Disallowing developers from using in-app billing for donations, while also barring them from linking to external donation platforms, puts open source projects in a difficult position, and appears to be overly hostile towards funding open source development.
Google must clarify their position on whether they allow donation links in apps published on Google Play. The app takedowns  of the last few days show that this is a significant development, and it is of great importance for all open source developers.
It's best to publicly document the messages you receive during app takedowns, since app store policies are often vague, it's easy for reviewers to make mistakes, and having a clear reference for these decisions also helps the public assess the validity of the takedown.
> Here are some examples of products not currently supported by Google Play In-app Billing:
> One time-payments, including peer-to-peer payments, online auctions, and donations.
Google Play has been very clear about this:
> Fund solicitations
> Examples: Donation solicitations from parties without a valid 501(c)(3) tax exempt status clearly displayed to the public; solicitations from parties without valid proof of exempt tax status or proof of registration with the relevant country's regulatory bodies and authorities; and political organizations that have registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
For instance, Wikipedia displays an external "Support Wikipedia" link in the main menu of its Android app without violating Google Play's terms and conditions.
That's the question (at least for me) here: why are (non-tax-exempt) donations not allowed, beyond the tautological response of "because the rules say so"? I'm not familiar with the regulations around this area, so for all I know there's a great non-Google reason for this and Google just wants to avoid the hassle of conforming to some law. Or maybe donations is a feature they want to eventually support in Google Play and they don't want to have to force a bunch of apps in the future to switch once they add it (which would be a more disappointing reason). Perhaps they're afraid that it would create a loophole where people could get around the 30% cut since psychologically it feels shitty for someone to middle-man a donation, but then if they made donations Google-tax free, everyone would just choose "donation" and they'd have to police this.
By requiring government registration my guess is the hope is both that the fraudsters will be caught or dissuaded and if they do make it past the government registration then when the real devs complain Google can say "take it up with the government. They mis-licensed. We just followed their license"
Recently I created a small homepage with different re-packaged versions of Java: https://jdk.dev
All that alternative packages are free of charge but they have extended support from a number of big companies. All these companies funded separately, there's no common place for donations or something.
That's totally ok in the world of Free Software. Pick any source code you want, repackage, rebrand it, sell it as you wish and may the Force be with you. People do it all the time.
For example, if a person were to repackage someone else's open source project with a link that says, "Donate to support the development of this software" that's still fraud (assuming they keep the donations).
Back in days I paid for CDs with only open source software because internet was too slow. CDs were definitely priced for decent profit. The beauty of opensource is that we can do this legally.
Basically, if you include a donation link in your app without proving non-profit status you could be committing fraud, and Google could be held equally responsible to the crimes of the app being hosted. Google also has to report non-tax exempt profits made by any app/content they host in many locations, so only non-profit groups may link to a 3rd party payment system without violating legal statutes in some countries/states.
How is it fraud to ask for donations without being a non-profit?
> Google also has to report non-tax exempt profits made by any app/content they host in many locations,
I am not familiar with google's payment model, but is there no way to charge users except through Google for google play apps?
It's higher risk for sure. Non-501c3 donations are the kind of high risk small peanuts you can imagine a behemoth like Google wanting to get away from.
taps finger on temple
But why are we forbidden from linking to an external page that lists other ways to support a project, such as Patreon?
I think we should stop being apologetic, and begin to call out Google for the damage they are inflicting upon open source developers.
Nobody is allowed to use Google Play's in-app billing for donations, and only organizations with a valid tax exempt status can link to an external page that lists donation options.
> Any individual or business processing transactions with Google payments must adhere to these policies.
Likely this is Google avoiding additional regulatory complications/KYC. It's cumbersome to prove you're not enabling money laundering or funding terrorist organizations if you're an arbitrary money sink.
But I'd expect better than Google, a business with an astounding $836B market cap. They could just buy a company that primarily handles this sort of money flow (e.g. Streamlabs)
If an affiliated party is breaking regulations, you can often get in trouble by continuing to be associated with them once you're aware, and ignorance isn't a valid defense.
FWIW I agree with you, Google isn't prioritizing solving this properly and is opting to take the easy way out
We're talking about a hyperlink in the app. Linking to wireguard.com would be fine.
How about if wireguard.com had a big donate button?
How about if wireguard.com has 'Donate' in bold?
I know you're not the person actually signing off on this - but to the one that is - fuck you. In bold.
No-one is getting sued because of one step being removed in a hyperlink chain to a donate button. If they are it's getting thrown out instantaneously.
Characterising a link to a donate button as being in _any way_ related to aiding money laundering is ridiculous.
Cease this insanity.
Parties like Google and Apple are well aware of the potential consequences, and thus are similarly inflexible and disinterested in being nice to a fairly small group of use-cases that exposes them to an outsized amount of risk.
It's really, deeply unfortunate. It's incredibly painful for everyone who has to deal with this bureaucratic bullshit. Unfortunately, it being bullshit doesn't make it less real or less reasonable.
It is not a real concern for Google to have a hyperlink https://wireguard.com/donations buried inside an app distributed on the Google Play Store.
I don't believe your concern is legitimate. It's arse covering gone mad, sorry.
You can email me, my email is in my bio, and I will respond with a way that you can send me money. If dang reads this post and does not take it down, does that put HN at risk of AML action for potentially 'aiding the money flow'?
edit: actually, you can click through enough links on my bio and get directly to donation pages. now we're really fucked, right? who's gonna turn off the lights?
This website is different -- not just free -- there is no financial partnership in play (as far as I'm aware). But rules still apply. If you put a link in your profile taking donations for Syria, the operators of this site are obligated to comply with OFAC sanctions and I'd expect your profile to change pretty quickly.
In this case, I'm guessing Google is opting to choose the path of least resistance, and rather than perform due diligence and KYC for apps which solicit donations, they've chosen to just... not do that.
They've chosen to pre-emptively cover their arse against a risk less likely than an asteroid hitting Earth by just nuking the apps.
There's another thread on HN about this right now - I don't know how these people can like, exist, in this world, with every one of the hairs on their head individually combed into a perfect slick. Can you even eat breakfast without worrying about some tail risk?
Too much HN for today, methinks. I'm so glad that the normal people I interact with in the world aren't this wanky (I don't mean you or other posters here, but the bureautwats that actually implement this stuff)
You're right, and the Google is wrong.
Sure, maybe the argument can be made, but come on. We all know this is so that Google can get their nice 30% cut, and cut off any alternate funding sources for Android apps. Otherwise, shady developers will just require a "donation" instead of a purchase. That is behavior that Google would be reasonable to police, but to claim that action from financial regulators is what's causing this is just silly.
It's just your bog standard wanky corporate dishonesty. Nothing new under the sun.
It may also be worth considering that actions can, at some times and in some situations, be taken by human beings for multiple reasons with multiple independent motivations. All of which are real, genuine reasons.
Too many adverse effects you say? Sorry, that's just the way it is, no use complaining.
Since those are examples I hope this also covers tax-exempt charities in other jurisdictions.
I switched to the german site and it still only refers to american laws.
"Examples: Donation solicitations from parties without a valid 501(c)(3) tax exempt status clearly displayed to the public; solicitations from parties without valid proof of exempt tax status or proof of registration with the relevant country's regulatory bodies and authorities; and political organizations that have registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)."
As far as I can tell (though I am no expert) it would be very difficult or impossible for an open source project to qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exemption. And even if it was, the cost in both time and money to obtain such a status would not be worth it for small open source projects.
"Any individual or business processing transactions with Google payments must adhere to these policies."
These apps weren't using Google payments, and it is suspected that they were taken down for not using Google's payment systems (despite not being allowed to).
Are the developers using google payments for other things/apps? Because in the context of these specific apps they are not using Google payments, so the policy wouldn't appear to be applicable.
This is the problem of developing free software on a non-free platform. They have absolute control of your work under their own terms, no matter how ridiculous they are. I never understood why the google play store is a socially acceptable idea for free software developers.
Ok, I had to stop there. They have no claim to this as long as they distribute within the store. It would be nice if google allowed this, but there is no obligation. App Stores are monopolies and should be regulated to allow open distribution.
Aside from that it should highlight problems with app stores as a model for software distriubtion in general, although I don't have much hope that this will happen in the immediate future.
That there even exists such a rule is ridiculous and unacceptable in my opinion.