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Android Cellphones Piracy Portables (Games) Games

Android Game Devs Worry Over Ease of Copying 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-a-droid-eat-droid-world dept.
The Guardian reports on problems faced by game makers on Android Market. Some independent developers are finding that their games are too easily copied and sold by competitors, and they say Google isn't reacting quickly enough to reports of infringement. Quoting: "One of my customers emailed me three weeks ago, and informed me that another company was selling a version of my app – pirated and uploaded as their own. Of course I contacted Google right away. It took Google two days to take the app down. This publisher was also selling other versions of pirated games. I contacted the original developers of those games but they were still being sold a week later. You'd think [Google] might have a hotline for things like that! I would also note that the publisher selling the pirated games is still trading on the Android Market. They didn't even get their account suspended. ... Why are these accounts still allowed to be trading? It's negligent as far as I'm concerned."
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Android Game Devs Worry Over Ease of Copying

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  • It's open! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:32AM (#35526492)

    Even to piracy.

  • i wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcombel (1557059) on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:34AM (#35526512)

    how the person who feels he is being victimized here would feel if his app was instantly removed via a hotline telephone call by someone with a false DMCA claim?

    • Re:i wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dormann (793586) on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:41AM (#35526548)
      Does this even need a telephone hotline? If a red flag arose when any submitted app was 90% similar to an existing app from another developer, wouldn't the minimal human intervention required from Google eliminate this problem?
    • Re:i wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anubis IV (1279820) on Friday March 18, 2011 @02:29AM (#35526722)

      What does that have to do with anything? If Google conducts an investigation on the issue and decides to take action, then doesn't it naturally follow that they would ban the developer for his gross misconduct? There doesn't need to be a hotline that would allow anyone to report anyone else and have them instantly barred (nor did the summary suggest such a thing), but if Google goes through an investigative process (which they did here) and determines that the claims have merit (which seems to be the case), then it's their responsibility to handle it appropriately. They didn't.

      • Re:i wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday March 18, 2011 @06:36AM (#35527750)

        What does that have to do with anything? If Google conducts an investigation ...

        Your reply to the parent is misguided. He is addressing the single complaint of the takedown taking 2 days. You're talking about the complaint of failure to ban from the market place.

        You are both right, and both quite relevant. Yes google should have banned the user in their response. And no 2 days is perfectly reasonable if the 2 days is the result of a thorough investigation and not just idle pointless delays on google's part. If you speed up the process by rubberstamping the takedowns you'll end up getting innocents caught in the receiving end of a malicious complaint.

        • I don't think the OP was necessarily complaining about that. It was just a statement of fact. Two days seems reasonable anyway to investigate the matter. The real complaint seems to be that Google found that a company sold a pirated app and is still allowed to do business on the Android marketplace, selling what appear to be other pirated apps. Selling just one pirated app should be grounds for termination.
    • by Narcogen (666692)

      I don't think you can issue a proper DMCA takedown notice by telephone... not even if it's a "hotline".

      • by tepples (727027)

        I don't think you can issue a proper DMCA takedown notice by telephone

        Does fax count as telephone? Does dial-up Internet?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      Platforms can be free for users or free for software authors.

      Apple trades of freedom for users for freedom for software authors. Windows Mobile gave more freedom to users but less to authors. Windows Mobile 7, interestingly moves things more in the direction of Apple. Since I'm a dumb consumer and don't write any software but like to fiddle around I much preferred Windows Mobile with its rampant piracy, modding and hacking scene.

      Of course in the long run platforms which offer more freedom to software author

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        Should that freedom extend to being able to sell someone else's app as your own?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:41AM (#35526542)

    At the end of the day, it's all about whether they're selling more ads or increasing the value of them. Android is just another means to that end, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that Google has trouble policing their market place. It's simply not something they're used to doing. Same goes for Apple and Microsoft.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      They do take down ads on their adnetwork(s) very fast when it turns out it is actually some kind of exploit code for spyware or similair thing.

      Personally I think they worry to much.

  • Cry some more (Score:5, Insightful)

    by atomicbutterfly (1979388) on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:53AM (#35526582)

    Google, like Apple, have to review the alleged infringement thoroughly before they can decide to take any action. If they don't, they run the risk of removing a legitimate app that was reported by a competitor, or a troll, or for any number of reasons. This is bad for business, and bad for PR. Unfortunately these investigations take their time, and even though you can throw more people into the pool of investigators, the final resolution is never going to be quick enough for app developers who want the infringing app remove IMMEDIATELY as it potentially costs them sales.

    • You're right about the speed issue, but what about the bigger issue of Google failing to ban the developer when they should have? If someone takes my work, copies it, claims that it's their own, and sells it for profit on your store, and you're made aware of the crime, you had better make sure that guy never steps foot in your store again. Simply telling him that he can't sell the knockoff of my product any more is not sufficient.

      • Re:Cry some more (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GooberToo (74388) on Friday March 18, 2011 @02:57AM (#35526808)

        Agreed. The offending developer needs to have their account terminated. If they are not doing they, seems pretty clearly they are actively encouraging fraud. Likewise, all pending proceeds need to be forwarded to the original developer. Otherwise, it seems Google is knowingly profiting from a crime. After all, they still made their 30% commission. And what about the users who purchased the application? Do they receive refunds; thusly alleviating Google of their legal liabilities? Do they refer these customers to the original developer's application?

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          Agreed. The pirating developer should have to spend another $100 to set up a new account. That will stop them for sure! :)

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      From not owning an iPhone and /. stories all these years I was under the impression that Apple yields to no one, big or small, pre or post crime. We shouldn't clump Apple and Google's App gardens under the same roof. Google is the more oblivious nanny of the app world.

      See also: porn, voip over AT&T and "rejection based on perceived dangers to stock iOS" functionality --even others never disclosed to devs are enough to warrant warning-less removal and outright rejection. I'm not sure about accounts suspe

      • We shouldn't clump Apple and Google's App gardens under the same roof

        Well duh, for one Apple doesn't let you install an app unless it's from their official App Store. Google lets you install anything you want. There is a user setting to ensure that you are only installing "official" apps, but it doesn't sound like it does that much use overall, what with all these malware and fraud stories. I'd still consider developing for Android, but I am disappointed at the way things are being portrayed as heading, and hope Google turns it around.

        • Google lets you install anything you want. There is a user setting to ensure that you are only installing "official" apps

          Are you referring to the Settings > Applications > Unknown sources checkbox or to Android Debug Bridge? If the former, then AT&T leaves that checkbox at the "official apps only" setting and hides it from the user. If the latter, then Google requires device makers to leave the ADB backdoor open, but AT&T makes one register as a company in order to download the drivers to use ADB.

          • I was referring to the official apps only setting, which is on the cheap Chinese tablet I initially bought to mess around with Android, and my phone (which has a custom ROM on it anyway, but it did have the setting beforehand). It's insane the things that telcos can get away with, especially in the US..

          • by Cederic (9623)

            So don't be stupid enough to buy a phone from AT&T.

            • So don't be stupid enough to live in an area where AT&T is the only carrier with acceptable coverage.

              So don't be stupid enough to live with someone else who was stupid enough to buy a phone from AT&T and has added you on her family plan.

              • So don't be stupid enough to live in an area where AT&T is the only carrier with acceptable coverage.

                Even if AT&T is the only carrier in your area, you don't have to buy the phone from them. You can buy it elsewhere and get AT&T contract for it.

                (yeah, it's more expensive overall - but you can do it if you believe the benefit worth the money)

            • by s73v3r (963317)

              What if they're the only provider worth a damn in your area?

              • by Cederic (9623)

                Use their service. What's so hard about that?

                You can use their service without buying your phone from them. Can't you? Are they really that shit?

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday March 18, 2011 @01:59AM (#35526596) Homepage

    That's criminal copyright infringement. [cornell.edu] If it's for commercial gain, and the total retail value exceeds $1000, and distributed over a computer network, the criminal provisions apply. At $2500, it becomes a felony.

    Here's how to report it. [justice.gov]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr_Plattz (1589701)
      Irrelevant if the 'other party' is based out of communist China who aren't shy to publicly admit they have no appreciation copyright infringements.
      • by Animats (122034)

        Irrelevant if the 'other party' is based out of communist China

        So file a complaint against Google. They're not an innocent party here; they're taking a cut of the revenue. An "app store" cannot take advantage of the "safe harbor" that an ISP can.

    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      Someone with mod points give parent a bump.

      Something that comes up over and over in patent discussion is how ridiculous it is that sticking 'internet' or 'cloud' or 'electronic' or any other buzzword in front of something seems to qualify it as a new invention. We all sigh that computers don't automatically make old ideas new or require special treatment just because a processor or network is involved.

      Same goes for fraud or any other criminal activity. Just because computers are involved doesn't mean that o

    • plagiarism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday March 18, 2011 @02:24AM (#35526698) Journal

      This is not just copyright infringement. This is plagiarism and misappropriation. Criminals are claiming other's work as their own. And they are capitalizing on this fraudulent claim to take money that should go to the real authors. This is quite different from random persons copying songs. This is actual theft.

      Be careful with the terminology. Big Media likes the conflation of plagiarism and counterfeiting with mere copying. They want to be able to hit someone who snagged a copy of some tune off a P2P service with the same punishment as these software thieves deserve.

      • by nuggz (69912)

        No this is copyright infringement.

        They didn't remove your use of the asset. They're just selling copies.

        Might be a bit of fraud, plagiarism etc, but it's mostly copyright.

        If they're selling it, it is a bit easier to prove "lost sales" vs movie/music copyright infringement, and the people buying the illegal copies might not know, otherwise it's mostly the same.

        What you label a "software thief" isn't any different from warez pirates or those illegally copying movies.

        • This is not just copyright infringement. This is plagiarism and misappropriation.

          No this is copyright infringement.

          In this context, plagiarism means copyright infringement combined with failure to attribute; hence the "just" in "not just copyright infringement".

          What you label a "software thief" isn't any different from warez pirates or those illegally copying movies.

          The difference between warez and plagiarism is that release groups in the warez scene don't strip off the logo of the original publisher, such as Last Century Fox's searchlight scene or Disney's castle or Paramount's mountain or WB's shield or Universal's globe or Columbia's torch lady.

        • Other than the fact they are outright profiting from their infringement. I have been known to pirate software, but I am *very* particular about who can "borrow" my CDs of anything except SNES games because I do know that profiting (or distributing, most of the time) from infringement puts you in a whole new league.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        This is not just copyright infringement. This is plagiarism and misappropriation.

        Don't be stupid. That's what copyright infringement is.

        This is actual theft.

        By all means, please show where the theft occurred. Prepare to be laughed at a lot.

        Be careful with the terminology. Big Media likes the conflation of plagiarism and counterfeiting with mere copying.

        Plagiarism at this level is a form of copyright infringement, which is why it's illegal and not merely grounds for expulsion from school. You have utterly failed to properly use the terminology. Theft requires that you take someone from someone and they no longer have it. This is something else; it is copyright infringement for personal gain, which is why it is a criminal

  • by Statecraftsman (718862) on Friday March 18, 2011 @02:08AM (#35526634) Homepage
    Of course all the software through it is free (as in freedom).
  • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Friday March 18, 2011 @02:20AM (#35526684)

    If I am doing something wrong, please let me know, but browsing the market is absolutely painful. My biggest problem is the fact that you can go to a top category like "Business" and you are limited to THREE filters, "Top Paid", "Top Free" and "Just In". They are all irrelevant for me, because cost is not really an issue for under $20 apps, and "Just In" can list anything from first release betas to minor updates. Searching for a specific term is even worse because then you can't apply any further filters. As a related issue, when browsing categories or searching specifics, apps seem to be listed at random.

    I would like to be able to sort apps by rating, developer, price, date uploaded, number downloads, and a whole bunch of other criteria. You know, stuff that I take for granted while searching through Google. You would think that the leading search company would be capable of implementing more than a rudimentary market application...

    There are three explanations.

    First, I could be incompetent. This is very likely, since I got my first Android phone less than a week ago. However while I'm not a developer, I am not exactly computer illiterate. I was able to unlock and root my HTC Desire, and I already tried 4 different ROMS (currently running Cyanogenmod 7 nightly 22) and a few dozen apps. My last phone was a Nokia N900, and its repository system automatically contained only free, and mostly GPL apps searchable on a variety of criteria. The Market was a very negative culture shock for me. If however I am incompetent, I welcome any suggestions how to better search for apps THROUGH THE MARKETPLACE (I'll come back to this in a second).

    Second, Google engineers are inept and can't implement better searching in their own market app. I seriously doubt it, given the extensive features of any other Google app. FFS, think of the analysis Google Goggles, Voice Search or even Maps have to perform, while Market can't even sort apps properly? If the phones themselves are too slow, offload the computing to the Google servers just like Goggles and Voice Search.

    Third, it's in Google's interest to force users to browse hunderds of apps, try out a lot of garbage before finding what they are looking for. This also ties in with TFA. Maybe Google wants the bragging rights to say they have hundreds of thousands of apps. Maybe they don't care, but the OP is not the first developer to complain about copied apps. One ADW theme designer stopped releasing the template for his themes because people were copying them and reselling them throu the Market. This is a very serious issue for Google, because Balmer was right. DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS, DEVELOPERS! If they start bailing out, your platform dies out, which incidentally is what happened to my Nokia N900.

    The ONLY reliable way to find Android apps is to either search through Google's site that we all use, or go to specific Android development forums like XDA and search past threads.

    • by w0mprat (1317953)
      There are numerous alternative markets. If you want official then there's market.android.com, and it syncs over the air to your handset. With Android you are not restricted to any default apps, even the homescreen/launcher can be changed so can the market. Alternative markets have some nice innovative thinking on how to do an app store. To paraphrase the Apple spin: If you hit a wall in usability of Android then there's an app for for that
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Honest question: are any of those reliable and trustworthy? Set up by respectable businesses? This question as I'd love to see some real competition for Google's market place.

        Thinking of the regular stories of malware being distributed through those third-party markets...

        Not that the quality of Googles Android market is that great, at least they have SOME measures in place including the small fee that a developer has to pay (in effect identifying themselves) and the signing requirements (linking an app un

      • by tepples (727027)

        There are numerous alternative markets.

        How do you recommend installing such an alternative market if you happen to be on AT&T, which hides "Unknown sources" on all its phones?

        • by Cederic (9623)

          Erm. From the Google Android Market?

          • How do you recommend installing such an alternative market if you happen to be on AT&T, which hides "Unknown sources" on all its phones?

            Erm. From the Google Android Market?

            Such applications will be removed. From the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement [android.com]:

            4.5 Non-Compete. You may not use the Market to distribute or make available any Product whose primary purpose is to facilitate the distribution of Products outside of the Market.

            • by Cederic (9623)

              I've just realised I'd misunderstood the initial question. I thought (based on the discussions) the query was how to install an application that lets you access the Android Market more easily than the default app.

              https://market.android.com/details?id=com.triapodi.apprec [android.com] is one answer - there are others on the Market, and I haven't tested any of them (that happens to be the first one I found).

              If you want an alternative app store installed then no, looks like the Android Market itself wont help, and AT&T

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            Yes, but then does the AT&T block extend to anything that's not the Google market? As in, I install SlideME or some Steam-like game store from the Google Market. Does AT&T allow me to install from those markets then, or does their "Unknown Sources" extend to those markets I just downloaded?

            • by Cederic (9623)

              It's a good question - the device probably blocks non-market app installations unless the 'unknown sources' toggle is switched to allow them.

              What you may be able to do is download an app that toggles it - but that may also need root access, which might be trickier in itself.

              I don't have an Android phone in the house so can't play and check, sorry.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      because cost is not really an issue for under $20 apps,

      To you. There's enough evidence to point that an app costing more than just a few dollars will cause users to think before installing. Also by searching free apps you'll often find ad supported or even trial versions of paid apps. The "top free" category is definitely interesting.

      The market place works on ratings and downloads. It's a word of mouth game providing you quick downloads. It's not really a place to go and do your research or actively start looking for any app to serve a purpose. My advice to

    • by Eil (82413)

      No, it's not just you. The Android market UI experience really is that bad.

      Usually, Google are the ones to look at a competitor's product and say, "hey, how can we do this better?" For whatever reason Android's killer feature, the Android Market, was basically copied from Apple's App store. Rather than give users better tools to find useful apps, they just did what the App Store did.

    • No, it's not you. I've owned Android phone for a year, and now own a Honeycomb tablet. Market is horrible on both (in fact, it's worse on the tablet, even though I didn't suspect it would even be possible).

  • As a business, setting up a public marketplace is about the marketplace, not about the policing. Policing is secondary -- way secondary. There's zero profit in policing the marketplace for Google. There's simply no money to be made. None, until it becomes so rampant that developers like you stop using the marketplace as a result.

    Clearly, that hasn't happened.

    You complained to Google about the pirates. What you were supposed to do was to pull your own app down, and leave for a safer place.

    You don't compl

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      Just leaving? he'll leave the crook a "winner" who still "owns" his app clone and makes cash off it... and Google no longer has any obligation to pursue damages for an ex-customer (if such unlikely thing as capturing the thieves were to happen down the pipeline.) Worst case, this is the dev's bread and butter.

      Vacating an App market's premises isn't as seamless as plunking your website's hard work under new ISP hosting:

      Google => Eclipse
      iPhone/iPad => Objective C
      MS Phone => Some other he's not intere

    • As a business, setting up a public marketplace is about the marketplace, not about the policing. Policing is secondary -- way secondary. There's zero profit in policing the marketplace for Google. There's simply no money to be made. None, until it becomes so rampant that developers like you stop using the marketplace as a result.

      There is lots of money to be made in policing the market. Apple polices the its own App Store and it is much more successful than Google's.

      Developers want a market so that makes their app easily discovered and their copyright will be protected. If they don't get this, they will focus more resources on iPhone development.

      Customers want high quality apps without worrying about filtering through spam and malware. If they don't like the experience, they will buy an iPhone.

      The only people who benefit from Goo

  • Send a DMCA notice to Google and the other company and take the other company to court. If Google doesn't respond by removal as per DMCA rules, take them to court, too. These tools exist, so use them. They're not *just* around for the MPAA, RIAA, and BSAA to use.

    • by vlueboy (1799360)

      There's so little noise from underdog use of the DMCA tools, when we expect the abuses to be astronomical in the USA.

      I seriously doubt all of the abusers are in China and Russia, so there must be lots of USA-reacable Goliaths getting defeated. But virtually nobody is spreading success stories. It must be that lawyerless geeks can't wield the tools without lawyers, and lawyers are just too expensive without a big corp in our pockets.

      It seems the Goliaths of the "legally persecutable" world found good loophol

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Take Google to court... even if you win, you'll end up broke.

  • by Skythe (921438) on Friday March 18, 2011 @03:09AM (#35526860)
    I'm no star dev, but I have a few free applications on market. One of the things I noticed is for a while Google have had a message stating that copy protection is being deprecated, and replaced with "Licensing service". More information here: http://developer.android.com/guide/publishing/licensing.html [android.com]. Not sure if this would affect OP's situation; whether he was/is using the old licensing services and/or if it will improve the situation in general.
    • LVL DRM was bypassed not long after it came out. From what I can tell the apps that seem to resist being pirated have to use multiple levels of DRM (including custom rolled solutions) which is also why so many apps request your IMEI.

      It's is sad really. I dont think devs want to use this kinda stuff (I know I'd rather not) but the sting of piracy is hard to take when people buying $200-$500 phones wont spring $0.99 for an app.
  • Google doesn't want to kick him off because he's "winning" something and makes for lots of ad hits.

    LoB
  • by jareth-0205 (525594) on Friday March 18, 2011 @05:21AM (#35527410) Homepage

    http://developer.android.com/guide/publishing/licensing.html [android.com]

    I'm not entirely sure because I've not seen the need to use it personally yet, but wouldn't the Android Market Licensing service stop this? Been around for a while this API...

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Friday March 18, 2011 @05:38AM (#35527484)
    Googl may say "Don't be evil", but they are very tolerant of it.

    For YEARS now they have allowed spammers free reign to crap all over Usenet using their Googlegroups interface. They do nothing to block or remove spam, when clearly they have the technology, as they use in filtering GMail, to do so.

    I don't know if they have a policy of making Usenet into a shitpile to make their own hosted groups more attractive. Or if they just don't care at all.

  • How likely would this be to occur if there wasn't so much emphasis on having the highest number of available apps in an app store?
    • Hm, I should have been more clear. What I meant was: how likely is it that Google would be so reluctant to suspend the accounts of someone who fraudulently posted even one pirated app?
  • Google's motto is "Do no evil", but I wonder if they think they're not responsible for evil if it spreads because they do northing.
  • From all my dealings with Google (Nexus One, and Google Apps Premier) their customer service and tech support is either painfully slow and at times practically non-existent.

  • I contacted the original developers of those games but they were still being sold a week later.

    The question remains, did those developers contact Google in a timely manner? Google responded to his request in two days. I think two days is pretty reasonable. If Google was contacted, we do not know what Google has done. They could be doing something clever, but they are a big company so we aren't supposed to assume anything but incompetence or malice.

    The problems of piracy, malware and promotion (discoverability) would exist with or without Google having a store. Baker said of Amazon, "hopefully t

  • But a weak article. "Devs" amount to mister Baker here. And for his trouble, he receives free advertising on /. and in the Guardian. So, we now know that one developer had this problem; it was handled by Google, though not entirely to his satisfaction; he got free publicity for complaining. What did we learn?
  • While completely justified, the developer sounds like a very angry bird.

    It takes time and effort to slingshot those pigs out of the store.

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