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Defending DMA against Apple: The FSFE signs joint position paper

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Together with nine stakeholders organisations, the FSFE has submitted a joint position paper to the European Commission, with whom we are working on the implementation of the Digital Markets Act. This paper, supported by legal and data-backed arguments, addresses Apple’s non-compliance with the law, particularly concerning software freedom, alternative Free Software app stores and interoperability obligations.

Illustration showing what looks like a snake in the shape of an apple in black with a red shadow
CC-BY-SA 4.0. by Rahak for FSFE. Limitations to Free Software, vendor lock-in, and lack of control over personal data are current hurdles faced by end-users in digital markets

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulates large tech companies in the EU, setting the main rules for designating gatekeepers and enforcing their obligations. As a designated “gatekeeper”, Apple was required to present a strategy for complying with the DMA. Since March 2024, the European Commission (EC) has been investigating it for non-compliance.

Following a series of interventions, in order to assist the DMA enforcement procedure, the FSFE signed a joint position to the EC, highlighting the main problematic aspects of Apple in relation to Free Software.

As far as the FSFE is concerned, the main points relate to:

The FSFE welcomes the EC’s efforts in finding Apple to be in breach of the law. However, this is only the first step in a regulatory process aimed at reducing the company’s monopolistic control over devices.

Apple threatens Free Software – please help protecting software freedom!

The DMA includes several provisions directly impacting Free Software. It mandates “gatekeepers” to allow installing of software (sideloading), to enable alternative app stores and repositories to be used in devices, and several interoperability obligations, allowing third party developers to access the same hardware functions as the gatekeepers.

Apple’s unfair behaviour against Free Software highlights the critical need to monitor the implementation of the DMA. The FSFE collaborated with F-Droid, the AppFair project, and other interoperability experts to scrutinize Apple’s DMA compliance, and it’s impact on Free Software. Since then, we coordinated several expert workshops with stakeholders, discussed with regulators in FOSDEM, had official meetings with the EC’s DMA team, and submitted a comprehensive position to the EC detailing several problematic elements in the Apple compliance that will harm the Free Software.

Free Software is key for a democratic society and we should not allow gatekeepers to threaten our rights and freedoms. Apple has a huge revenue from blocking Free Software on iOS, and has dedicated a lot of resources to interpret the DMA as it deems fit. For instance, Apple publicly stated that iPhones and iPads are not general purpose computers, and users are not allowed to run the software they want.

Holding companies like Apple accountable under the DMA is a complicated, time-consuming and resource-intensive activity. It can even be a dangerous one as the risk of retaliation is real. We face it with courage and determination. If you are not yet an FSFE supporter, please join our cause today.
Poster about Device Neutrality showing a bird scaping from a cage with a black background

Defending Free Software against large corporations takes a long time, maybe more than a decade.Our long-term commitment includes engaging with Free Software communities across Europe, conducting research and analysis for legal and policy positions, participating in official hearings, and we are getting prepared to be involved in strategic litigation.

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