Apple to allow media apps to link to own websites for payment options

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Apple Inc. said it would allow media apps to create in-app links to sign-up pages on those companies’ websites, allowing the likes of Spotify Technology SA and Netflix Inc. to bypass the iPhone maker’s cut of subscriptions.

Spotify and other technology companies for years have said Apple’s restrictions were unfair and anticompetitive. The Cupertino, Calif., company previously prohibited Spotify and others from directing their users to sign-up options outside the App Store.

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Apple revealed the change Wednesday, saying it was among adjustments made to close an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission and will apply globally to so-called reader apps available through Apple’s App Store.

The changes go into effect early next year, Apple said, as governments have questioned the power the company holds over third-party software developers that distribute their digital goods and services through the iPhone and iPad tablet.

A U.S. judge is weighing an antitrust case brought by “Fortnite” maker Epic Games Inc. It claims that Apple was improperly limiting distribution of apps through its App Store and requiring payments to be conducted through its in-app payment system, which takes a cut as large as 30%. Apple has argued that its in-app payment system protects users.

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Although the latest changes wouldn’t apply to Epic’s case, they represent the latest in a string of actions that have in recent days begun chipping away at rules long considered set in stone for the App Store. While critics have painted the rules as tactics Apple uses to wield power and control—accusations the company disputes—the changes don’t get at the heart of where Apple makes its money, such as games like Fortnite.

Rather, the changes Wednesday are targeted at apps providing purchased or subscription content for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music and video. “Because developers of reader apps do not offer in-app digital goods and services for purchase, Apple agreed with the JFTC to let developers of these apps share a single…

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