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Android Game Devs Worry Over Ease of Copying

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the it's-a-droid-eat-droid-world dept.

Android 210

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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It's open! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526492)

Even to piracy.

i wonder (5, Insightful)

jcombel (1557059) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526536)

...Or if the other person claimed he was the pirate and Google were to take his app down instead.

Re:i wonder (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526564)

Right, because it would be so hard to determine which app was put on the Android Market first.

Re:i wonder (4, Interesting)

hyartep (1694754) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526896)

i'm not sure how it's with android, but i know several symbian apps, that were available from developer website (usually beta) and later they moved to the ovi store.
this way, you could have false app in the market first.

otoh: if there is confusion, who is the publisher, it's easy for google to sell the app, keep the money and transfer them later to the right one.

Re:i wonder (4, Insightful)

Dormann (793586) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526576)

Hey - who flagged all the fart apps?

Re:i wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526746)

You can't detect whether an app is "similar" without human examination. All the assets can be restructured, bytecode reassembled, layouts modified.

Re:i wonder (1)

johanatan (1159309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527074)

Actually, you can. Just compare outputs--they're both being rendered to the same bit depth and resolution screen (and fuzzy matching is your friend).

Re:i wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527144)

App interfaces are defined in XML and can be redesigned completely without requiring hand-editing of assembler.

Reassembling classes.dex with no modifications produces different bytecode.

Google could only dump and compare code strings, but those are easily encryptable by tools following assembly.

Re:i wonder (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527472)

I think you missed the point - prospective apps could be run in an Android emulator that takes several screenshots every few seconds which are then used to make an image fingerprint of the app. It would be fairly trivial for somebody with Google's computing and database power to search an image fingerprint catalog for close matches that could then be ruled upon by a human.

Re:i wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527538)

I think you missed the point. It takes literally 5 seconds to edit the app's decompiled UI-XML files to change colors or reposition objects, thereby ruining the proposed detection heuristic. Perhaps you should develop for Android before suggesting what Google can implement.

Re:i wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527368)

How to test that? Whatever test you come up with, those stealing would just pad some bogus data to make sure it's only 89% the same.

Re:i wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526554)

oooh lets play hypothetical in fantasy slashdot land

Re:i wonder (5, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:i wonder (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35528176)

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.

Re:i wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526846)

Probably like the people who realize that 2 bogus flags are enough to have youtube automatically take a video down.

Re:i wonder (1)

Narcogen (666692) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527474)

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

Google is an ad company. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Google is an ad company. (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527478)

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 (5, Insightful)

atomicbutterfly (1979388) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Cry some more (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526730)

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 (5, Insightful)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Cry some more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526990)

They should also block his account if he is using Google Checkout, since money is essentially and indirectly stolen.

Re:Cry some more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527014)

Silly rabbit.

That would take mean Google won't be able to claim they have X number of apps and growing! Have you seen the number of wallpaper apps (using unlicensed images), pirated songs/ringtones, and spam apps (that copy the look/icon of real apps but provide nothing) in the Android Market? There's the problem of pirated, re-uploaded apps (some containing malware) as well.

The number of apps would drop by a double digit percentage.

Re:Cry some more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527894)

You mean, something equivalent to youtube? Fine with me ;)

Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (0, Troll)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527048)

I'm afraid the independent developers bitching here are just fucking morons. You know, even take down requests on youtube and other big sites don't warrant account termination. There are numerous ways google could shoot themselves in the foot by doing what this moronic developer asks.

First, there might be significant collateral damage : Imagine a developer with legit games too who just posted that infringing game because his mother needs an operation. Imagine two co-developers have falling out, one registers their new game first, reports the second's game as infringing, and gets the second account banned. Imagine a developer reposts another's game because he owns part but got cheated by the official developer. etc. Any such collateral damages impacts the Android market place itself, not just the developers. And such collateral damage cases should not need to seek special dispensation from google.

Second, you don't want to scare away infringing users who might become legitimate non-infringing users and improve the Android market place. A ban for infringement obviously isn't going to dissuade a professional infringer, but it'll very likely drive away a legitimate developer who's just cheating to test the waters.

Third, Google can actually process future infringement claims more efficiently if infringers continue using the same accounts. In other words, the infringed upon developers are subsidizing google's copyright enforcement efforts by their lost revenue, assuming they even lost any revenue. In fact, Google could slightly delay payouts to developers with an infringement history, increasing the recouped damages, possibly even above the lost revenues.

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (2)

sydneyfong (410107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527096)

Imagine a developer with legit games too who just posted that infringing game because his mother needs an operation.

You lost me right there.

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527104)

Yeah, I mean seriously? Imagine a factory worker with two legit jobs who just robbed a bank because his mother needs an operation.
Do you ban the guy from the bank and let him go about his business, or do you still send him to jail despite the collateral damage?

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (0, Troll)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527216)

Yes, a criminal court would care about exactly those points. If google doesn't want to worry about that shit, then google must be very conservative on banning people. Ain't rocket science, just the wider world outside your cubicle.

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (0, Troll)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527310)

You lost me right there.

You seriously think google should damage their Android ecosystem by deleting non-infringing apps because the developer posted an infringing app? Umm, that's just plain retarded. Do you realize how bad the scenario I described would look for Google? lol

You realize that a criminal or civil court would take all that shit I described into consideration, right? Even if the infringer had only ever posted infringing content! Google isn't interested in or able to recreate our court system here.

Also, courts get kinda touchy about anyone cutting in on their territory. In particular, our infringer with a sick mother could absolutely find an ambulance chaser to sue google for his own lost legit revenue plus lawyer fees plus whatever. Do you think google should deduct their lawyer's expenses from the original legit developers profits?

As I said, the original developers asking for bans are just fucking morons who understand nothing about the wider world outside.

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527994)

In particular, our infringer with a sick mother could absolutely find an ambulance chaser to sue google for his own lost legit revenue

Hardly. If he's doing anything illegal with his account, Google are well within their rights to terminate it. It's their private service, they are probably legally allowed to terminate people for any reason, even outside of abuses of the system.

I don't get your "my mother was sick, so I'm entitled to break the law" bullshit. Real courts might "take it into account", but the guy is still responsible for his own actions. By doing something illegal, he's just increasing the chances his sick mother won't have anyone around to help her when he goes to jail.

As for "cheating to test the waters" - wtf? I don't understand your reasoning behind any of this. Who the hell even thinks like that? Would you illegally upload someone else's work and charge people for it? If I was wanting to test the waters, I'd write my own app, or read blogs and ask questions to other developers. I certainly wouldn't start off by doing something illegal. If someone is willing to do that, why would they bother to even write their own software later on?

Re:Wrong, auto-banning is always stupid (2)

N1AK (864906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527446)

Imagine a developer with legit games too who just posted that infringing game because his mother needs an operation.

Perhaps he could mug someone instead, or rob a bank. He'd get the money faster, and I'm sure we'd all turn a blind eye because of his poor old mother right? No.

It would be trivially easy for Google to structure their store contracts in such a way that account revocation and loss of earnings were explicitly accepted in the case of infringement. You say it won't deter 'pro' criminals, yet if they consistently are denied revenue and forced to create new developer accounts ($15 IIRC), they'll quickly realise it isn't an effective money maker.

Your argument against detering infringers in case they go straight is as illogical as suggesting stores give shop lifters carte blanche in case they choose to start paying one day. Google may be able to get away with ignoring the needs of legit developers, due to the size of the android userbase, but it doesn't mean they should.

Re:Cry some more (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526794)

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 suspended and wanton use of kill switches, but other slashdotters can google it...

Re:Cry some more (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527308)

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.

Re:Cry some more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527302)

Worked for eBay, this is completely true.

A good 90%+ (based on volume) of DMCA takedowns are done by outsourced lawfirms in India doing the grunt work for a major IP holder . In turn this info was sent to the US-based staff in the Community Watch (VeRO) departments who would forward them to the in-house lawyers to determine what action should be done. Some are fast-tracked based on accuracy, of which if there is a case of a counter-claim you literately have to promise to sue the DMCA issuer to get the item back on the site and send documentation to eBay stating so. If someone is a repeat offender (enough HK China sellers are, and a fair number of mules in english speaking countries.) The trademarks database of each country is VERY useful.

Coincidently, software piracy accounts for a very small amount of DMCA claims except when it comes from the BSA. Certain IP holders like LVMH, Tiffany and Nintendo are so slow at reporting infringements that sellers get away with it repeatedly. Just look up how many pre-hacked savegames pokemon carts that are out there.

I imagine Google has a similar department for removing advertisers that do the same with AdSense. This should be old-hat to them for the Android marketplace. 2 days is actually rather fast. I'd imagine that Google has not yet setup a similar fast-track system so that developers could report piracy/hacks of their software. Likewise it's somewhat dubious to take down "clone" type games of popular games. If the game originated as open-source, you're really up the creak without a paddle.

My advice to game developers is to logic-bomb/cheat-code games so that they intentionally break if pirated, thus presumably resulting in returns to the marketplace. (As for how to do this, make the device send device-unique data to the "high score" leaderboards, and if it can't reach it, bomb. If it reaches but the score is impossible (eg cheat codes/hacks,) bomb. You don't know if the user is a pirate, or they simply purchased something not knowing it's pirated, so don't break the device. If you want to be very clever, turn on the geo-location api, and make the leaderboards region-aware, thus reporting which country the pirated versions originate first appear from. Unfortunately, even Microsoft and Xbox 360 developers haven't figured out how to make cheat-proof leaderboards, and thus making most of the games leaderboard functionality completely useless.

Re:Cry some more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35528240)

True, a thorough investigation is warranted not an immediate suspension.. But once they do find an infringing app, they need to take action the developer.

File criminal charges (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526596)

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:File criminal charges (3, Insightful)

Mr_Plattz (1589701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526626)

Irrelevant if the 'other party' is based out of communist China who aren't shy to publicly admit they have no appreciation copyright infringements.

Re:File criminal charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526742)

Indeed, even DCMA takedown notices to filesharing websites are a difficult option. I just noticed that my newest app has been pirated and began reading up on the filesharing sites to see what my recourse was. These companies say according to the DMCA I am to write with full name and address as well as provide my signature to get them to remove the content. Who wants to give their signature to a company in China that has shown they are already willing to break the law?

Re:File criminal charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526774)

Are you stupid? That only applies if the host is in the USA. I wouldn't send a DMCA request to a host in China. You could make legal threats I suppose still. Nothing says it has to be a DMCA request.

Re:File criminal charges (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526644)

Sure, if the infringer is in the US. What happens if they are in China, or Russia. There have been previous cases where ad-supported apps were modified with the different ad account id's and re-uploaded. The culprit was traced to a Chinese origin. I highly doubt any US authorities will bother to run over there, hog-tie the guy and drag him back over to the US.

I bet that even if the culprit was located in the EU or Canada, the most they'd have is a warrant?

Now if they infringed on a large corporation, then they'd be dragged, slowly, over razor blades and rubbing alcohol laden street on the way to the court house.

Re:File criminal charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526786)

With the white houses new copyright bill they are trying to push, it won't be long until we (by which I mean us the indoctrinated slaves of the MPAA/RIAA) will be willing to go to war over copyrights

Re:File criminal charges (1)

IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527454)

The culprit was traced to a Chinese origin. I highly doubt any US authorities will bother to run over there, hog-tie the guy and drag him back over to the US.

Damn. I miss Jack Bauer.

Re:File criminal charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35528130)

More like Batman.

Re:File criminal charges (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526680)

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 old solutions and ideas are magically invalid. Too often we have a tendency to treat computer related problems as some sort of special case. So we turn to solutions that are situational and often poor in the long run. Screw Google. Complaining to them about this is like complaining to the pawn shop selling your stolen TV.

plagiarism (5, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526698)

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.

Re:plagiarism (0)

Sparrow1492 (1962256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527306)

This is actual theft.

Not according to Slashdot users. Every single time copyright infringement or copying music/movies/etc. comes up on this site, the users here overwhelmingly argue that unless there is some physical thing taken, it's OK becuase it's not theft. With that standard, there's nothing being physically taken so there is no loss to the developer. I don't agree with that, but it's pretty clear a lot of folks here do.

What's being done here is not really all that differrent from bittorrenting an MP3 if you think about it (although there is a money piece involved). With that you're taking a copy of the song for your use and then providing it to other people who, in theory, should have to get it from the original copyright owner if they want it. Same thing here just a lot more blatant using the app market as the distribution means.

Re:plagiarism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527550)

Nobody here has a problem with downloading things, but making money from other people's work is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Re:plagiarism (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527568)

In your mp3 torrent example there's not actually any money changing hands and the people involved are probably already aware that they're not obtaining it through proper channels.

What's being done here is closer to counterfeiting a CD or DVD and selling the counterfeits to unsuspecting shoppers because they are unaware that the property they are buying is essentially stolen. To continue the analogy, the CD they're buying may also have a Sony/BMG-style rootkit on it.

Re:plagiarism (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527844)

Not according to Slashdot users. Every single time copyright infringement or copying music/movies/etc. comes up on this site, the users here overwhelmingly argue that unless there is some physical thing taken, it's OK becuase it's not theft.

Bullshit. Nobody says that.(can you provide a link to posts that do?) People correctly say that copying files is not theft. That doesn't make it "OK", it just means that if a crime has been committed, it's something else, like copyright infringement. There is a reason there is a legal term "intellectual property": because it's different to physical property and has different laws and different offences against those laws.

What's being done here is not really all that differrent from bittorrenting an MP3

It's completely different because it's being SOLD, and in the same market as the original software. The selling is the big crime. Arguing that this has some relation to filesharing is unjustified.

Re:plagiarism (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527846)

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.

Re:plagiarism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35528336)

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

Completely irrelevant. Counterfeiting never removes the use of the original asset, but it's still a crime.

Re:File criminal charges (1)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527202)

This and only this should be what claims of copyright infringement is.

Normal people downloading crap instead of buying them should just be labelled smart people.

Re:File criminal charges (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527378)

This and only this should be what claims of copyright infringement is.

As others have said, this story is about "plagiarism and misappropriation", ie stealing real sales by selling someone else's software as your own. Copyright infringement doesn't only apply in situations where you feel it's to your own advantage.

Normal people downloading crap instead of buying them should just be labelled smart people.

Actually, they're very obviously copyright infringers who are making copies of things without the legal right. It might be "smart" to avoid costs where you can, though if you're breaking the law to do so, it's risky, and seen by many (including myself) as immoral. The record companies are pretty immoral too of course. It's not a black and white decision, but there's nothing particularly noble about infringing copyright.

For what it's worth, I think of you as just the same type of scum as these guys who are sell other people's software for their own gain. You're saving money by not buying music. You're not getting the same level of financial benefit as these professional pirates, but you still are on the same scale, just at a lower level. I'm not saying you'd buy all of the music/movies/software you download, but presumably if you like any of it enough to keep it, you'd have bought some of that if piracy wasn't an option.

I think the Market is absolute garbage... (4, Interesting)

c.r.o.c.o (123083) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526720)

Try Appbrain.

I do find it a bit silly that a company whose flagship product is a search engine can't get this right.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526806)

Agreed. Appbrain is definitely the superior alternative... it's just a shame Fast Web Installer was shut down - really dirty move on Google's part, because their own web market sucks donkey balls. Can't even uninstall apps from there...

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (2)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527076)

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

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527318)

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 uniquely to a developer).

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527354)

Actually, you kind of are restricted to the default launcher - if you don't replace the default launcher in /system then it runs in the background wasting resources. GO [android.com] is still awesome if you didn't root yet though.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527390)

Would this help:


(I tried to pick a somewhat popular term, but relatively obscure.)

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527406)

Market is absolute horror. Google is supposed to be a search company, but somehow make it very difficult to find the app you need. Even if you know the exact title off the app, there's no guarantee that typing this exact title makes it show up at the top somewhere.

Another beef I have with market is that it still shows app I can't use. Some apps are for specific devices only. Often this is clearly shown in the app description. What doesn't Google allow devs to tag their apps for specific devices? Why is my Nexus One showing apps which are specific for the Droid or whatnot?

Come on Google, I know Android is open and we can all build our own Market, but do you really have to push it that hard?

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (1)

Adayse (1983650) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527590)

First and Third explanation are correct. What you are mostly doing wrong is being new to the market and after a few months you will feel better about it. It is in the interest of google and new developers that people try out new apps.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527818)

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 get the most out of the market is to google the purpose. Research on websites, and when you find something that interested you, then search the market. In my experience apps I have downloaded from the market that I have "researched" on the market typically end up unused or erased, and the keepers are ones recommended by others or highly commended in various google searches.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35528292)

1) Personally I despise ad supported apps, nothing is free, they sell the app or the developer sells you. Although apparently you fit the Android profile to a 'T', as developers are having trouble selling any apps. 2) The market place is not a place to research apps? That is utterly the biggest piece of idiocy I have read on /. in some time.

Re:I think the Market is absolute garbage... (1)

Radiophobic (1973144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527954)

Its true, the market needs some fine tuning. Its still better than most of the competition tho. To browse categories, click on apps.

It's because... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526718)

Android is garbage. I'm holding on for GNU/Hurd.

They really don't care (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526762)

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 complain to your landlord when someone breaks into your home. You call the police.

Google's given you a perfectly place to sit. And it's dangerous. As a landlord, they've nothing to do with the policing. Call the real police if you like. But you won't find many for on-line marketplaces. At least not yet.

Or, you can pay your landlord to hire a gatekeeper, or private security. Show me the line-item on the agreement that you signed with Google that says your app will be protected. Then you can be right to complain to them. Until such time, be happy that you have any service at all from them. You can always start yoru own marketplace. Or your own store.

And go hug your landlord.

Re:They really don't care (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526884)

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 interested on learning when the original app already works fine natively.

Besides, the dev risks finding negligence after paying dearly for the porting process, and nobody's going to refund their "market license" fees. There's also only a few smartphone choices left a dev to explore. Really nowhere to go but the market's gatekeeper, since they have the market's keys... sad.

Re:They really don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526904)

You don't complain to your landlord when someone breaks into your home.

I'd raise holy hell if my landlord didn't provide an adequate lock for the front door, and the lease didn't permit me to install one myself! Care to try again, perhaps with a car analogy?

These days, you'll be lucky if the police even bother to send anyone over to take a report, for a simple breaking-and-entering case. "They're working in shifts! [jonathanturley.org] Ah, ha, ha, ha..." Same with Google.

How is this complicated? (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526780)

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.

Re:How is this complicated? (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526944)

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 loopholes and WE are settling with them for cash / gag orders.

Android market issues: (1)

Elimental (2013582) | more than 3 years ago | (#35526802)

As a previous owner of an iPhone and now on my second Android phone:

1st I treat android market as a simple “apt-get” installer for my phone.

I never use it to look for applications, I use Google search or web reviews instead and use the QT codes to get my applications. Same thing I would do with any Windows or Linux application. If you want the secure walled garden go use Amazon or start your own app store, no one is stopping you, hell you can maybe even make a living off it.

Sure there is applications that can harm your phone and yes there is plenty of applications that copy others. I rather have the power myself if I want VLC or some porn app on my phone than some corporation that thinks its inappropriate. Sure if I install all kinds of junk without reading reviews and looking at security permissions I deserve to install and AV application or have my data send, this is happening to PC's all the time, what makes my phone any different after all it is a “personal” computer.

I can find plenty of games that is similar/copied to ones being sold by big developers on the PC. The difference normally is support + quality. Yes Google takes it time to remove offending software . I rather them do a proper investigations than some competitor being able to remove my app just cause he made a simple request to Google.

Give me free market any day isn't that what capitalism is all about? Or do you want to live in a social environment where you have some government(apple) tell you what you can or can not have on your phones.

Only problem I have with Google market is that allot of countries are still not allowed to have/get paid for applications like China, India, South Africa and so on, maybe if they address that issue we wont have so many copied applications cause I do think many are copied and replaced as free just because people in the countries above can not access the paid for applications. Just give everyone access to paid applications. They can still limit the developers in those countries to upload free applications only if they afraid of them selling pirated software.

Re:Android market issues: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527612)

Have you considered for a moment that maybe the paid apps aren't available to those countries because of the high incidence of identity theft and credit card fraud there?

Re:Android market issues: (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35528210)

Or bad faith on the operator part... skype for example is not available on my phone and it is a free app available all over the rest of the world... just because they don't want voip apps on phones they provide

Cheers for taking time to write. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526814)

So often I was defeated by the simple fact that to respond would require effort. Google wants to run a business in a market where costs are, relatively, minimal, and it creates a great margin by ignoring the very entities that feed such margins. My simple, one-man-one-vote support must be "vocalized" here.

What kind of Copy Protection is OP using? (3, Informative)

Skythe (921438) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:What kind of Copy Protection is OP using? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527358)

This. If you're afraid of people pirating your software, then maybe, oh, I don't know, use the goddamn tools provided to you to stop people from doing this?

Re:What kind of Copy Protection is OP using? (2)

alostpacket (1972110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527628)

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.

Stop blaming others (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35526908)

If you do not want you stuff to be copied by the click of a button, perhaps you should have made a sculpture rather than a few pieces of information residing in a computer system.

How can you get your game pirated? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527050)

As a burgeoning game developer, the main problem I see is marketing. I'd love to have a few thousand people playing my game, showing it to their friends, and hopefully for all of those thousands of free copies, a few dozen or even if I'm lucky, hundreds of their friends might decide to buy it.

If I give it away free on the Android market I have to give it away free to everyone. Hard to make a living that way.

Angry Birds holds lessons here (5, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527574)

Take your lessons from the leader in the field. You don't need it pirated, you need to give it away - sort of. You also need to work the buyer a little.

The lite version of Angry Birds with 15 levels is a cute introduction to the game that rewards the downloader for the trial by providing a few hours of entertainment. Sound is used throughout to influence the player. The play control is simple, which hides some complexity that lets the player think he's smart for figuring out the puzzle. Progress is incremental - you have to defeat a level before you go on, which rewards the user with frustration - this is good to a point, but they have to be well onto the hook before you pull them forward with frustration so the first few levels have to be fairly easy - but not pathetically so. Lessons: Hook 'em with a freebie that starts easy and gets harder fast, but doesn't turn impossible. The global competitiveness thing with top scores is trite. It's overdone. Avoid it.

The game is a moral play and the player is cast as the good guy destroying the evil pigs that steal the eggs. Even my 2 year old grandson gets this. Every world starts with a cartoon video that tells a story, each level starts with an intro that builds suspense. Do pigs really steal eggs? No. But that's the premise built by the opening animation that we consent to when we play the game. Idling is nefarious pig grunting to encourage play, and play includes enthusiastic bird charging sounds. It starts easy, with one star for each level, but is very difficult at three stars each level. Each time you beat a level you get an audio reward (birds crowing and a little instrumental piece) - and a trumpet for a new high score for the level. And when you don't beat it, a punishment - pigs laughing and grunting. You can get in and out very quickly and without too much loss (you can try a level in 30 seconds or so). Quicker is better. For the cheaters there are YouTube walkthroughs. It has no ads. This is the beta they used to get people into the game and its main screen includes a link to the market where you can buy the full version now that there is one. Lessons: Tell a story. Work the user emotionally with audio, give a lot of entertainment in the beta and it'll go viral and get you lots of beta testers and the feedback you need to perfect your game. It wouldn't kill you to post the first few YouTube walkthroughs for the cheaters yourself under a nym. Cheaters think they're clever for resourcing YouTube, and they're only hurting themselves. Reward them even for just running the app, with a happy greeting. Cast the player as the good guy in a moral play.

It's a great intro to the ad-supported full version. In fact, it's such a good intro that they've now a non-beta "seasons" freebie game that has more levels that is ad supported, that gets updated every major holiday with even more levels. Lessons: free spinoffs amplify the viral nature of the freebie and can be a good little earner all by itself. Save this for after the game itself is profitable.

For the full version that's ad-supported there are far more levels of course, and more all the time. Naturally there would be, or your customers would stop viewing ads when they completed the game. The full, no-ad version isn't supported on my phone yet (Android) and I suspect that's because they're making so much money on the ads. Lessons: if the ad-based game goes viral you can hire some cheap level designers to generate more content as time goes on - and you should to keep the money rolling in. And that pays for improving the value of the for-pay game as well.

The for-pay game includes an additional cheat: the Mighty Eagle, that you have to buy in-game to use. I don't get this option on Android yet I don't think, not that I'm the cheating kind. In-game purchases are the sort of thing you probably shouldn't think about right off. But the for-pay game is ridiculously cheap: 99c on iOS. That makes it so cheap that people don't even think about buying it, and don't try to get a refund, especially if they've already gotten over a dollar's worth of fun out of the freebies. It's a buck. To a developer with six months of iterative development and testing behind him, a buck probably doesn't sound like a lot of money. But these Rovio guys, they're doing OK at a buck and whether you like it or not, they're the rod the price of your game will be measured against because they're the most popular game. I'd pay several bucks for the game with no ads on my Android phone, and I imagine eventually they'll sell it to me - after I've already benefited them with some measure of ad impressions. That way they get paid both ways.

Finally, the game is boldly derivative of castle physics games with a long history, but the serial numbers are well-filed-off. There's a rich history of repurposing old ideas in gaming. That's fabulous. So go ahead and resource the history. Stand on the shoulders of giants (or the merely tall) who went before you- but put enough new spin on it to make it mostly your own work or you'll win big and then have to give it all back because you failed to touch first base. Remember the time-honored author's tradition: taking one person's ideas is stealing but taking three or more peoples' ideas is "research".

I guess the idea I'm getting at here is that the very idea "I spent nine man-months on this game and I expect to get paid" is upside down thinking. The customer spent thirty seconds downloading your game demo, and he expects to get paid more entertainment than that half-minute was worth to him. Give him a lot more, and he'll tell friends. And they'll tell friends. And you'll get that new Ferrari you've had your eye on since you were fourteen.

there is a simple easy answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527212)

simple make all android applications (i hate the fuck out of that word app) free then there is no gain except the honnour of writing the gamne or application in the first place .

Re:there is a simple easy answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527662)

Do you really think that would fix it? You don't think that an incredibly popular title would still be copied and implanted with rootkit/botnet software for criminal gain?

Apple haters get what they deserve.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527234)

I hate to say I told you so... but this is what all the Apple haters (most android users) came to the Android for, for the FREEDOM to do what they wanted, including illegally downloading and re-selling other people's hard work EASILY. You can not do this on the iOS platform. Sure, you can jailbreak and download an app illegally, but you can't just take someone's binary and re-sell it as your own work. This just makes me laugh and pity the "freedom fighters". I say this as an Android (nexus one) and iPhone user, and developer of both platforms.

that "developer" is just Charlie Sheen (1)

Locutus (9039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527304)

Google doesn't want to kick him off because he's "winning" something and makes for lots of ad hits.


But isn't there a licensing API to stop this? (3, Interesting)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35527410)

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...

Re:But isn't there a licensing API to stop this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35527608)

Easily cracked in seconds. Not a joke. It used to require only swapping a single switch statement around. No SecuROM for Android.

Games use it often, as well as other techniques, like content downloading - but then people package the content with the cracked app.

Google tolerates "evil" (2, Interesting)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

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