Apple may position itself as the champion of privacy when it comes to personal information, but court records showed that the company required very sensitive data from the game distribution service Steam to help in the fight with Epic Games.
Reason? Epic previously criticized Steam’s cuts from game developers, accusing platform owner Valve of “sucking out a large portion of profits from games.” Apple wanted to understand more about Valve’s business model with Steam to help it create its own case for the App Store. The data that Apple demanded from Valve – which is not even a party to the case ̵
PC player reports that Valve denied Apple’s claim, and now a court must decide the case. Here is the data Apple wanted, which the lawyers somehow described as a “very narrow” request:
Valves: (a) total annual sales of apps and products in the app; (b) annual advertising revenue from Steam; (c) annual sales of external products attributable to Steam; (d) annual revenue from Steam; and (e) annual earnings (either gross or net) from Steam.
And in an additional request:
“(A) the name of each app on Steam; (b) the date period when the app was available on Steam; and (c) the price of the app and any in-app product available on Steam. ”
Apple wants Valve to provide names, prices, configurations and dates for each product on Steam, as well as detailed accounts of exactly how much money Steam makes and how it’s all broken down. […]
Apple apparently required data on 30,000+ games initially, before reducing the focus to around 600. Query 32 is incredibly detailed, Valve explains: Apple requires information about each version of a given product, all digital content and merchandise, sales dates and each price change from 2015 to today, the gross revenue for each version, distributed individually, and all Valve’s revenue from it.
Valve not only says that the data is incredibly valuable commercial information, but that it does not even register the level of detail Apple wants – and in any case is not remotely involved in the dispute between Apple and Epic.
Valve says it does not “in the ordinary course of business keep the information Apple seeks for a simple reason: Valve does not need it.”
Valve’s argument goes on to explain to the court that there is no competitor in the mobile area (this is after all a dispute that began with Fortnite on iOS), and points out that Valve is not Epic, and Fortnite is not available on Steam. “It further states that Apple uses Valve as a shortcut to a huge amount of third party data that rightfully belongs to these third parties.
The conclusion of Valve’s argument requires that the court dismiss Apple’s subpoena. “Somehow, a PC game maker that does not compete in the mobile market or sell” apps “is portrayed as a key figure in a mobile app dispute. It is not. The comprehensive and highly confidential information that Apple requires about a subset of “The PC games available on Steam do not show the size or parameters of the relevant market, and would be extremely stressful to pull together. Apple’s claim for further production should be rejected.”
It seems quite difficult to imagine that Apple can succeed here, but the rule of law and common sense do not always agree.
The parody account Not Jony Ive has a proposed compromise.
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