Just last month, Epic Games announced that it would acquire the music platform Bandcamp. Now, Bandcamp is the latest reason Epic Games is taking legal action against Google, this time over the tech giant’s Android app billing crackdown.
This article was last updated on May 20. Scroll down for the latest.
Epic Games has filed a preliminary injunction that seeks to prevent Google from removing the Bandcamp app from the Play Store. Currently, Bandcamp is violating Google’s terms of Android app billing by not using Play Store billing.
In a blog post, Bandcamp co-founder Ethan Diamond points out that Bandcamp has had its own billing system on Android since 2015 which allows artists to sell their music and merchandise to fans. In years past, this use fell in line with Google’s guidelines for digital music services. However, Google has tightened its billing rules over the past year and, starting June 1, Bandcamp and apps like it would be required to pay Google’s 30% cut on in-app sales. However, as The Verge points out, it seems Bandcamp was offered some deal here with a 10% cut instead. Google confirmed in a statement that this was part of last year’s updates to Android billing policies, as detailed here.
Still, Epic and Bandcamp argue that any cut from Google would affect the ability to pay out to artists, or inflate costs for buyers. Diamond explains in a post, emphasizing our own:
If Google’s policy changes stand, beginning on June 1st, we would have to either pass Google’s fees on to consumers (making Android a less attractive platform for music fans), pass fees on to artists (which we would never do), permanently run our Android business at a loss, or turn off digital sales in the Android app. Furthermore, the policy changes would impact our ability to pay artists quickly – instead of receiving payment after 24 to 48 hours, artists may not be paid until 15 to 45 days after a sale.
As it stands today, Bandcamp runs its sales through PayPal, and Epic argues that switching to Google Play Billing would “require significant time and effort.” Epic does admit, though, that Bandcamp has been well aware of Google’s requirements for over a year now, and Epic knew about the change when it acquired the company.
In the past, Bandcamp has not supported purchases through its iOS app, but appears to now offer its own billing system on Apple’s platform. Epic noted in an email to 9to5Google that this billing is only for physical goods sold through the platform, and is not a part of Apple’s “reader” policy introduced last month.
Update 4/30: Speaking to 9to5Google, a spokesperson for Google Play has offered Google’s stance on this matter. Google considers Epic’s claim as “meritless” and points out that the 10% Bandcamp fee is eligible for is actually less than the service charges of its own users. According to a help page, Bandcamp charges 15% on the first $ 5,000 of sales, which then drops to 10% as long as yearly sales are maintained.
Google’s statement reads:
This is yet another meritless claim by Epic, which is now using its newly acquired app Bandcamp to continue its effort to avoid paying for the value that Google Play provides. We’ve been transparent about Play’s Payment policy for more than 18 months and, as Epic knows, Bandcamp is eligible for a service fee of just 10% through Play’s Media Experience Program — far less than the fees they charge on their own platforms. Despite their claims, Android’s openness means that Bandcamp has multiple ways of distributing their app to Android users, including through other app stores, directly to users via their website or as a consumption-only app as they do on iOS.
Update 5/20: Just ahead of Google’s cut-off, Epic Games & Google have reached a joint stipulation that will keep in-app billing functional in its existing state for Bandcamp. Epic Games will put aside 10% of all revenue generated by Bandcamp in an escrow account while Google and Epic proceed with their case. That cost will not affect artist payouts. Google will not delist Bandcamp from the Play Store under this agreement.
Under an agreement encouraged by the court, Bandcamp will continue to operate using our existing payment system on Android devices. Fans can keep supporting artists on Android as they have, and we’ll continue to pay artists the same share of sales (typically within 24-48 hours, as we do today). Bandcamp will place 10% of the revenue generated from digital sales on Android devices in escrow until Epic’s ongoing case against Google is resolved.
Bandcamp isn’t the only app that’s been affected by Google’s crackdown. Barnes & Noble and Amazon recently made changes to their e-book apps to remove the ability to purchase content, and there are many other examples out there. Google has been working on “User Choice” billing, though, in a pilot with Spotify.
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