Google and Indian app developers hit pause on billing dispute for 4 months

Google and Indian app developers have agreed to temporarily pause their disagreement over Google’s major billing policy for four months. This decision follows Google’s removal of over 10 Indian apps, including Shaadi, for not adhering to the requirement of paying a service fee when using in-app payment options other than Google’s on the Play Store. After facing pushback from the Indian government and local startups, Google reinstated most delisted apps, including Shaadi. 120 days has been agreed upon to find a solution that is fair and aligns with free-market principles. Google has agreed to temporarily reinstate the delisted apps after discussions with Vaishnaw and startup executives while adjusting payment timelines for these companies until a final resolution is reached. Vaishnaw, a strong advocate for startups in this matter, emphasized the importance of reinstating the apps as they were before removal on March 1, 2024. The dispute arose from Google’s enforcement of its user choice billing system, which imposes fees ranging from 15-30% for in-app purchases and subscriptions using Google’s billing system. For developers opting for third-party billing, Google charges a commission of 11-26%, representing a 4% reduction from the service fee. The temporary resolution aims to address concerns raised by affected companies regarding revenue losses following the app removals. (see here)

Centre warns celebrities, and media against promoting betting, and gambling

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has warned celebrities, media, and various stakeholders against endorsing illegal activities like betting and gambling. The advisory, issued by the CCPA Chairman, highlights the use of celebrities to promote such activities, creating an impression of acceptability. Violations of guidelines on misleading advertisements may lead to stringent actions under the Consumer Protection Act. The advisory emphasizes that endorsing online gambling and betting, which are illegal in many states, can result in legal consequences for celebrities and influencers. The 2022 guidelines prohibit advertisements of products or services prohibited by law, applying to all mediums. (See here)

No copyright over science; pirated academic books exempt from infringement action

The Andhra Pradesh High Court remarked in Addala Sitamahalakshmi vs State Of Andhra Pradesh that “Mathematical questions are an expression of laws of nature. The discovery of such laws cannot confer a monopoly to those who describe it.” Justice V Sujatha thus concluded that academic or non-literary books even if pirated by a publisher, would be protected under Section 52 of the Copyright Act which states that certain acts of fair use would not amount to infringement of copyright under the law. “Once a book is declared as part of a syllabus, then, students are free to use the questions in it in any manner and therefore, guide books that are helping the students to solve the questions will also be covered under the fair use and exception to copyright,” the Court observed. The Court also noted “Copyright as a natural or common law right has thus been taken away by the Copyright Act. There can be no copyright in any author, composer or producer save as provided under the Copyright Act,” (See here)

NCPCR Calls For MeitY To Take Action Against ULLU For Explicit Content

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has urged the IT Ministry to investigate the OTT platform ULLU for allegedly providing explicit content easily accessible to minors, including sexual content involving school children. NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo’s letter, obtained by Medianama, also calls for action against Google Play and iOS for hosting the Ullu app. The NCPCR, established under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, monitors the implementation of laws safeguarding children, including the POCSO Act, 2012, and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Complaints against ULLU, raised by the group ‘Gems of Bollywood,’ accuse it of sharing highly objectionable content with subscribers, including minors. The letter cites examples of shows containing explicit sexual scenes and storylines aimed at school children, prompting calls for action from the IT Ministry. Additionally, the Chairperson highlights the easy availability of the ULLU app on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store without KYC requirements or age verification, potentially violating the POCSO Act. NCPCR calls for an inquiry into ULLU, Google Play Store, and iOS and urges stringent KYC procedures for apps streaming such content to protect children. In its draft red herring prospectus (DRHP), ULLU noted risks related to objectionable content and government policies. However, no mention was made of previous content takedowns, including an order from the Digital Publishers Content Grievances Council in 2023. NCPCR also proposed implementing KYC for platforms streaming obscene content, but challenges remain in verifying users’ ages, as highlighted by experts at a Medianama event. The DPDP Act, 2023, requires verifiable consent from parents or guardians to protect children online, but methods for age verification remain unspecified. (See here)

Real-money gaming firms look for cues in Google billing row

Online real-money gaming (RMG) companies are closely monitoring the ongoing dispute between Google and startups regarding service costs, as they anticipate being subject to a 15-30% tax starting in June. Concerns have been raised about the sustainability of paying a 28% goods and services tax on top of the 30% service charge, leading businesses to explore ways to mitigate the impact. Despite Google’s pilot scheme allowing some RMG apps on the Play Store for free, all RMG apps are expected to face commissions from June onwards. Industry executives note the challenge of delisting from the Play Store due to the platform’s reach among India’s 568 million mobile gamers. The debate intensifies as RMG businesses navigate high taxes and potential additional service fees, with comparisons drawn to international betting apps operating without such charges. Amidst discussions on potential platforms operating outside of Google’s Play Store, RMG companies are adapting to regulatory changes, including a blanket tax of 28% on online gaming in India. The evolving landscape poses challenges for operators in reallocating resources for user acquisition amidst changing fee structures. This dynamic environment underscores the need for equitable policies to support industry growth and competitiveness. (See here)