Epic Games is trying to stop Google from removing Bandcamp from the Play Store

Why it matters: Less than two months after acquiring music service Bandcamp, Epic Games appears to be coming to its defense. However, this case aligns perfectly with Epic’s battles with mobile platform holders. Is he just using Bandcamp in his crusade, or do their interests just coincide?

This week, Epic Games and its recent acquisition Bandcamp spoke out against Google’s upcoming policy changes, which will require the music app to process digital payments exclusively through Google’s payment system. Bandcamp co-founder and CEO Ethan Diamond said that was inconsistent with the music service’s original purpose. Epic, which reached an agreement to buy Bandcamp in early March, filed a petition in California court with the same sentiment.

Currently, Bandcamp processes digital music purchases on its Android app through its existing payment system, allowing it to transfer 82% of revenue to artists. During certain promotions, it donates all revenue from sales to the artists, which is why the service is popular with independent musicians.

Apple users can only listen to music, purchase it on physical media, or purchase merchandise. Bandcamp’s iOS app doesn’t address digital purchases at all, as Apple’s required revenue cut prevents the company from being so generous. The Android app could end up like this unless Epic or the legal system can negotiate a compromise.

Until now, Google’s payment system was not mandatory for purchases of digital music on Play Store apps, but this exception ends on June 1. Thereafter, Google will take 10% of digital purchase revenue from the Bandcamp app. Epic and Bandcamp said this would require the latter to pass the additional cost on to consumers (taking the artists’ share is a no-start for them), remove the Bandcamp app, or operate it without digital purchases like the iOS app.

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Epic’s court filing describes Google’s policies as monopolistic and even illegal. This echoes the language Epic used in its legal battle against Apple for the right to operate the mobile version of Fortnite without using Apple’s payment system.

While Epic mostly lost that fight, governments around the world are beginning to legislate against requiring apps to use platform holders’ payment systems. Late last month, Dutch regulators asked Apple to allow local dating apps to use third-party payment processors. Last August, South Korea passed a law prohibiting Google and Apple from forcing their payment systems on apps. Such regulations could conflict with Google’s upcoming policy change.

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