Android Development Agreement Revision

Update: A kindly developer who remembers the details of the previous version of the agreement has corrected us on several points. See below.

As we reported on Saturday, Android developers have been notified of an updated version of  the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement. We based our report on a post on the Android Developers Blog that highlighted changes in a couple of sections of the agreement, and that implied carrier billing might become more widely available as a way of paying for apps. Soon after, we began hearing from developers that other sections of the agreement seem to have been changed as well. From what we can tell, several sections have changed in ways that will affect not only developers but also users.

The new agreement was provided to developers without changes highlighted, so we reached out to the folks who maintain the Android Developers Blog to try to sort out what exactly had changed. They did want to help, but weren't up on the legal intricacies of the agreement, and passed our inquiry on to the legal and p.r. teams at Google, who, unfortunately, have not provided us with any information.

But after looking at the new agreement, we're fairly sure that there are some other changes beyond those related to new billing methods:

Section 3.4, Special Refund Requirements, states that no refunds will be available for apps that can be previewed before buying, such as ringtones or wallpapers, and that all other apps will be refundable for 48 hours after purchase. Several changes here. The current refund period is 24 hours, and applies to all apps. Additionally, there currently is no way to preview ringtones. This perhaps points to new functionality coming to the Market. Update: This section has always stated a 48 hour refund period, despite the actual 24 hour refund period. This is confirmed by the Android team's Reto Meier. It's unclear if the part about no refunds for previewable apps is new or not.

Section 4.5, Non-Compete, states that apps with the primary purpose of distributing other apps outside of the Market are not allowed. This was mentioned in one of the emails we received as possibly new, but we're not sure if it was there before or not. Update: This section has always been part of the agreement.

Section 4.9, Product Ratings, discusses not only ratings of individual apps but also scores for developers that "will be determined at Google's sole discretion," using not only user ratings but also uninstall rates and refund rates. Again, we're not sure this section changed, but ratings for developers are certainly not a feature of the current Market.

Section 13, Indemnification, is the section discussed on the Android Developers Blog. "Authorized carriers" are now an indemnified carrier. Together with the post's mention that the Android team is working on "new payment options," we believe this means that carrier billing for apps, currently limited to T-Mobile U.S. customers, will be rolled out more widely.

The changes to refund policies, along with the implication that users will be able to preview ringtones, seem to be the biggest news here. Some that contacted us worried that a longer refund period would facilitate more piracy, but hopefully Google's new licensing system for apps will help lay those concerns to rest. Update: It seems more likely than not that the only changes are to section 13, as was originally stated on the Android Developers Blog.

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