merely allegations and arguments. The complaint simply represents the facts the DOJ thinks it can prove and how they apply to antitrust law.

This is a good little legal factoid.

Regarding Messaging:

What releasing RCS won’t do is eliminate the DOJ’s argument that third-party messaging services should have access to it just like Messages will as a fallback when a service’s own network is unavailable. That’s something, but the DOJ’s messaging arguments still feel like a bit of an empty sack.

Many have attempted to argue that Apple should be forced to open up their iMessage protocol because lower quality videos are sent to Android phones. This has nothing to do with iMessage, but the fact that SMS is a global industry standard. Apple has not yet implemented the newer Rich Communications Services, or RCS. However, it will be doing so by the end of the year. There is nothing stopping families from using another service, like WhatsApp, Google Chat, or any other messaging app to send images and videos in higher quality.

Regarding Game Streaming:

(Game Streaming) is another good example of a situation where Apple hasn’t done itself any favors. In 2020, Microsoft was beta testing an app-based version of Xbox Cloud Gaming. When Apple told the company that every app on the service would need to be downloaded locally and reviewed by Apple’s App Review team, Microsoft abandoned its app for the Apple-favored, browser-based approach.

To me, this one in particular is entirely on Apple and wanting to boost revenue. If I have subscribe to a game streaming service, there are no security implications for any of Apple's devices. This is because streaming, by its very nature, is merely transmitting audio and video over the internet to the device, just like a movie streamed from a service. Deliberately blocking this is just egregious. As John states:

The DOJ’s arguments will still apply to the period when streaming wasn’t permitted, which may lead to financial penalties...

My Thoughts

This is going to be a long and drawn out case. There are some aspects of this case that I find super flimsy. Futhermore the re-writing of history regarding the iPod, which is not covered in John's article, is particularly egregious, because the U.S. has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the iPod. Additionally, the iPod has nothing to do with the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in the 1990s, but that is a whole other topic.

I am not sure how much coverage of this I will have on the site, given that it is super nuanced and Apple is going through legal fights all of the time. If there is a settlement and major changes come out of it, I will likely cover it, but as stated before, that could be years from now. I also would not be super suprised if Apple attempted to settle instead of going to trial, but only time will tell.