Android Piracy: A Walk Down Memory Plank

Discussion in 'Android News' started by JohnDroid, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. JohnDroid
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    (The following is a guest post by Dave D from thisgreenmachine.com, the full post can be found by clicking _here_.)


    The Year of Android

    2010 has been a spectacular year for Android. October 22nd will mark the two-year anniversary of the T-Mobile G1 launch, and in this short period Android has grown from what felt like a half-baked software project into a highly competitive, robust, smart phone operating system. The numbers are staggering – almost exactly a year ago, the Android Market had just surpassed the 10,000 app milestone. Today, a rumored 100,000 apps are yours for the download. Earlier this year, Google announced during their first quarter results that over 60,000 Android phones were being activated daily. By second quarter that number had grown to a mind melting 160,000, and as of the beginning of this month, Eric Schmidt confirmed that Android had officially reached over 200,000 daily activations.

    As with all good things, too much too fast comes with a price. Recent headlines have shown the growing pains associated with Android’s meteoric rise. New reports of viruses and malware seem to be common place. At a time when user security and privacy are a heightened issue, Android finds itself tangled in a constant fire drill of easing consumer anxiety. With plenty already on the Android team’s plate, a new issue finds itself at the forefront: piracy. Android Police recently released an eye-opening exclusive report describing a method of circumventing Android’s License Verification Library (LVL). The report includes a video, which demonstrates how, with a little elbow grease, one could effectively get paid applications for free. Although Google was quick to respond, the point has been made. Potential piracy is a real issue.

    Arrghh me matey!

    Ok, I admit it. I’ve previously engaged in piracy. But honestly, who hasn’t? Anyone attending college during the peer-2-peer (Limewire, Kazaa, Napster) hay day is most likely in the same circle. Drunkenly downloading Toto’s “Africa” during a Tuesday night Discovery Channel safari special with friends is not something I regret. So why did I engage in such morally despicable actions? Because it was really, really easy. If a thirty-something mother of four can figure it out, how hard could it be? Here’s where I begin to take issue with the Android piracy fear-mongering.

    First, piracy happens. It’s a right of passage for all software developers. Anything worth stealing will eventually be stolen by those who want it bad enough. Congrats, your application is actually good! No, this does not mean we should give up on all safeguards and hide in our respective corners. It is an uphill battle, but the battle should, and will be fought. That being said, it’s the opinion of this writer that piracy of Android apps will not turn into as widespread an issue as others may believe. Why? Because it’s not really that easy. Downloading Napster and searching for “Toto Africa” is a far different experience from installing and learning to use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) for the purpose of sideloading applications. Anyone who has ever perused the “How to root” section of any Android forum will know the pain of which I speak. The average consumer is not likely to spend the time and effort to save $0.99. Lastly, there’s a larger, much better anti-piracy system already in place. It’s called “Almost 60% of all Android apps in the market are free”. Mix that with “You can return any paid app for a full refund within 24 hours,” and piracy almost seems like a hassle.

    Cash Money Crew

    Developers need not worry. Piracy will not destroy your returns. As Aaron La (Author of the famed Advanced Task Manager) recently pointed out, you can make almost as much money from free apps with AdMob ads as you can from the pay version. The game is constantly changing, and so too must developers. As the community continues to point out flaws in the system, Android will surely keep increasing security to make sure piracy does not become “easy”. If cries of piracy are not heard, fixes would never be made. Thankfully, Android has been a huge success with a market full of great content to warrant such cries. If you build it, they will come.

    -Dave D

    Sources: Guardian, Android Police, Android Developers Blog, CNN, Aaron La Blog.
     
  2. TuBitMittens
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    My droid and I are going to hell. :/
     
  3. Roland B.
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    your going to hell???? im scared to ask where im going!!
     
  4. Corinacakes
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    Corinacakes DF Super Moderator Theme Developer

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    Why I Neva!!!!!!
     
  5. ocdtrekkie
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    From what I've gathered, the most common type of piracy is much simpler:

    1. Buy
    2. Backup using a file manager
    3. Uninstall for refund
    4. Install using backup

    I'm not trying to provide this as a how-to manual, but I believe this is the more common (and much easier) method of pirating Android applications, because the vast majority of them are not protected in any fashion at all.

    I personally don't, because I'm big on supporting and pushing the Android platform, so I often buy apps I'll only use once, just to keep the support up and out there. And I don't want the exploitation of this to lead to Google taking the refund period, which is a wonderful thing, away.

    A perhaps thought might be Google making apps protected ("private") on your phone until after the 24 hour refund period passes, so that you can't back up the app until you can no longer get a refund for it.
     
  6. syst3merror
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    this is the worst kind of piracy....not only are you stealing the app, but you make the dev. think they made a sale! haha

    "Oh look, someone purchase my app! YEY! Oh wait, they just refunded...FML!"
     
  7. kodiak799
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    I didn't think that method worked. By accident, I had backed up an app I refunded...Flashed a rom and re-installed from back-ups and that refunded app would not work.

    A buck or two isn't really worth pirating. 20 apps would only set you back $20-$30, and quite honestly I don't think there are 20 apps I'd want to pay for (I would, but with the exception of a handful I'd seek out a free alternative). MP3's, on the other hand, add-up....at $1 a piece you'd be talking a few thousand bucks to get everything you like, and it's far easier to do than pirating apps 1-off.
     
  8. zenman77
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    I look it this way. These developers have taken the time to provide us with some really useful and fun apps. I don't mind paying the small amount that they ask for as if it was not for their efforts, we would'nt have these things..........
     
  9. ShowTime
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    ShowTime Member

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    "New reports of viruses and malware seem to be common place..."

    where have I been while all these Android viruses were being discovered? Or are we now counting things like, "my phone isn't working like it used to, I think I have a virus" as a legitimate report of a virus? Anyhoo, yes, people are always going to find a way to get stuff for free or to get stuff they shouldn't have. You still do your best to prevent it, but understand it's going to happen anyway.
     
  10. furbearingmammal
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    I'm aware of one virus, in Russia, that only worked against rooted phones -- because spot (stock) users don't have the access they need to execute malicious code with any real effect...

    I "pirated" one app. I wanted to test it out before I paid for it and I didn't want to get charged $1 by my credit card for the 1 cent (long story, don't ask) it was going to cost me. As soon as I had it on my phone it stopped being needed and it eventually got deleted after I got tired of looking at the icon. I honestly was going to pay for it if I found a use for it, but I never did. It's gone, in any case.

    Piracy is going to happen. The iPhone is even more rife with piracy than the Android OS, always will be, because of the way the iOs is set up. Period. I don't like it, I don't agree with it, and I don't see why people feel the need to steal other people's work.
     
  11. phatkat66
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    I strongly suggest this post and any others quoting or posting "its as easy as [instructions on pirating]" be erased. You might not think you are but you ARE giving wanna be pirates the easiest instruction to stealing apps. I feel terrible for the devs because of this simple process.
     
  12. Delirious17
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    Good job quoting how to yourself.
     
  13. ocdtrekkie
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    ROFL

    Honestly, I don't think anyone pirating apps *doesn't* know how to do that, so I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I'm sure it's posted elsewhere on the forum too.


    But yeah, when it comes to Android apps, there's no real good reason to pirate, if you are paying for a data plan, you probably can afford a $3 app.

    I know SpeedX uses a neat little code block that checks if it was installed via Market, and only works if it is to prevent the backup/refund method.
     
  14. travelingfool
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    Just out of curiosity, and not intended as judgement, but to those of you who who are so eager to say that it is morally wrong to pirate apps, do you apply the same morality when it comes to circumventing the carrier's TOS regarding tethering via pdanet or using rooted wifi hotspot apps for free?

    Wrong is wrong, right?

    Just for the record, I agree that it is wrong to pirate software. However, I am not adverse to tethering for free.

    Logic dictates that my position is ethically inconsistent.

    Any takers?
     
  15. furbearingmammal
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    Verizon says WiFi tethering for the Droid doesn't exist. Therefore there's no way we're doing it, free or otherwise. They have not blocked access to PDA Net, Proxoid, or Easy Tether, from stock phones and those allow free USB tethering, unless you buy the app. Therefore, since rooting/jailbreaking is legal, unless we circumnavigate the security on the built-in USB tethering and use it for free, any program we use (including the one from the Google Code project, like I use) we're merely using a different method, but legal, method to tether.

    Logically my reasoning is impeccable, though not without argument. It works for me. :)

    By violating our TOS all we're really doing (yes, I know what we're really really doing) is allowing Verizon to terminate our contract. They want our money, so they're loath to do that as long as we're paid up.
     
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