Always double check your conference call settings. The Epic v Apple trial began this morning with kids yelling overtop each other on a packed phone line. “I would suck all of you to get Fortnite mobile back,” said one voice.
While much civil court business has been taking place over Zoom since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Epic v Apple trial is being held in-person. Participants are required to wear masks, and the number of people in the courtroom is restricted.
So that the public, press, and each party’s extended legal team can listen in, the speakers have been mic’d and audio from the court is being broadcast live on dial-in lines that support a few hundred people. The lines are not supposed to let anyone outside the courtroom talk, but apparently this morning they did. The Verge heard people say “free Fortnite” and “bring back Fortnite on mobile please judge,” as well as play Travis Scott songs.
When I called in at around 9 am Pacific—unaware that any of this had happened—I was asked by the automated system whether I wanted to join as a host, which I thought was odd. I opted not to. Maybe it was unrelated. I heard part of Epic’s opening statement without disruption.
For now, the court has fixed the issue. It seems like a fitting start to a legal dispute that kicked off with Epic intentionally breaking Apple’s rules and then launching an anti-Apple PR campaign directed at its Fortnite playerbase.
Start of the Epic v Apple trial appears to be delayed bc no one can figure out how to mute the hundreds of people asking the judge to bring back Fortnite Mobile on the public teleconference line pic.twitter.com/0Rj4Qu5ivHMay 3, 2021
The trial will determine whether or not it’s legal for Apple to lock down app distribution and payment processing on iPhones and iPads. Epic says that because the only two really popular mobile operating systems are iOS and Android, software developers are forced to use them, which means being forced to obey Apple’s “oppressive” rules and hand over 30% of their iOS revenue. What Epic wants is for iOS to work more like Windows, where software sales and payment processing can be handled independently, without permission from or payment to the platform owner.
In brief, Apple’s response is that the iPhone, iOS, App Store, and in-app payment system are part of one package: A device which competes with other devices, such as Android phones, Xboxes, PCs, and so on. The App Store and its rules create convenience and security for consumers, says Apple, and has helped companies like Epic make a lot of money. Apple points out that Epic has brought in over $700 million on iOS over the past few years.
You’re free to listen in to the trial as well, if you’d like. Epic and Apple will hear from witnesses from both companies, including Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and Apple CEO Tim Cook, as well as economists and representatives from other companies, such as Xbox VP of business development Lori Wright. Note that recording or rebroadcasting the court audio is prohibited (although a number of people have done so anyway).
The trial will set an important precedent, though I don’t expect it to be action-packed. Epic and Apple will be retreading arguments they’ve been making for the past year (I explain what the trial is all about here), and the trial is expected to last about two weeks. After that, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers will write a decision.