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Apple is sued by French app developers over app store fees

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Apple Inc was sued on Monday by French app developers that accused the iPhone maker of violating U.S. antitrust law by overcharging them to use its app store.

The plaintiffs in the proposed class action include Société du Figaro, which develops the Figaro news app; L’Équipe 24/24, which develops the L’Équipe sports news and streaming app, and Le Geste, an association of French content providers.

According to the complaint filed in the federal court in Oakland, California, Apple has abused its monopoly power over app distribution on iOS-based mobile devices by mandating only one app store for those devices.

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The plaintiffs said this has enabled the Cupertino, California-based company to charge “supracompetitive” 30% commissions for 14 years, as well as $99 annual fees to app developers while stifling innovation and consumer choice.

“There is no valid business necessity or pro-competitive justification for Apple’s conduct,” the complaint said. “Instead, Apple’s actions are designed to destroy competition.”

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Monday’s complaint seeks an injunction against further anticompetitive conduct, plus triple damages for violating federal antitrust law and California state laws.

The plaintiffs are represented by the U.S. law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, and Paris-based Fayrouze Masmi-Dazi.

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Monday’s lawsuit resembles an earlier Hagens Berman case against Apple, which resulted last August in a $100 million settlement for smaller iOS developers that called Apple’s commissions excessive.

In June, the firm reached a $90 million settlement with Alphabet Inc’s Google over its app store’s treatment of developers.

The case is Société du Figaro et al v Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 22-04437.



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Crypto criminals laundered $540 million using RenBridge service

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Crypto criminals are using blockchains such as RenBridge to launder money by sending digital assets across.

Research from blockchain analysts, Elliptic, revealed that at least $540 million were laundered in crime-related crypto cash since 2020 through RenBridge.

Hackers have also been using the service for ransomware payments by breaking into corporate networks and forcing them to pay to get their data back. According to Elliptic, RenBridge was “an important facilitator” for ransomware gangs.

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Elliptic’s vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, David Carlisle, says cross-chain bridges were “a bit of a blessing and a curse”.

While talking to CNBC, he said, “they’re effectively ungoverned, and so very vulnerable to hacks, or to being used in crimes like money laundering,” but he expects regulators to make governing these bridges more strict, in the next six to twelve months.

“One major question is whether bridges will become subject to regulation since they act a lot like crypto exchanges, which are already regulated.”

In Ellipitic’s report, RenBridge has been used to launder assets originating from theft, fraud, ransomware, and various other types of criminal activity. Analysts believe other crypto assets were stolen by North Korea.

Elliptic’s chief scientist, Tom Robinson, says, “Cross-chain bridges are a loophole in the regulatory regime that has been painstakingly established by governments around the world, to combat crypto laundering.” In the last two years, $267 million in crypto assets taken from exchanges and DeFi services were laundered through RenBridge.

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According to Robinson, “Ransomware gangs, fraudsters, and even North Korean hackers are shifting from regulated crypto exchanges to a decentralized, unregulated alternative.”



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Musk seeks to question Twitter employees who count bots -source

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Elon Musk’s legal team is demanding that Twitter Inc turn over the names of employees responsible for calculating what percentage of the social media site’s users are bot and spam accounts, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Bot and spam accounts on Twitter have become a central issue in the legal fight over whether Musk, who is Tesla’s chief executive, must complete his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company.

Musk said last month he was terminating the deal because Twitter has withheld information about these accounts. Twitter sued Musk to complete the deal, and has said the issue has no bearing on the agreement with Musk.

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Twitter and Musk are in the discovery phase of the lawsuit and readying for a trial scheduled to begin Oct. 17 in Delaware. Both sides have issued subpoenas to banks and advisers as they seek to gather evidence.

The process also includes agreeing on “custodians,” or people with control over relevant information.

In a letter filed under seal on Tuesday, Musk’s lawyers asked the judge overseeing the case to compel Twitter to hand over the employee names so that the defense team can question them, the source said.

Bloomberg first reported the request by Musk’s lawyers.

Twitter and a lawyer for Musk declined to comment. Twitter has previously said it has worked to cooperatively share relevant information with Musk to complete the deal.

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Disney tops Netflix on streaming subscribers, sets higher prices

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LOS ANGELES:

Walt Disney Co edged past Netflix Inc with a total of 221 million streaming customers and announced it will increase prices for customers who want to watch Disney+ or Hulu without commercials.

The media giant will raise the monthly cost of Disney+ without advertising by 38% to $10.99 in December, when it begins to offer a new option that includes ads for the current price.

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Shares of Disney rose 6.9% in after-hours trading to $120.15 on Wednesday.

Disney in 2017 staked its future on building a streaming service to rival Netflix as audiences moved to online viewing from traditional cable and broadcast television.

Five years later, Disney has edged past Netflix in total streaming customers. The Mouse House added 14.4 million Disney+ customers, beating the consensus of 10 million expected by analysts polled by FactSet, as it released “Star Wars” series “Obi-Wan Kenobi” and Marvel’s “Ms. Marvel.”

Combined with Hulu and ESPN+, Disney said it had 221.1 million streaming subscribers at the end of the June quarter. Netflix said it had 220.7 million streaming subscribers.

“Disney is gaining market share when Netflix is struggling to add more subscribers,” Investing.com analyst Haris Anwar said. “Disney has still more room to grow in international markets where it’s rolling out its service fast and adding new customers.”

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To help attract new customers, Disney will offer an ad-supported version starting on Dec. 8 for $7.99 a month, the same price it now charges for the ad-free version, the company said.

Prices for Hulu will rise by $1 to $2 per month in December depending on the plan.

The company lowered its long-term subscriber forecast for Disney+ customers on Wednesday, blaming the loss of cricket rights in India.

Disney now projects between 215 million and 245 million total Disney+ customers by the end of September 2024. That is down from the 230 million to 260 million which Disney had been forecasting.

The adjustment came from reduced expectations for India, where the company is losing streaming rights for Indian Premier League cricket matches.

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For the first time, Disney broke out estimates for Disney+ Hotstar customers in India from the rest of Disney+.

Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said Disney expected to add up to 80 million Disney+ Hotstar customers by September 2024, and between 135 million and 165 million others.

The company still expects its streaming TV unit to turn a profit in fiscal 2024, McCarthy said. In the most recent quarter, the division lost $1.1 billion.

For the fiscal third quarter ended July 2, Disney posted adjusted earnings per share of $1.09, up 36% from a year earlier, as visitors packed its theme parks. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected earnings of 96 cents.

Operating income more than doubled at the parks, experiences and products division to $3.6 billion.

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Streaming losses put a drag on the media and entertainment unit, whose profit declined by 32% to nearly $1.4 billion.

Overall revenue rose 26% from a year earlier to $21.5 billion, ahead of the analyst consensus of $20.96 billion.



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