Apple Reaches Settlement with App Developers

Apple App Store
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple said Friday that it will "clarify" that app developers don't have to use its App store to accept payments, and will also give qualifying news outlets a cut of subscription revenue from Apple News.

The tech giant said that and other changes--including boosting "rigorous journalism and a free and independent press"--resolve a class action suit (Cameron et al v. Apple Inc.) filed by developers, pending acceptance of that settlement by a federal court.

Also Read: New Bill Would Fight App Store 'Bullying'

To boost 'rigorous journalism," Apple said it will launch a News Partner Program, in which news outlets that give their customers access to Apple News using Apple News Format will get a 15% commission on subscriptions to that app.

Big Tech has been under pressure from some in Congress to compensate the news it aggregates.

Apple said the settlement "clarifies that developers can share purchase options with users outside of their iOS app; expands the price points developers can offer for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps; and establishes a new fund to assist qualifying U.S. developers."

Apple also agreed to allow developers to use email to share information about payment outside iOS app and said it would issue an annual transparency report.

The fund to help smaller developers will be for those that have made $1 million or less for all of their apps in a calendar year, which works out to be 99% of all app developers.

"With the updates announced today, the App Store continues to evolve into an even better business opportunity for developers, while maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for users," Apple said.

The language of the announcement was all about making things better and clarifying, rather than suggesting the company was correcting anything that had been wrong.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who backed the Open App Markets Act, was pleased with the settlement, but was not giving Apple any love.

“Apple’s concession is a powerful sign that Apple and Google’s stranglehold over app store markets is purely self-serving," he said in a statement. "These Big Tech giants thought they could get away with squashing competition to pocket hefty windfalls—all while insisting their ironclad grip on app markets serves the interests of consumers or developers. This marks a significant step forward, but does not rectify the full and vivid range of market abuses and practices still widespread across app markets that my and Senator Blackburn’s Open App Markets Act would address. Today’s move only adds to the momentum and further exposes rampant anticompetitive abuses in the app markets. The fox guarding the hen house status quo will remain until there are clear and enforceable rules for Apple and Google to play by. I look forward to advancing the Open App Markets Act when the Senate reconvenes this fall.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.