Thursday, August 16, 2012

More on Wang Ting

I received a fairly prompt response from AppStoreNotices@apple.com with regards to the Tile Cutter infringement I blogged about earlier today. They've sent an e-mail to Wang Ting, the "developer" fond of taking apps off of GitHub and selling them as his own creations. Apple has asked him to voluntarily take down TileCutter or provide evidence that he has the right to publish the app.

That's something, I guess. 

As of right now, Apple won't take any action on any of the other infringing apps. This is true even though the developer's own page gives clear evidence of a pattern and practice of blatant copyright infringement. Apple is aware of it, but will not take any action unless they receive individual takedown requests from each of the individual rights holders. All 154 of them. 

Why? Because they don't have to, legally speaking. They are protected by the DMCA for any infringing material until the moment they receive a takedown notice from a rights holder. So, they're playing it safe. Revoking developer privileges doesn't even seem to be on the table.

It's frustrating that Apple has no problem playing gatekeeper and keeping apps out of the store for the most trivial and arbitrary of reasons, but won't play gatekeeper when presented with clear evidence of repeated copyright infringement. A serial infringer who is stealing the creative output of dozens of developers, designers, and publishers gets a pass because that's the legal path of least resistance for Apple. 

What's really annoying is that if I'm interested in seeing the right thing happen here, I have to track down the parties infringed upon for by hundred and fifty-four different apps. I would like to. Honestly, I would. But as a practical matter, I don't have the time. I can't really afford the time I've lost to this issue today already.

The simple truth is, I have no leverage to make Apple do the right thing here except with regards to my one little app (which is still for sale as I write this). At the moment, it seems pretty unlikely that Apple will do the right thing and revoke the account of a serial infringer. I can't see how this does anything but encourage the Wang Ting's of the world. It's a clear message that as long as you steal from lots of different people or keep a low profile, Apple won't stop you unless they absolutely, positively have to.

The benefit of the App Store over the Android Marketplace, we've been repeatedly told, is that Apple acts as gatekeeper. They curate and inspect the apps to insure a better experience, higher quality apps, and to protect users and developers. Right? 

Too bad protecting developers' livelihoods is less deserving of gatekeeper protection than defending the App Store from an occasional nipple.

So, if you are the right's owner of an app, publication, or other content on this page (or any other page, for that matter), you should send a DMCA takedown notice to AppStoreNotices@apple.com right this very moment. Don't wait. Do it now. Apple, at least, will do what they are legally obligated to do. If you're not the right's holder, but know how to reach any of the right's holders of content on that page, please make them aware of the situation so they can send a takedown notice.

Maybe if Apple gets enough DMCA takedown notices for the same developer in a short enough period of time, they'll consider doing the right thing. I'm not holding my breath, mind you, but I feel like I have to try and make the right thing happen if I can. Finding a way to get word all the rights holders seem the best and only way to do that right now.