Apple and Epic recently met in court to duel over the fate of Fortnite. With both sides presenting their best legal arguments to District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers via a digital hearing, many eyes were on the result to discover whether or not Judge Rogers would grant or reject an emergency injunction. The result, however, was inconclusive as Judge Rogers announced that the case should be tried by a jury instead.
Judge Rogers decides a jury should decide Fortnite dispute
According to Judge Rogers, a jury trial’s ruling would be less likely to be overthrown by a higher court. Jury decisions are seen as more in line with societal values and understandings, and generally useful for determining things like guilt. A prosecutor might be able to convince one person, but to convince 12-15 people would require a compelling enough case that the jury’s result would be more likely to be accurate.
This, in addition to the fact that jury decisions aren’t usually the result of well paid think tanks and corporate argumentation, would make a jury decision more difficult for a higher court to overthrow.
Why might Epic and Apple not want a jury to decide the future of Fortnite?
However, juries have one significant weakness that could harm their integrity in the battle for Fortnite. They only work as planned if the jury is impartial from the onset.
It would be hard to find 12-15 jurors to pass impartial judgment on companies like Apple or Epic Games. Given the public nature of the dispute, almost anyone who cared to be informed would have a bias about the situation from the start. This might be based on anything from being a fan of Fortnite to really liking Apple products.
Additionally, due to the political nature of their argumentation (just how much control should a tech company have anyway?), means that the individual jurors might walk into court with a decision in mind.
These companies are not necessarily trying to appeal to the common citizen. Their appeals are instead targeted at the U.S. government and its figures, such as judges. This is because the government, not the citizens, have the power to regulate companies and order their dissolution or compliance, which is what Epic and Apple both need for their desired outcomes.
Epic’s ultimate goal is to force Apple to open its market, to host Fortnite on its virtual shelves, and to be limited in its ability to extract revenue from the products sold.
Apple, likewise, wants the U.S. government to reaffirm their right to operate a closed market, to use their financial might to attack their competitors, and ultimately allow Apple to do as they please with iOS devices.
With all that in mind, it makes sense that both companies would agree to forego a jury trial.
So who’s likely to win and where is Fortnite going to go?
While it’s too early to call a winner, court precedent seems to favor Apple. The kind of action Epic wants isn’t something that the court may even be able to do. Epic needs legislative action to be taken against Apple, laws and regulatory bodies that limit Apple’s ability to control its markets. Without those laws on the books, courts are powerless to help Fortnite at all.
Even a highly sympathetic judge with a vendetta against Apple would almost certainly rule in such a way that requests further legislation while ultimately siding with Apple.
Then again, American courts have done stranger things, so we’ll just have to wait and see. If you’re hoping to play Fortnite on iOS in the meantime, however, you might want to get creative or seek out an alternative.Published 01 Oct 2020, 22:57 IST