Cary-based Epic Games and Google have reached a temporary armistice in their ongoing legal battle over Bandcamp – a digital music store known for its eclectic selection and direct-to-artist payment system.
Epic Games, the company behind popular video games such as Fortnite and Rocket League, acquired Bandcamp in March. Epic is committed to maintaining the platform’s artist-focused features, which make more money for music creators than most streaming apps and websites. band camp artists collect about 82% of each sale through the app’s custom billing system, and they are allowed to set their own pricing models.
“(Bandcamp) will play an important role in Epic’s vision to create a creator marketplace ecosystem for content, technology, games, art, music and more,” Epic said in a statement to the time.
But legal problems arose. In April, Google indirectly threatened to remove Bandcamp from its app store, Google Play, if Bandcamp did not change its payment policies. Google’s guidelines had previously exempted certain applications, including most music platforms, from Google’s revenue sharing system. Under the changed rules, Bandcamp would have to use Google Play Billing and absorb Google’s fees.
“(W)e should either pass Google’s fees on to consumers (making Android a less attractive platform for music fans), pass the fees on to artists (which we would never do), manage permanently our Android business at a loss, or disable digital sales in the Android app,” Bandcamp CEO and Co-Founder Ethan Diamond said in a press release.
Epic immediately pushed back on Google’s policy change, adding new litigation to ongoing litigation antitrust lawsuit filed by Epic against Google two years ago. On Friday, the two companies reached a temporary agreement that will allow Bandcamp to operate unchanged through Google Play for at least a year.
“(Google) will not remove, remove, refuse to list or make available the Bandcamp application on the Google Play Store (“Google Play”), and Google will not reject, unreasonably delay or refuse to distribute updates to the Bandcamp App, on the basis that the Bandcamp App or updates to the App offer in-app purchases of digital goods or services by means other than the Google Play’s billing system, according to a joint stipulation filed on Friday.
In return, Epic and Bandcamp agreed to set aside “10% of revenue generated from digital sales on Android devices in escrow until Epic’s ongoing case against Google is resolved,” Diamond said, ” a cost that we will bear”.
Google did not immediately respond to The News & Observer’s outreach. Both companies will likely return to court in late 2023, according to Epic.
Epic Games legal wars
The scuffle between Epic and Google over Bandcamp is the latest in years of litigation between the two companies. Epic has also waged war on Apple. Epic accuses the two companies of monopolistic practices in violation of antitrust laws.
Almost two years ago, Epic made a brave move: the video game maker has modified its App Store version of Fortnite by inserting an independent payment system. The update defied Apple’s rules requiring developers to use its built-in payment system and pay a 30% fee on all purchases.
Fortnite was removed from the Apple store and a contentious court case began. In September 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California decided that Apple could no longer block developers Communicate alternative payment options to customers outside of the App Store. But her decision did not allow developers to insert their own payment systems into apps, and she denied Epic’s claim that Apple had operated as an illegal monopoly.
“While the Court finds that Apple enjoys a sizable market share of over 55% and extraordinarily high profit margins, these factors alone do not show antitrust conduct,” Gonzalez Rogers said. “Success is not illegal.”
Apple and Epic have filed appeals for more definitive victories. Following the original 2021 ruling, Epic agreed to abide by the App Store’s payment policy, but Apple maintained its ban on Fortnite.
Earlier this month, Epic made Fortnite available on Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service, reintroducing the game to Apple users while avoiding the App Store.