Legal Archive

EU reaches agreement mandating USB-C charging for phones and other devices

The European Union (EU) has reached an agreement that will make USB-C charging no longer just a convenience but a requirement for iPhones and all other mobile phones by the fall of 2024. The plan extends to additional consumer electronics using wired charging, including digital cameras, tablets, and, at a later date, laptops. Today’s announcement shows the EU Parliament and Council agreeing to terms for universal USB-C charging, something the parliament has spent 10 years arguing for. In September, the European Commission announced its intent to enact legislation requiring USB-C charging. The next step will be for the EU Parliament and Council to formally approve the agreement. A long time coming, but now it’s finally happening.

EU planning to force Apple to give developers access to all hardware and software features

The European Union is pressing ahead with legislation to heavily regulate companies like Apple, setting plans to force “gatekeepers” to open up access to hardware and software, and even set up an internal department to meet new rules, according to an endorsed agreement from the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee. The DMA could force Apple to make major changes to the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, third-party browsers, and Siri in Europe. For example, it could be forced to allow users to install third-party app stores and sideload apps, give developers the ability to closely interoperate with Apple’s own services and promote their offers outside the ‌App Store‌ and use third-party payment systems, and access data gathered by Apple. The DMA is turning out much better than I could’ve ever hoped for, and contains more strict regulations than I ever imagined the European Union would go for. The DMA would significantly upset the market, and give smaller, competing companies many more legs to stand on – and its effects will find its way to other parts of the world, too. This is long overdue, and I’m here for it. This is a tiny speck of good news in the hellstorm that has been the recent few years.

Apple would be forced to allow sideloading and third-party app stores under new EU law

And we’re not done yet with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, since it contains another important and very consequential regulation: alternative application stores. “We believe that the owner of a smartphone should have the freedom to choose how to use it,” said European Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke in an emailed statement. “This freedom includes being able to opt for alternative sources of apps on your smartphone. With the DMA, a smartphone owner would still be able to enjoy safe and secure services of the default app store on their smart phones. On top of that, if a user so chooses, the DMA would allow a smartphone owner to also opt for other safe app stores.” In addition to allowing third-party stores on its platform, Apple would also be forced to allow users to install apps from third-party sources (a practice known as sideloading) and to allow developers to use the App Store without using Apple’s payment systems. This is great news, and a massive step towards wrangling control over our devices back from big corporations. That being said – expect a coordinated onslaught of fear, uncertainty, and doubt towards this provision and the DMA in particular from US tech companies, their US Senators, and “independent” bloggers. It’s going to be rough out there.

EU targets Big Tech with sweeping new antitrust legislation

Moving on from interoperability in messaging services, there’s a lot more in the proposed Digital Markets Act. For instance, bloatware and other preinstalled applications on iOS and Android devices must be removable by the user, and users must be given choice of which browser, e-mail application, etc. they want to use by default. This is a complete no-brainer, and something virtually every user will welcome. There’s also a lot of measures regarding data transparency and advertising. For instance, smaller companies that sell goods on e.g. Amazon must be given access to Amazon’s analytics and similar data. In a similar vein, people who buy ads on Google or Facebook must be able to assess the reach of their ads. And, of course, big technology companies will no longer be allowed to give preference to their own services and products. These are all excellent steps in the right direction. Fines for violating the DMA will be massive – up to 10 percent of worldwide annual revenue, 5 percent of average daily turnover, and more.

EU to force WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage to interoperate with others

A new seminal antitrust legislation has been proposed in the EU, which will go up for a final vote in the EU Parliament. There’s a whole boatload of measures in here, many targeting big tech. The first major one: During a close to 8-hour long trilogue (three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission), EU lawmakers agreed that the largest messaging services (such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage) will have to open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms, if they so request. Users of small or big platforms would then be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps, thus giving them more choice. As regards interoperability obligation for social networks, co-legislators agreed that such interoperability provisions will be assessed in the future. This is exactly what should’ve been done ages ago, and I’m glad they’re finally getting to it. Messaging services have become incredibly important and vital communication tools in our modern societies, and they should not be used for lock-in and other anti-competitive practices. This is great news.

We’re fine without Facebook, German and French ministers say

“I can confirm that life is very good without Facebook and that we would live very well without Facebook,” Le Maire added. “Digital giants must understand that the European continent will resist and affirm its sovereignty.”  The pair were responding to comments in Meta’s annual report published Thursday, warning that if it couldn’t rely on new or existing agreements to shift data, then it would “likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe.” Don’t threaten us with a good time, Zuck.

FTC sues to block Nvidia acquiring ARM

The Federal Trade Commission today sued to block U.S. chip supplier Nvidia Corp.’s $40 billion acquisition of U.K. chip design provider Arm Ltd. Semiconductor chips power the computers and technologies that are essential to our modern economy and society. The proposed vertical deal would give one of the largest chip companies control over the computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to develop their own competing chips. The FTC’s complaint alleges that the combined firm would have the means and incentive to stifle innovative next-generation technologies, including those used to run datacenters and driver-assistance systems in cars. It seems increasingly unlikely that this acquisition will go through. I think that’s a good thing – while I’d rather Nvidia purchase ARM than Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Amazon, an even better outcome would be a profitable, independent ARM.

EU coalition urges EU to push back against gate keeping by Microsoft, files official complaint

A coalition of EU software and cloud businesses joined Nextcloud GmbH in respect of their formal complaint to the European Commission about Microsoft’s anti-competitive behavior in respect of its OneDrive (cloud) offering. In a repeat from earlier monopolistic actions, Microsoft is bundling its OneDrive, Teams and other services with Windows and aggressively pushing consumers to sign up and hand over their data to Microsoft. This limits consumer choice and creates a barrier for other companies offering competing services. I mean, anything to reign in the power of these massive technology companies, but I’m not sure browser choice screens and versions without Windows Media Player are the way to go. I want a more permanent solution – just like we’ve done countless times in the past, break these massive companies up into various smaller pieces that have to compete on merit, instead of being propped up by one or two deeply entrenched money-printing products.

Apple, Google and Facebook may be forced into cross-platform messaging

Apple, Google, Facebook and other tech companies may be forced into finding a solution that allows users to connect across the various messaging platforms. Currently, each service has its own way of handling communication that is not compatible with others, placing a burden upon the user when there is a need to reach someone using a different platform or service. A universal communication method would benefit the end-user, whether using an iPhone or Android phone, with Facebook, iMessage, or other social media apps. A cross-platform solution works against the existing model that social media and tech companies have accepted as standard, keeping their customers or users circling back to the same company rather than moving between different services. It’s the same reason for members’ rewards cards at grocery stores and punch cards for a free sandwich at the deli. Keeping the existing customer is much easier than recruiting a new one. This is such an obvious and popular requirement, I’m baffled it’s taking governments around the world this long to get to implementing it. So much of our communication infrastructure is owned by 3-4 giant technology companies, all incompatible with each other, with absolutely zero control over what happens to your messages and your data. Forcing them to be interoperable – preferably via forcing the publication of open APIs third party developers can tap into – is not only the bare minimum we should expect from our online communication channels, it’s probably also a highly popular requirement that would simplify the the lives of people all across the European Union, where different countries favour different messaging protocols. How could anybody without a financial stake in Apple, Google, or Facebook be against this? Of course, the very, very sour note here is that at the same time, the European Commission is also toying with the idea of weakening or outright eliminating end-to-end encryption in messaging applications, so it might well turn out to be all for naught.

Last of original SCO v IBM Linux lawsuit settled

While at the Linux Foundation Members Summit in Napa, California, I was bemused to find that an open-source savvy intellectual property attorney had never heard of SCO vs. IBM.  You know, the lawsuit that at one time threatened to end Linux in the cradle? Well, at least some people thought so anyway. More fool they. But now, after SCO went bankrupt; court after court dismissing SCO’s crazy copyright claims; and closing in on 20-years into the saga, the U.S. District Court of Utah has finally put a period to the SCO vs. IBM lawsuit. I think we first mentioned the lawsuit on OSNews way back in 2003. The then-current version of the Linux kernel was 2.4/2.5.

Apple, Google cooperate with Putin to steal Russia’s elections

Alphabet’s Google and Apple have removed jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their stores, his team said on Friday, after Russia accused the U.S. tech firms of meddling in its internal affairs. Russia goes to the polls on Friday to elect a new parliament in a three-day vote that the ruling United Russia party is expected to win despite a ratings slump after the biggest crackdown on the Kremlin’s critics in years. Apple, only a few weeks ago during the CASM debacle, adamantly told the world it would never bow to government pressure. Unsurprisingly, that was a bold-faced lie. Google publicly commits itself to human rights, but apparently, that does not extend to Putin critics and the Russian opposition.

Major win for Epic Games: Apple has 90 days to open up app store payments

On Friday, the Northern California judge handling the closely watched Epic Games v. Apple court case turned in a ruling that, in many ways, works out in Apple’s favor—but with one massive, App Store-changing exception. The ruling from US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers includes a single-page permanent injunction demanding that Apple open up payment options for any software sellers on the App Store. In other words, Epic Games’ effort to add Epic-specific payment links inside the free-to-play game Fortnite, and thus duck out of paying Apple’s 30 percent fee on in-app transactions, can now happen. This is a massive blow to Apple’s money printing machine, since it means both applications as well as gambling apps (or “games” as Apple refers to them) can now circumvent Apple’s 30% protection racket. Since the vast majority of App Store revenue – and thus, the vast majority of Apple’s services revenue – comes from exploitative gambling apps, this will have a major impact on Apple’s current strategy of sucking as much money out of Candy Crush whales.

Apple and Google must allow developers to use other payment systems, new Korean law declares

South Korea has passed a bill written to prevent major platform owners like Google and Apple from restricting app developers to built-in payment systems, The Wall Street Journal reports. The bill is now expected to be signed into law by President Moon Jae-in, whose party championed the legislation. The law comes as a blow to Google and Apple who both require in-app purchases to flow only through their systems, instead of outside payment processors, allowing the tech giants to collect a 30 percent cut. If tech companies fail to comply with the new law, they could face fines of up to 3 percent of their South Korea revenue. This is going to spread like a wildfire, and the company’s statements regarding this new law fill me with unreasonable amounts of pleasure and schadenfreude.

App store competition targeted by bipartisan senate bill

Their legislation would bar the companies from certain conduct that would tend to force developers to use their app stores or payment systems. It also would obligate the companies to protect app developers’ rights to tell consumers about lower prices and offer competitive pricing. It would effectively allow apps to be loaded onto Apple users’ devices outside of the company’s official app store. There’s so much movement on this front, I highly doubt Apple and Google will be able to stop it. This is one of the very, very rare cases where both sides of the political spectrum seem to somewhat agree, and I hope they can make it stick. It’s definitely not enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’m an extremist – all source code should be freely available (not necessarily open source – just viewable), to give consumers and society as a whole the ability to ensure they’re not being spied on, lied to, or endangered by foreign entities or corporate trickery. If copyright is good enough for writers, artists, and musicians, it’s damn well good enough for programmers. With how vital computers and software have become – woven into the fabric of our society – we as people should be able to see and check what those threads are doing and where they’re going to and coming from. Corporations have shown time and time again that they are not trustworthy entities and that they do not have society’s best interests at heart, and we need tools to bring the balance of power back – black boxes of code are dangerous.

California sues Activision Blizzard over a culture of ‘constant sexual harassment’

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says that renowned game publishing studio Blizzard Entertainment, and its owner Activision Blizzard, have created a culture of “constant sexual harassment” and gender-based discrimination, in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims top executives were aware and/or involved. And in the hours since the suit was revealed, numerous women have already stepped forward to corroborate the allegations. The details are so disturbing that we’re going to start with a trigger warning right now. The idea that male employees held “cube crawls” is one of the tamer allegations in the lawsuit. This is by far the worst case of structural sexual abuse at a gaming company to date, and you really need to the read the full complaint to understand just how criminal the behaviour of male Activision Blizzard employees and managers has been, but some of these examples should give you a good idea. It even led to the suicide of one of the female employees at the company. The abuse was so widespread, so pervasive, so depraved, and so institutionalised, that in my view, we’re dealing with a criminal organisation that ought to be shut down and banned, much like any other criminal organisation. The fact this is a company (or a religious institution, for that matter) should be of no consequence. The complain itself is the result not of a single employee or one particular case, but of a two year investigation by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Biden signs executive order targeting right to repair, ISPs, net neutrality, and more

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order meant to promote competition — with technology directly in the crosshairs. The order, which the White House outlined earlier this morning, calls on US agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement 72 specific provisions. The topics include restoring net neutrality provisions repealed during the prior administration, codifying “right to repair” rules, and increasing scrutiny of tech monopolies. Good intentions, but these are just executive orders – not actual bills that can withstand the test of time. I understand executive orders are the best the US can get with its broken and gridlocked political system, but it’s simply not enough – the next president can just wipe them off the desk.

Judge dismisses FTC and state antitrust complaints against Facebook

A federal court on Monday dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust complaint against Facebook, as well as a parallel case brought by 48 state attorneys general, dealing a major setback to the agency’s complaint, which could have resulted in Facebook divesting Instagram and WhatsApp. However, the court ruled Monday that the FTC failed to prove its main contention and the cornerstone of the case: that Facebook holds monopoly power in the U.S. personal social networking market. I mean, I hear Friendster and MySpace are the bomb.

Tech giants, fearful of proposals to curb them, blitz Washington with lobbying

It seems the big technology companies are running scared. According to a report by The New York Times, they have ramped up their lobbying efforts into the stratosphere at all levels of government, and Tim Cook is even personally calling politicians – most prominently, Nancy Pelosi. The calls by Mr. Cook are part of a forceful and wide-ranging pushback by the tech industry since the proposals were announced this month. Executives, lobbyists, and more than a dozen think tanks and advocacy groups paid by tech companies have swarmed Capitol offices, called and emailed lawmakers and their staff members, and written letters arguing there will be dire consequences for the industry and the country if the ideas become law. The bills, the most sweeping set of antitrust legislation in generations, take aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google by trying to undo their dominance in online commerce, advertising, media and entertainment. There are six bills in total, and if passed, they would empower regulators, make it harder for the tech giants to acquire start-ups and prevent the companies from using their strength in one area to form a grip in another. Apple also published a 16 page PR document today, warning that the world will end if Apple is forced to allow sideloading or third party application stores on iOS. Of course, this is all nonsense, as the only thing Apple worries about is the protection money it extracts that makes up the vast majority of its services push that it uses to please investors. Nobody is going to break into iOS users’ homes and force them to sideload – don’t sideload if you don’t want to, but the rest of us should be allowed to do whatever we want with the devices we paid money for. Another major reason Apple is running is scared is that if it has to allow sideloading, the company will lose the control over its platform that is so coveted by Apple’s closest friends and allies, the totalitarian governments of this world. China, Saudi-Arabia, Russia, and others are weaponising Apple’s walled garden, and if that wall is cracked open, Apple is suddenly no longer as valuable to totalitarian governments. This would hurt Apple’s bottom line significantly. Amazon and Google also have a lot to lose, of course. Google controls most of the advertising market and any measures to lessen that control will be a major blow to the company’s bottom line. Amazon, for its part, abuses the data it collects about buyers and sellers to create their own products and delist their competitors, which has become a cornerstone of the company’s strategy. The fact they are running scared bodes well for the contents of these proposed bills, but at the same time, it also means a lot of bribes are flowing towards Washington, and American politicians are nothing if not deeply, systematically corrupt and easily bought.

EU accuses Apple of App Store antitrust violations

The European Commission is issuing antitrust charges against Apple over concerns about the company’s App Store practices. The Commission has found that Apple has broken EU competition rules with its App Store policies, following an initial complaint from Spotify back in 2019. Specifically, the Commission believes Apple has a “dominant position in the market for the distribution of music streaming apps through its App Store.” The EU has focused on two rules that Apple imposes on developers: the mandatory use of Apple’s in-app purchase system (for which Apple charges a 30 percent cut), and a rule forbidding app developers to inform users of other purchasing options outside of apps. The Commission has found that the 30 percent commission fee, or “Apple tax” as it’s often referred to, has resulted in higher prices for consumers. “Most streaming providers passed this fee on to end users by raising prices,” according to the European Commission. As predicted, and entirely reasonable. This is only the first step in the process, and Apple will have the opportunity to respond. If found guilty, Apple could face a fine of more than 22 billion euro, 10% of its annual revenue, or be forced to change its business model.

Apple will reportedly face EU antitrust charges this week

I’m linking to The Verge, since the original FT article is locked behind a paywall. The European Commission will issue antitrust charges against Apple over concerns about the company’s App Store practices, according to a report from the Financial Times. The commission has been investigating whether Apple has broken EU competition rules with its App Store policies, following an initial complaint from Spotify back in 2019 over Apple’s 30 percent cut on subscriptions. The European Commission opened up two antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices last year, and the Financial Times only mentions upcoming charges on the App Store case. It’s not clear yet what action will be taken. I’m glad both the US and EU are turning up the heat under Apple (and the other major technology companies), since their immense market power and clear-cut cases of abuse have to end. I am a strict proponent of doing what the United States used to be quite good at, and that’s breaking Apple and Google up into smaller companies forced to compete with one another and the rest of the market. The US has done it countless times before, and they should do it again. In this specific case, Apple should be divided up into Mac hardware, mobile hardware, software (macOS, iOS, and applications), and services. This would breath immense life into the market, and would create countless opportunities for others to come in and compete. The US has taken similar actions with railroads, oil, airplanes, and telecommunications, and the technology market should be no different.