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Apple is top funder of lobby group that says it represents small developers

The App Association

Group claims to “provide a voice” to small firms while fighting bills opposed by Apple.

A large Apple logo seen at an Apple Store.

Apple provides over half the funding for a lobby group that says it represents small app developers, in accordance with a Bloomberg article published today. Apple is not a person in what’s called the App Association, but “it plays a dominant behind-the-scenes role shaping the group’s policy positions, in accordance with four former App Association employees who asked never to be named discussing internal matters,” Bloomberg wrote.

The App Association says it “provides voice to small technology companies” and that its “policy priorities reflect the opportunities and challenges today’s small company app developers and IoT innovators face in the app ecosystem.” But its positions on major legislation have aligned with Apple’s. The group’s set of policy statements heading back to early 2017 include some specifically praising Apple among others opposing legislation that Apple also opposes, such as for example antitrust bills targeting Big Tech.

One bill opposed by the App Association may be the Open App Markets Act, which aimed to greatly help app developers use alternative in-app payment systems and prevent Apple’s standard cuts of 15 to 30 percent. The Apple-funded group also opposed the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which may have prohibited app stores along with other large online platforms from giving preference with their own products at the trouble of competitors. Both bills have stalled when confronted with Big Tech opposition.

In accordance with Bloomberg, the App Association (also called “ACT”) confirmed that over half its funding originates from Apple, but “former employees say the specific percentage is a lot higher.” The group’s total funding was over $9 million in 2020.

“ACT representatives regularly testify in Congress, file court briefs in defense of Apple’s positions and host annual ‘y-in’ meetings for developers with lawmakers,” Bloomberg wrote.

Apple drove upsurge in groups funding

An App Association spokesperson told Ars that in 2020, “Apple’s commitment contributed a lot more than 50 percent of the App Association’s sponsorship revenue, making their support among the many contributors for the entire year.” The App Association didn’t answer our question in what role Apple plays in shaping its policy.

The group also told Ars it “is proud to represent a large number of independent developers to foster an inclusive and secure developer ecosystem and app marketplace. Our members drive the organization’s policy and legislative agenda.”

“According to our preliminary 2020 [Form] 990 filings, the business saw a rise in sponsorship revenue to aid our small company members’ advocacy efforts such as for example privacy, broadband, and in assisting our members navigate the first stages of the pandemic, including connected health, workforce maintenance/development, and usage of government funding for ongoing business operations,” the App Association said.

The App Association’s website lists about two dozen employees and says the group “represents a lot more than 5,000 app makers and connected device companies in the mobile economy.” The “members can be found all over the world, in every 27 member countries of europe and in every 435 congressional districts of america.”

The App Association told Ars that its full member list is proprietary, but 38 that decided to be named publicly are right here. US-based members include Concentric Sky, Startup Health, SheerID, Dogtown Media, Wellbeyond, Stroll Health, Project Hosts, Colorado Technology Consultants, MotionMobs, Rimidi, Southern DNA, Devscale, BadVR, CannedSpinach, BitSource, SentryOne, and AirStrip.

We contacted Apple today and can update this short article if we get yourself a response.

Group denies being mere front for Apple

In accordance with Bloomberg, ACT President Morgan Reed “along with other ACT executives said they determine policy positions in line with the preferences of these members and do not take direction from Apple, though they take Apple’s positions into consideration.” Reed told Bloomberg within an interview “that it ‘doesn’t pass the laugh test’ to state the association is fronting for Apple.”

“Our job would be to make certain we’re watching just how that government might have a direct effect, unintended or elsewhere, on all those smaller businesses making cool software products,” he said.

Another group, called the Coalition for App Fairness, whose members include Basecamp, Deezer, Epic Games, Match Group, Proton, Spotify, among others, has lobbied and only Big Tech antitrust legislation. For instance, the group argued that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act would “bar monopolistic platforms from discriminating among business users in a manner that materially harms competition.”

The Coalition for App Fairness criticized the App Association in a tweet today. “A link that’s funded primarily by Apple and represents Apple’s interests against developers and their customers, is really a front group for Apple regardless of how it brands itself,” the group said.

Apple in addition has opposed antitrust legislation in more direct ways.CEO Tim Cook publicly spoke out against legislation that could require Apple to permit sideloading, and the businessramped up federal lobbying expenditures and became one of many funders of a new group called the Chamber of Progress.

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