Epic Games has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prevent Google from removing the independent music store Bandcamp from the Android app store, which Google has apparently threatened to do because Bandcamp is using its own billing system instead of Google. pay Google an app store fee.
Bandcamp, which Epic acquired in March, has used its own billing system on Android since 2015 and was able to do so thanks to rules that exempt digital music from having to use Google’s billing system. according to a blog post from Bandcamp co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond. “However, Google is now amending its rules to require Bandcamp (and other similar apps) to exclusively use Google Play Billing for payments for digital goods and services, and pay a revenue share to Google,” says Diamond.
Under Google’s new rules, Bandcamp would have to make changes from June 1. Diamond says Bandcamp would be forced to choose between passing fees on to customers, passing fees on to artists, running its Android business at a loss, or turning off digital sales in the Android app.
Epic argues that the change to Google’s billing system would affect its ability to continue giving artists 82 percent of its Bandcamp revenue, because it would have to pay Google 10 percent — yes, 10 percent, not the 30 percent, as it looks like Google offered Bandcamp some kind of sweetheart deal here. “Paying Google even a 10 percent revenue share would force Epic to change Bandcamp’s current business model or otherwise operate Bandcamp’s business at a long-term loss,” Epic argues.
Epic also claims music artists may have to wait longer for their money, saying its current payment system allows artists to be paid within 24 to 48 hours of a sale, but that Google doesn’t pay artists. developers up to “15 to 45 days”. after a sale.”
While that argument certainly sounds compelling, it didn’t work when another platform trying to pay creators, Fanhouse, tried it against Apple last year. Fanhouse ended up adding a 50 percent surcharge to cover Apple’s tax. That could be why Epic is going to court rather than just trying to publicly shame Google, but it could also be that Epic hopes to use Bandcamp as a pawn in its broader fight against Google and Apple. Epic sued both Apple and Google in August 2020, alleging antitrust violations after both platforms were kicked out. Fortnite from their stores when Epic introduced their own in-app payment mechanism for the game. Google’s case won’t go to trial until 2023.
In today’s filing, Epic says that Google is changing its policies “under the guise of a ‘clarification’ that it announced in September 2020.” But that update didn’t just affect Epic: Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble removed the ability to buy digital books from its Android app, while Audible no longer lets you use a debit or credit card to buy Audible titles. , apparently to avoid paying. Google fee. And in this case, Google seems to have offered Bandcamp a 10 percent discount instead of 30.
Epic also notes that building an infrastructure to integrate Google’s billing system “would take a lot of time and effort”; at this time, Bandcamp’s in-app solution is “fully integrated with PayPal.” But again, as Epic admits, Google announced these changes over a year ago, and before Epic bought Bandcamp. It seems likely that Epic knew about the upcoming billing changes when it bought the company.
And it wouldn’t be out of place for Epic to lay the groundwork for a legal trap well in advance. Epic’s own internal emails show that he set such a trap in the Fortnite case: “[T]The goal is to bring Google into an antitrust legal battle,” Epic Chief Marketing Officer Haseeb Mailk wrote in a September 2019 email. “If we are rejected for offering only Epic’s payment solution. The battle begins. It’s going to be fun!”
You can read two of these emails here – look for items #35 and #38. And you can read the full motion embedded below.
Update April 29, 10am ET: Updated to clarify that Diamond has proposed removing digital sales, specifically, from the Bandcamp app.