EPIC LEGAL BATTLE – THE WAR FOR DIGITAL MONOPOLY

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EPIC LEGAL BATTLE – THE WAR FOR DIGITAL MONOPOLY

The famed Microsoft battle with anti-trust law early this century and more recent battle between Apple and  FBI in the San Bernardino terror case, might not end up as odd legal battles, which come in way of creating IT monoliths. The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica saga brought law to a skin’s distance of these companies; it saw many countries trying to force them to legislative committee hearings and finally to the US Congressional hearing. This was also not enough to bell the cat. This year witnessed another congressional hearing, trying to bring big tech closer to regulation, the CEOs unsuccessfully tried to defend their positions but nothing has emerged since then. The battle of big technology is, as always, a battle for big money and with it follows the legal battles. So far, the battle has always been in favour of the big tech.

They can differently be called as IT Behemoths, Capitalist Monopolies or the Digital Octopuses. The battle has been with the State, with their investigative and law enforcement agencies. Now the heat of monopolistic competition is being felt by companies of their own ilk. They were too big to be challenged so far. Now the Digital Epic Battle has emerged between Epic Games and Apple filed in August 2020. At the core of the case is Epic Games challenging ”Apple’s restrictions from having other in-app purchasing methods outside of the one offered by the App Store.” Epic Games founder Tim Sweeny challenged a 30% revenue cut in this method on each purchase on its game Fortnite. Sweeny wanted this cut to reduced or be allowed to go in for alternate payment methods.

Sweeny implemented the alternate payment route for Fortnite by passing the App Store payment system. In retaliation the App Store blocked the product which ended in Epic filing a case against Apple. Apple filed a countersuit against Epic Games for breach of contract. The court ruled in favor of Apple on 9 counts out of 10 ten, ”but found Apple on its anti-steering policies”* under the California Unfair Competition Law.The court prohibited Apple from stopping developers from informing users of other payment systems. Epic has gone in for appeal. Epic Games has filed a case against Google after Fortnite was removed for similar reasons from the Google Play app store.

With the world completely immersed in Apps and two monopolists literally controlling its sale across the globe, the Battle Royale has begun. Tim Sweeny’s contention is simply that a sales front of this nature can run on a revenue cut of 8%. A cut of 30% makes sense on computers, consoles and mobile platforms but not for open platforms like mobile devices and personal computers, he argued. ’Part of the reasoning for creating the Epic Games Store was to demonstrate that Epic Games could operate at a lower commission percentage (12%). When Epic first released on a sideloaded package for not allowing Google to take any revenues from the micro transactions, it ran into rough weather because of security concerns and lots of clones cropping up. It would take a long time for the app battle to get settled.

WHEN THE WORLD HAS BECOME AN APP, THE OUTLIERS (DEVELOPERS) ARE BOUND TO FIGHT TO THE FINISH.

Sanjay Sahay

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