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Bandcamp and Google confirm temporary agreement as dispute over in-app payments proceeds

By | Published on Monday 23 May 2022


Direct-to-fan platform Bandcamp has entered into a “joint stipulation” agreement with Google which will allow it to continue using its own payments system when people buy downloads via its Android app while a recently filed lawsuit over a change to the tech giant’s app rules goes through the motions.

The legal battle between Bandcamp and Google relates to the latter’s rules regarding in-app payments taken via Android apps. The rules of both Google and Apple regarding in-app payments on devices using their respective operating systems have been very much in the spotlight in recent years, of course, with many app-makers arguing that those rules are often anti-competitive.

With certain transactions – including when people are buying access to content, experiences or other digital assets consumed within an app – the app maker is obliged to use Google or Apple’s proprietary and commission-charging payment platforms.

The makers of apps affected by that obligation either have to swallow the Google or Apple commissions, or pass them on to the consumer.

Among those who have been particularly vocal about the in-app payment rules are Spotify and Epic Games – the latter best known as the owner of Fortnite, but also – as of earlier this year – the owner of Bandcamp as well.

The Bandcamp beef specifically relates to a recent change to the Google app rules. Previously on Android devices – unlike with iOS – when an app was selling a download to be consumed outside of the app itself there was no obligation to use Google’s payments system.

However, the rules have now changed meaning apps are now obliged to use the Google system to take payments in that scenario.

Google has offered Bandcamp a special deal so that it would only pay a 10% commission on those in-app payments, however, the direct-to-fan platform says that extra cost will have to be passed onto the fan, making it less attractive to sell downloads to Android users through the app.

It would also mean that artists would have to wait longer to receive their cut of the money, as the cash passes through the Google system.

Unhappy with the rule change, Bandcamp filed legal papers in the US late last month seeking an injunction stopping Google from removing its Android app from the Google Play store if it continues to take direct payments for download sales despite the new rules.

Google is fighting that lawsuit, but – at the urging of the court – has agreed to allow Bandcamp to continue taking those direct payments in the short term while the legal battle proceeds.

However, Bandcamp will, at its own cost, also set aside monies that equal 10% of each transaction taken for download sales through its Android app, in case it loses the legal battle and Google is due its commissions.

Bandcamp last week added an update to a previous blog post about the Google dispute confirming a temporary agreement had been reached that will allow downloads to continue to be sold via its Android app.

That update read: “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 paying 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, a cost we will bear”, it added. “Moving forward, we’ll continue the fight to allow artist-first business models like ours on Android”.