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Microsoft: Yes, we agree that Irish email dispute is moot... now what's this new warrant about?

Redmond backs down without actually backing down

The four-year court battle between the US government and Microsoft over the release of emails held in the software giant's data centre in Ireland has come to an end – of sorts.

Microsoft HQ in Redmond issued a motion with the Supreme Court late yesterday backing the government's request that the case be dismissed as moot, although it has yet to issue a response to the Feds' new warrant.

The move comes after Prez Trump last month passed the CLOUD Act, which states that firms have to hand data over "regardless of whether such communication, record, or other information is located within or outside of the United States".

The Department of Justice argued in a submission made at the end of last week that the passage of the law renders the question at the heart of the case – whether US laws can apply overseas – moot.

Although Microsoft has consistently backed the CLOUD Act, having argued throughout the case that Congress – not the courts – should update communications laws for the cloud-computing age, it had yet to make a peep about how this changed the case at hand.

The DoJ noted this in its motion, complaining that Microsoft had "refused to acknowledge" that the CLOUD Act applied to the existing warrant, and hadn't yet said that it planned to give up the info.

As such, the Feds issued a fresh warrant under the CLOUD Act instead and – hey presto – Microsoft responded.

In its motion (PDF) to dismiss the case, Microsoft agreed it has been rendered moot – but only because the government withdrew its initial warrant (which could be seen as a handy way of backing down without actually backing down in this case).

"The Government's unilateral decision to return the old warrant means that warrant is a dead letter," it said.

"Microsoft agrees the current case is moot and there is no reason for this Court to resolve a legal issue that is now of only historical interest."

The tech titan added that it would "in the ordinary course, evaluate the new warrant as it evaluates all warrants that law-enforcement entities serve on it". ®

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