Microsoft accepts ‘contempt of court’ deal to appeal email privacy case

Microsoft Corp and the US government have reached a deal under which Microsoft has agreed to be held in contempt of court, as a procedural measure to move an email privacy case on to appeal.

The agreement is the latest step in an ongoing legal battle, in which Microsoft is fighting moves by the US government that would force the corporation to hand over a customer’s emails stored in a data centre in Ireland.

On 31 July 2014, US district court judge Loretta Preska ruled that a warrant obtained by the US government did lawfully require Microsoft to hand over any data it controlled, regardless of where it was stored.

Microsoft chose not to comply with Preska’s ruling. The corporation refused to hand over the emails and said it would appeal. The US government said the corporation’s refusal to comply with the ruling meant it should be held in contempt of court.

However, according to a deal outlined in court documents filed on 8 September, both sides agreed that “contempt sanctions need not be imposed at this time” as Microsoft seeks to appeal. Nevertheless, the US government said it reserved the “right to seek sanctions”, in addition to the contempt order, in the case of “materially changed circumstances in the underlying investigation” or if an appeal upholds judge Preska’s ruling and “Microsoft continues not to comply with it”.

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