Google Play: Android Developers – Read the Fine Print
This post is about the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement (the “GP Agreement”) only. There may be a future post on the iOS Program Developer License Agreement but . . . no guarantees.
The Android operating system is positioned well for the “internet of things” and is growing fast. With over a million individual applications and tens of billions of installed apps, Android is an impressive force. As of this writing, Android developers are in demand. However, if developers are going to “play” with Google as a new independent developer or group, they will need to cede some control to Google through the GP Agreement.
Whether you intend to upload an app without an initial charge (free), want to start charging for the app immediately, or want to provide a free app with a paid upgrade option, the GP Agreement is aimed at maintaining the quality of available apps on Google Play, by ensuring certain guidelines are met related to use, privacy, support, takedown, licensing, applicable laws, and other considerations. A few of the key points to consider for every new project for Google Play, include:
The GP Agreement requires developers to license intellectual property related to the app to Google and end-users. If the App contains IP that does not belong to the developer, the developer would be well served to ensure that it has permission to sublicense any IP in accordance with the GP Agreement.
Developers are solely responsible for supporting and maintaining the products it uploads to Google Play. Google warns that inadequate support may hurt the success of an application and make the developer liable for chargebacks (including handling fees).
A developer’s application must not interfere with, damage, or provide unauthorized access to the hardware, software, or services of any other party. No product may be made for the purpose of distributing/bypassing the Google Play Market. A developer’s use of the Google Play Market must comply with law – something to consider extensively (some more than others) depending on what your product is, how it is used, what advertising is done on the app, etc. And all products must adhere to the Google Play Developer Program Policies.
The GP Agreement requires developers to protect the privacy of end users. The privacy terms in the GP Agreement are one of the most important terms in the GP Agreement. There are several privacy terms but, generally, the developer must: (i) provide legally adequate privacy notice regarding what information the application takes and how such information is used/protected (note: the developer must follow through with such policies), (ii) store the information securely (according to law, in each state or country where the app is sold), and (iii) store the information only for as long as the information is needed.
The GP Agreement allows developers to remove apps (“takedowns”) that are distributed through the Google Play Market, subject to refund requirements of the GP Agreement and any payment processor agreement. A developer takedown does not always (and most likely will not) relieve a developer of all obligations under the GP Agreement related to previously sold products.
Google may also perform takedowns of a developer’s product if Google, in its sole discretion, determines that a developer or Product has violated any law, the GP Agreement, or any policy related to the GP Agreement.
The GP Agreement has many other terms including without limitation, terms relating to indemnification, termination, amendments to the GP Agreement (which Google provides in an “accept-or-you-are-out” format), assignment, disputes, jurisdiction, continuing obligations, and terms included in all of the other links provided within the GP Agreement.
The terms of the GP Agreement are burdensome, are largely in Google’s favor, and should not be taken lightly. However, just like negotiating with Walmart, if you want access to a huge market (Google Play), a market that is currently one of the fastest growing markets on the planet (faster than Walmart), you may have to take some risks under the GP Agreement. Taking risks is one thing. Blindly charging ahead is another. If you are considering a launch on Google Play, you should speak with an attorney before doing so.