Tuesday October 04, 2022

Epic asks a court to stop Google yanking Bandcamp from the Play Store

Epic Games has moved for a preliminary injunction against Google to prevent it from removing Bandcamp, an independent music storefront, from the Android app stores. This is apparently because Google has threatened to do so as Bandcamp’s billing system is exempt from Google’s. According to Ethan Diamond, Bandcamp CEO and co-founder, Epic Games, Epic Games filed the motion. Google is changing its rules to require Bandcamp and other apps to use Google Play Billing to pay for digital goods and services and to pay a revenue share.
Bandcamp will have to make changes starting June 1st under Google’s new rules. Diamond states that Bandcamp would have to choose between paying fees to customers or artists, operating its Android business at a loss or making sales in the Android app.
Epic claims that switching to Google’s billing system will affect its ability give artists 82 percent of Bandcamp revenues. It would have to pay Google 10 per cent, not 30 percent. This is because Google apparently offered Bandcamp a sweetheart deal. Epic argues that paying Google even a 10 per cent revenue share would force Epic into changing Bandcamp’s business model or operating the Bandcamp business at a loss long-term.
Epic claims that music artists may have to wait longer to get their money. It claims that its current payment system allows them to be paid within 24 hours to 48 hours of a sale, but Google doesn’t pay developers until “15-45 days after a sale.”
Although this argument sounds convincing, it didn’t work last year when Fanhouse, another platform that attempts to pay creators tried it against Apple. Fanhouse ended up adding a 50% surcharge to cover Apple’s tax. This could be why Epic is not trying to shame Google publicly but it could also mean that Epic wants to use Bandcamp to its larger fight against Google. Epic sued Google and Apple in August 2020. They alleged antitrust violations following the removal of Fortnite from their stores by Epic’s in-app payment system. The Google case will not go to trial until 2023.
Epic claims that Google is changing its policies under the guise a “clarification” it announced in September 2020. Epic isn’t the only one to be affected by this update. Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble stopped allowing users to purchase digital books via its Android app. Audible, however, no longer allows you to use a debit card or credit card to purchase Audible titles. This apparently was done to avoid paying Google’s fees. In this instance, Bandcamp appears to have been offered a 10% discount instead of 30.
Epic also noted that the infrastructure needed to integrate Google’s billing system with Bandcamp’s in app solution would require “significant time and effort”. Epic acknowledges that these changes were made by Google over a year ago and before Epic bought Bandcamp. It is likely that Epic knew about the changes in billing when it bought the company.
Epic would not be out of place to prepare for a legal trap in advance. Epic’s internal emails reveal that Epic set such a trap in Fortnite. “[T]he aim is to draw Google into an anti-trust legal battle,” wrote Epic marketing director Haseeb mailk in a September 2019 message. “If we are denied for offering Epic’s payment solution. The battle begins. It’s going be great!
You can find two such emails here – look for items #35 & #38. You can also read the entire motion embedded below.

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