It’s no exaggeration to call this the tech trial of the decade—or maybe the century. It’s about Apple and the FBI squaring off over an encrypted iPhone: The U.S. says Apple (AAPL) must decrypt the phone to fight terrorism, but Apple and others say doing this would be a privacy-busting disaster that will hurt freedom across the globe.
Now, after weeks of jousting in the press and a flurry of legal briefs, Apple and the Justice Department will finally meet face-to-face on Tuesday in a California courtroom.
Want to see this historic showdown for yourself? Well, get ready for lots of company. The courtroom will be buzzing with lawyers, reporters and—this is just a guess—hundreds or thousands of activists and Apple loyalists who will turn up to support the company.
It will be a circus, in other words. But a circus with rules: On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym published a memo explaining how many people will get to watch, and how. Note there will be no livestream nor any media updates from the courtroom.
If you want to attend, here is what you need to know:
- The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. at the federal courthouse at 3470 12th St. in Riverside, Calif. The court will start giving out tickets at 7 a.m.
- There will be only 36 tickets for the courtroom (Apple and the Justice Department will receive an additional nine tickets each to hand out as they see fit).
- There will also be overflow rooms where additional spectators can watch the hearing on a monitor. Altogether, there is room for a total of 324 spectators.
- The court will give out one ticket per person, and you cannot pick up a ticket for someone else.
So what does this mean in practice? It means get there early—very early, as there’s a good chance there will be a long line even at 7 a.m. Indeed, this could resemble a high-profile hearing before the Supreme Court, when people wait overnight to ensure they get a seat. As one observer put it on Twitter, “It’s gonna be Mad Max up in there.” (But if you miss out, don’t worry, there will be other chances—this thing is almost certainly going to the Supreme Court.)
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Oh, and in case the stakes weren’t high enough, a group of Apple engineers just raised them more by telling The New York Times they will quit rather than obey the FBI order. Finally, here’s a full copy of Judge Pym’s order, which has additional details about security procedures: