Having your app pirated - what do you do?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by CBanga, Jul 8, 2009.

  1. CBanga macrumors newbie

    Jul 6, 2009
    Hey everyone,

    I recently had a thing come up today where I found out that our app was being pirated. Frankly, I was kinda shocked and didn't know how to react. It just sorta sucked to check the download counter and see over 4000 potential downloads taken away through piracy in less than 5 hours.

    I was wondering as to what other devs have been doing about piracy? How do you react if you see your app being distributed illegally?

    Personally, I went about writing a little article on our blog explaining our situation and am hoping we can get some awareness via people who check out our website. I'm just hoping that it can help raise the idea that app store piracy doesn't hurt huge companies, but the small indie dev team made of college students like me and my team.

    Here's a link, check it out and offer me your opinions, I would love to see if you guys are on the same thought path as I am. Feel free to digg it and share it with other devs as well. <snip>
  2. messedkid macrumors 6502


    Jul 8, 2007
    Oshawa, ON

    Let's hope Apple somehow cracks down on appstore piracy, and more specifically on Jailbreaking, to keep the money flowing in.
    IMO the Appstore is amazing, giving the underdog, the little guy, a chance to throw some useful code out there, and make a little cash.

    Support your Devs!
  3. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    I have downloaded hundreds of programs from certain sites.
    Out of those hundreds I purchased 62 various programs, not counting free ones.
    Most of the programs I have downloaded didn't met my needs, horrible interface, or had limited functionality, while if others did what I needed I was happy to purchase them.
    While I don't condone piracy, I don't like the All Sales Final policy.

    some I work with have many apps and haven't paid for 1. while others pay for their apps. some pay for OSX some don't.

    If my phone wasn't jailbroken and I wasn't able to see if a program met my needs I surely would not have 62 paid for programs, I would have a lot less.
  4. fleshman03 macrumors 68000


    May 27, 2008
    Sioux City, IA
    Few thoughts...

    I haven't seen your app nor used it. These are just my opinions at large.

    I liked your little rant. A little long (so others might not actually read it.), but nice.

    Don't think of the 4000 downloads as "potiental" sales. Think of it more along the lines of maybe 200... (I'd be inclined to say less than 5%, but we'll stick with that.)

    That still puts you out a small amount of money. To that you should be somewhat angry.

    However - I want to make a point.

    This might get your app out there. For instance, a more technologically inclined person might show it to their less technologically inclined friend. That person could think it's awesome (upon recommendation) and go to the app store and buy it.

    I'm sure you pirated music sometime in your past. (Most under 25 have.) How many times have you discovered a band and then went out and got their CD/mp3?

    I'd suggest removing the download count throughout our rant. It will just make pirates dislike you. I'd recommend something shorter, to the point of you being a college student trying to make a buck.

    Please for my own sake, take a look at this book. It's a free ebook. It describes what is going on with piracy through a more accurate lens.

    Also to the person above me who said Apple should stop jailbreaking, you seriously underestimate how computers go to where they are. People tinkering with stuff and putting a vision out there brought us here. Seriously, do you think we'd have an App store if it wasn't for the jailbreak community? I personally think they should have copyrighted the idea.

    How many jailbroken apps have lead Apple to release new features? Video Camera and tethering are the first that come to mind.
  5. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I agree with most of your post except that Apple added tethering and video recording because of jailbreaking. Those were features that were already available in other cell phones, they were nothing ground breaking, just because they were available by jailbreaking before doesn't mean that's why Apple added those features...
  6. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    I think jail breaking has pushed apple to incorporate features just as much as public outcry.

    With jailbreaking comes a lot of good things and some negative.
  7. anjinha macrumors 604


    Oct 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    I agree, I just don't think tethering and video recording were specifically because of jailbreaking since they're pretty common features on other phones...
  8. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    Our first app was cracked within an hour of appearing on the App Store :eek:

    You can make things a bit more difficult for the crackers by including the following code in your main App delegate in the applicationDidFinishLaunching method (before the windows are added):
    	NSBundle *bundle = [NSBundle mainBundle];
    	NSDictionary *info = [bundle infoDictionary];
    	if ([info objectForKey: @"SignerIdentity"] != nil)
    When an application is cracked, the SignerIdentity property is added to your main plist (this is how they get the phones to run them, apparently), and it doesn't exist for non-cracked apps.
    This code snippet checks for the existence of the SignerIdentity property and quits the program if it's there.
  9. threezero macrumors 6502

    Aug 22, 2008
    instead of quitting the program. May I suggest sumthing warmer for a potential new buyer.

    whoever d/led your app is interested or need it. if your code simply quite the app when it detects its pirated would just turn those ppl away, they would be thinking the app doesn't work for watever reason on his/her phone (i dare to say at least 10% of crap apps on the appstore quits on launch even if its legitimately brought judging from the reviews people leave) and promptly deletes the app and find alternative.

    Instead, allow the pirate user to access some of your app's function but withheld the most important one. If its a game have it so its possible to playt he first few level than the rest of the level will bring about an error screen that suggests in the less intrusive way possible that perhaps the problems the user is encountering is because the app is pirated.

    Check out Real Racing and Beejives. I admit i have d/l a cracked app version of real racing. The app let me play abt 4 races before give me an error that cause the game to be unable to save.

    In teh end i brough the app.

    If Firemint implemet a piracy check at the start of the app and the app wouldn't even launch i would have promptly delete and forget. After "trying" of the first few races i can't help but to delete the cracked one and brought a legit copy from app store and it has been running fine with no error msg.
  10. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    Wirelessly posted (iPod touch 32GB: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7C97d Safari/528.16)

    I understand what you are saying threezero, but I guess it depends on whether you view people who are installing cracked apps as potential customers or freeloaders who have no intention of buying your app anyway.

    For everyone who will buy the app if they like it I would guess there are 100 who just want it for nothing.

    One thing that does surprise me is that no developer, as yet, has hit back at the crackers in a big way: if the app is cracked it's running on a jailbroken phone.

    This means a developer could put code in that really messes with your phone and it wouldn't be detected by Apple during their testing.

    All it would take would be an unscrupulous developer to install a key logger if the app was cracked and peoples bank accounts could get cleared out.
  11. mgamber macrumors 6502a


    Jun 12, 2008
    Welcome to the real world, I'm afraid. I've been writing software since the mid 70's and tried the "shareware" thing 10 or 15 years ago and discovered that it was almost pointless. I haven't tried to sell a publicly available application since that time for just that reason. Between theft and taxes, it did nothing toward keeping a roof over my family's collective head and was more trouble than it was worth. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from writing and selling software but piracy....theft....is a fact of life. It affects every platform, there's no escaping it and, like putting locks on a house, Apple's efforts only keep honest people honest. If someone is determined enough to steal it, they will.

    One obvious solution is to put a kill switch in the app and have ET phone home on occasion. If something doesn't add up, kill it. Slingplayer works something like that. Of course, that can be worked around by a determined criminal but it makes it a magnitude more difficult. Oh sure, the smug and self-righteous love to howl about unethical it is but I don't see anything very ethical about theft so, you know, who cares what they think?

    By the way, there's not much more tiresome than "I wasn't going to buy it anyway". It's the same as breaking into someone's house, stealing their DVD player and then using the defense of "I wasn't going to hook it up anyway". I don't care if you were going to buy it or not, if I see you on the street, you'll walk away with fewer teeth.

    P.S. Messing with someone's phone could make your app be seen as a virus and knowingly spreading a virus is a felony. Just food for thought.
  12. philgilder macrumors 68000

    Sep 30, 2007
    if you look at the case of music piracy, pirates are more likely to actually buy music than those that do not pirate music. maybe this is the case with apps?


    I think Apple might pull an app that does that...
  13. bruinsrme macrumors 603


    Oct 26, 2008
    Which lead to the question many have discussed in numerous threads, Why does apple not incorporate such common features found in much "lesser" phones?
  14. bbplayer5 macrumors 68030

    Apr 13, 2007
    Jailbreaking and piracy are way different things. Get a clue.
  15. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030


    Jul 7, 2009
    I like the idea of the detection that it is a pirated copy, and displaying a message about it. But what about displaying the pirated message, explaining that it is hurting you personally but if they want, they can continue to use the app. Make them feel guilty. Then in your app, if you can, get the main contact information and send it to yourself. From there you can craft nice personal letters.

    Mr. XXXX,
    I see that you've pirated my application, and although I don't condone it, I know I can not prevent it. But I have also seen that you've used it 42 times in the last 3 days; how about doing the right thing and buying it?
    Thanks -- Me.

  16. CBanga thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 6, 2009
    Great ideas, we might definitely look into displaying a message to cracked users.

    In response to some comments on my post, I understand that piracy isn't a 1:1 loss kinda thing and that a good portion of our pirates would never buy our app anyways. The point I most wanted to make is that these losses are just huge numbers to consider, even if we only lost 10% of our pirated number, for a small company like mine who is dependent upon every sale.

    Would love to see how conversation continues with people and their opinions on as to how developers can't fight back. Again, if you haven't seen my post with our story on how piracy hit us, check it out here <snip>
  17. messedkid macrumors 6502


    Jul 8, 2007
    Oshawa, ON
    And how do you get said pirated apps on your iPhone/iPod? Jailbreaking. :rolleyes:


    Jailbreaking to install themes and other haxies to make your iPhone more practical, by all means, go nuts. I agree that Jailbreaking adds many features that should have been there in the first place, and if Jailbreaking adds it...fine! Jailbreak.

    Jailbreaking to download pirated software?
    Well like you said, get a clue.

    ps. admit i worded my first post a bit weird and more directed at Jailbreaking, but w/e, it's only the interwebz.
  18. CBanga thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 6, 2009
    I must agree with Messedkid. While it's wrong to look at every possible pirated copy of your software as a missed dollar, in the same light, you have to think that with all the jailbroken phones there are, one or two of those is being done for the sole purpose of pirating software.
  19. xsecretfiles macrumors 6502

    Aug 1, 2008

    But that's our point not all of us jailbreak their phones for pirated apps. All of you are basically saying that jailbreak is responsible for pirated apps....Are torrents responsible for piracy?? NO they enable faster access to files....whatever peolpe do with them, it's their problem
  20. spamdumpster macrumors 6502a

    Jan 22, 2008

    One thing to consider would be a lite version of your app -- maybe one that works for 7 days or something and then prompts the user to delete or buy the full version (if apple allows that). One of the most frustrating things about the app store is the inability to try most apps for free without buying them first. It's well established that most app store apps are downloaded once, rarely used, and then deleted. The reason why this happens is because the vast majority of apps suck.

    I admit I have installed cracked apps in the past and will continue to do so. The reason why is to try them BEFORE buying them. Right now I have the following paid appstore apps on my phone: Beejive, Byline, Tweetie, Crash Kart, Solebon, Wunder Radio, Moto Chaser, Sudoku, MLB At Bat, and Sygic NAM. With the exception of Sygic, all of these apps have one thing in common -- I installed a cracked version first, used the app for about a week, AND THEN BOUGHT THE PAID VERSION. (Sygic absolutely sucks and I'm deleting it as I type this post. If I had paid $80 for it, I would be irate, it sucks so bad.)

    So, I have bought about $45 of apps, but I wouldn't have bought even one of them had I not tried it first. Maybe I'm the exception, but I swear that I have actually paid for every cracked app that I have actually kept on my phone. I have no idea how many cracked apps I've tried and then deleted. Probably about $200 (including the aforementioned Sygic). Had I actually paid for a couple hundred dollars of apps that sucked, I never would have bought the $45 of apps I've actually paid for.

    I know that your app is only $0.99, but it's not like it's the only $0.99 app that people might consider buying.
  21. nfl46 macrumors 604

    Oct 5, 2008
    I don't think people will be able to stop pirating apps, just like music pirating will never be stopped. I guess you have no choice but to deal with it; it's life, nowadays.
  22. CBanga thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 6, 2009
    Thanks for the suggestions, we'll take it to heart. We're looking at a variety of ways to increase our sales and are looking at any suggestions we can get haha.
  23. caitlin macrumors member


    Apr 29, 2008
    Memphis, TN
    I doubt it. The reason music piracy helps is because the situation is that the person pirates the music, and then becomes a fan, spreads the word, and then -pays- to see the shows, and maybe buy a t shirt.

    With the app piracy, a person pirates the app, and there is no secondary option to pay the developer, other going to the App Store and buying it.
  24. caligurl macrumors 68030


    Jun 8, 2009

    agreed! agreed! agreed!

    during my short ownership and app-hoedness.... i've downloaded a ton of apps (mostly free and lit versions with some paid)

    i have issues with spending even that .99 to download something only to find out it stinx! i've already done it too many times and i've only been an iphone owner 2.5 weeks!

    lite/trial versions are the way to go (especially if the app costs more than .99!)

    i've purchased the paid versions of apps that i got a chance to trial via lite versions (and i've also not bought them)... but without the free trial... i won't give the majority a chance!

    as far as pirated... i didn't even realize you could get apps anywhere but at itunes????? shows how much i know! however i don't think i'd take the chance of putting something on my phone that i didn't get/buy from itunes for fear of them putting a virus on it or bricking it!
  25. MadGoat macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2007
    This is probably why we will see more service based apps. where you can get the app for little to no money, but the app will only work if you have a paid membership to a service.

    Even if it's as simple as the client authenticating via username/password & device serial number, paying a 1 time fee and server then passes a token that's tied to that serial number. or whatever we can pull via the API(i've never looked into that method)

    Of course even that method can be hacked, but it would make it easier for devs to ban serial #'s based on accounts on the server.

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