Epic Games filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop Google from removing Bandcamp, an independent music store, from the Android App Store, which Google apparently threatened to do because Bandcamp uses its own billing system instead. to pay Google App Store fees.
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 exempting 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 changing 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,” Diamond says.
Below Google’s new rules, Bandcamp is expected to make changes starting June 1. Diamond says Bandcamp would be forced to choose between passing the fees on to customers, passing the fees on to the artists, running its Android business at a loss, or disabling sales in the Android app.
Epic argues that switching to Google’s billing system would affect its ability to continue giving artists 82% of its Bandcamp revenue, as it would have to pay Google 10% – yes, 10%, not 30%, as it appears that Google has given Bandcamp some sort of sweetheart deal here. “Paying Google for even a 10% revenue share would force Epic to change Bandcamp’s current business model or operate Bandcamp’s business at a loss in the long run,” Epic says.
Epic also says music artists may also have to wait longer for their money, saying its current payment system allows artists to get paid within 24-48 hours of a sale, but Google doesn’t pay developers until then. “15 to 45 days”. after a sale.
While that argument certainly sounds compelling, it didn’t work when another platform that tries to pay creators, Fanhouse, tried it against Apple last year. Fanhouse ended up adding an extra 50% to cover the Apple tax. This could be why Epic is going to court rather than just trying to publicly shame Google – but it could also be that Epic is hoping to use Bandcamp as a pawn in its larger fight against Google and Apple. Epic sued Apple and Google in August 2020, alleging antitrust violations after the two platforms launched fortnite out of their stores when Epic introduced its own in-game payment mechanism. The Google case won’t go to trial until 2023.
In today’s filing, Epic says Google is changing its policies “under the guise of a ‘clarification’ it announced in September 2020.” But this update didn’t just affect Epic – earlier this month Barnes & Noble removed the ability to buy e-books from its Android app, while Audible no longer lets you buy e-books. using a debit or credit card to purchase Audible titles, ostensibly to avoid paying. Google Fees. And in this case, Google seems to have given Bandcamp a 10% discount instead of 30.
Epic also notes that building an infrastructure to integrate with Google’s billing system would “require a lot of time and effort” – currently Bandcamp’s integrated solution is “fully integrated with PayPal”. But again, as Epic admits, Google announced these changes well over a year ago, and before Epic bought Bandcamp. It seems likely that Epic was aware of the upcoming billing changes when purchasing 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 it laid such a trap in the fortnite Case: “[T]The goal is to embroil Google in a legal battle against the competition,” Haseeb Mailk, Epic’s chief marketing officer, wrote in a September 2019 email. payout from Epic. The battle begins. It’s going to be fun!”
You can read two of those emails here – look for items #35 and #38. And you can read the full motion embedded below.