Google VS The World
Episode 4 of The Billion Dollar Code begins this finale in Delaware with Juri and Carsten preparing for the big case. It’s judgment day and quite what Google have in store for them remains to be seen.
What happens on day 1 of the case?
Day 1 kicks off this court hearing with the opening statements from both Google and Art+Com. Quite simply the court case is in play to see whether Google actually stole Terravision from Juri and Carsten or just infringed on the patent.
Lea tries to get the jury to reason with them, pointing out that Terravision was in place way before Google Earth was. Of course, given the jury are emotionally driven, they work to try and convince them and win them over with analogies and simple-to-understand references.
The other part of this case comes from Ralph, Eric’s star behavioural expert who intends to get Juri and Carsten up to scratch for witness preparation. He implores both of them to be ready emotionally and physically – meaning they need to be spotless for the jury.
What happens on day 2 of the case?
Day 2 of the court case sees witness statements begin, with Mr Boyd pointing out how Google Earth doesn’t make any ad money. He even extends to bring up the good work they do for the philanthropist arm of the business. Now, that’s not how Google works – which Lea is quick to point out during the cross-examination.
She calls to the stand Ms. Martinez, Lea’s expert witness. She points out that Google’s model is far more intrusive and malicious, selling user data to third parties.
As court is adjourned for now, Ralph works with Juri and Carston on their posture as they enter the courtroom. With Juri managing to impress Carsten, he heads in for Day 3 confident and wearing the right tie, one pointed out by Ralph.
Does Carsten hold his nerve in the courtroom?
Now, Carsten is grilled over the systems he and Juri used to create Terravision. The trouble is, the questions are designed in a specific manner to only allow him to answer yes or no. This one-way road only brings him down to admit that all the different systems that he uses are within the public domain and you can’t get a patent for something within that domain.
It’s clever, but not clever enough to foresee Carsten’s tactics of bringing Google’s lawyer, Warren, to repeat the question and upset his rhythm of yes and no questions. He turns it around and questions them about search engines and whether they invented that. Of course, they did not. It works, and Carsten manages to survive the questioning.
What does the source code say? Are Google really copying Terravision?
Now, while all this is going on Callaghan has been going through the source code for Google Earth and Terravision, determined to see if they’re identical. And are they? Absolutely.
This brings us along nicely to Day 4 of the trial, as Richard Callaghan takes the stand to inform the jury as much. He comes armed with excerpt files from the source code to show where the key moments are that have been copied.
The trouble is, this technical language is too advanced for the jury, who look befuddled even with Lea deciphering what’s being said for them. Juri grows more and more frustrated and eventually storms out.
While Carsten heads out to try and convince him to calm down, Warren questions Callaghan’s integrity given he’s being paid $400 an hour. He even mentions that his book doesn’t include anything to do with geographical data.
Meanwhile, Dr Chen, Google’s technical expert, has a very different tactic for Day 5 of the case. Warren questions Chen who decides to use a much more simplistic graph but one that ultimately uses visuals to tip the scales in their favour. Juri is obviously frustrated by this, pointing out that the images would be blurry if they were actually technically correct.
When Lea cross-examines Dr Chen, she points out how she only decided to work with Google’s lawyers on a specific presentation rather than using proper evidence to back her case up. As Chen admits this, Lea looks to have swung things back in their favour.
Does Juri manage to convince the jury?
Now, the biggest problem here stems from Juri. He’s been the weak link in this entire case and with millions on the line,
Carsten takes Juri aside and convinces him to do the right thing and not mention being part of the Chaos Computer Club. Given they’re a hacker group the jury will not take kindly to this, regardless of the truth.
After a long chat with Carsten, Juri opens up about the Chaos Computer Club and decides to tell the truth. In doing so, he manages to convince the judge not to allow questions pertaining to this asked in court.
As the case continues, Juri is questioned by Warren over his email sent over to Brian Anderson regarding Google. Juri does well to keep his cool…until Brian steps in through the door and begins talking to Google’s lawyers.
Does Brian admit the truth in court?
Now, all of this paves way for Brian to step up as a witness, laughing and joking with Warren, seemingly winning the jury over. He also feigns ignorance, lying outright and claiming that he doesn’t really know who Juri is and passing him off as a nobody.
This obviously riles up Juri, but it’s Carsten who steps up and confronts Brian during the court’s recess. Unfortunately, he’s so ingrained in Google’s pocket that he walks straight into Lea’s trap during the next bout of questions.
Lea calls out Brian for his lies and how he claims he didn’t know who Juri was when he clearly did. After cornering him, Brian outright admits that he did, infact, say that “Without Terravision, Google Earth would never have been possible.” Or did he? Well, it turns out all of this was a big vision concocted up by Juri, who’s hell-bent on seeing his old associate tell the truth.
The reality though is far more cruel. Brian shrugs off the statement, feigning ignorance and claiming he doesn’t really remember.
Who wins the case?
The jury comes to a decision over both of the main questions in this case. First, “Do you find that Art+Com has proven that Google Earth infringes the patent?” That, unfortunately, is answered as no. Next, “Do you find that Google Earth has proven clearly and convincingly that the patent is invalid?” is answered as a yes. The third and final question: “Do you find that Google Earth uses a fundamentally different method than Terravision?” is also answered yes as well.
So Google win the case, Terravision get nothing but are forced to stomach a slimy smile crossing Brian’s deceptive lips. What an absolute tool.
In the wake of this, Lea and Eric head back to the main office, with both Juri and Carsten thanking her for helping to try and beat Google. Unfortunately, their work is in vain and despite being reserved to the shadows, they’re both thankful that their ideas are at least out there for the world to be revolutionized, even if their names aren’t in the limelight.
What’s the real story behind Terravision?
As the episode comes to a close, we learn through expository text that Terravision was initially a joint project from Weathernews International, ART+COM and DeTeBerkom. Now, the accompanying documentary to this “Making The Billion Dollar Code” goes in a lot more detail about what really happened and is definitely worth watching. It’s 28 minutes and airing on Netflix now.
However, the gist of what’s there basically breaks down that someone within Silicon Graphics leaked the details about Terravision, playing a pivotal role in the development of Keyhole EarthViewer, which is claimed to have been financed by the CIA.
Google eventually acquired Keyhole and in 2014, Art+COM sued Google through a litigation finance firm, claiming that there were big similarities between Terravision and Google Earth. Like it is shown in the series, Art+COM ultimately lose the lawsuit. However, it does bring up the very real issue with Google and their aggressive stance toward patents and smaller companies.
The Episode Review
The final episode of Billion Dollar Code brings the crushing reality of Google’s power to the foreground, seeing this big clash end with little surprise over the outcome. Good luck trying to Google the true story of this one. (Word of advice, use a different search engine instead!)
However, this show has done a great job emulating the high-stakes and pressure cooker feel of The Social Network, but with much more empathetic characters. While the drama grounding Juri and contemplating whether he’ll be ready or not is good, it ultimately only leads to a few moments of him on the stand which is a bit disappointing. Personally, it would have been nice to see him there for a bit longer to really build tension much like Carsten’s round of questioning did.
Despite that though, this little-known case ends with a decent conclusion, one that leaves little doubt over whether there will be a second season or not.
Netflix have been on a roll with their shows recently and Billion Dollar Code is another one to add to the watchlist. At only four episodes, this final chapter keeps up the pressure and ends things on the perfect note, even if the case does end with a sad outcome for the Terravision gang.