There's this locked iPhone 5S running iOS 7. It's part of a drug case working its way through a federal district court in New York. The Justice Department wants in, but the owner won't unlock it.
So the Justice Department turned to a bit of federal law called the All Writs Act.
The law authorizes courts to "issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law." According to the Justice Department, that means anyone who can help with a case can be court-ordered to do so.
They say it's like forcing a car manufacturer to give the government access to your vehicle just because the company wrote the software. (Video via Tesla Motors)
But the Justice Department has countered that Apple still technically owns the software running on the locked phone, so it's the company's responsibility to help law enforcement unlock it. (Video via Apple)
As we speak, it's getting harder for phone and software makers to comply with these kinds of orders even if they want to. (Video via Apple)
Apple and federal investigators are scheduled to discuss the case at a hearing this week.