What is “The Law of the App” and how do you comply with it?
Nov23

What is “The Law of the App” and how do you comply with it?

Gaming operators have for years now been grappling with the full spectrum of legal requirements that apply to their online operations. Reputable online operators have, therefore, already developed a great degree of familiarity with issues like data protection, consumer law, advertising law and of course gambling regulation and the way in which these impact their online operations. However, with more and more operators now launching mobile gaming products (whether native device apps, web-based apps or mobile websites) and with a host of recent developments in this space, from new app store rules through to regulatory investigations, gaming lawyers are increasingly being asked an important question: what specific legal issues apply to mobile gaming products that might not necessarily apply to existing website-based offerings? In other words, is there such a thing as “The Law of the App” and, if so, what steps must operators take to comply with it? Understanding “The Law of the Platform” Such is the dominance of a limited number of mobile app platforms like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android that their rules have become essential reading for any organisation with a mobile strategy. Effectively enacted via contract law through platform terms and conditions, “The Law of the Platform” can nonetheless have an even greater impact on operators’ products than the overriding legal framework of statute, case law and regulation. Changes to the Apple or Android terms can happen very quickly (and without the political, consultation or legislative processes preceding new laws or regulations). At their most extreme, they can create entirely new opportunities for operators or they can close off valuable revenue streams entirely. In practice, the key terms that organisations need to focus on are the developer or SDK terms (the terms that much be accepted in order to build an app for the platform in question), approval policies for the app (relevant to Apple’s iOS and others, less so to Android) and the app store terms governing how the app is marketed and sold and how in-app purchases work. These terms are generally available via the platform developer websites, although in some cases the applicable terms can be harder to obtain (for example, a developer account and login may be required for certain Apple terms), in which case lawyers may need to work with developers to get hold of them. Apple iOS and Android are currently the two dominant platforms and both have recently updated their platform rules specifically in relation to gaming apps. In August 2013, Apple updated its App Store Guidelines. The rules require that apps offering real-money gaming must have the necessary licences and permissions in the locations in which...

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