iPhone developers: apps cloned, Apple no help (updated x2)

iPhone developers are dealing with a new threat: duplicates of their applications being approved by Apple, and then released in the App Store as competitors. Citing an Apple Developer Forums thread in which app developers are complaining of their apps being downloaded, copied by other developers, and then re-posted to the store with either the same or very similar names, iLounge reader Zen Ho says that the cloning phenomenon is “being handled unsatisfactorily by Apple.” Ho cites TouchScan, an application cloned by a different developer’s “Touch Scan Pro,” reusing images, sound, and text from the original app; additionally, the developer of iCopter recently watched as both “iCopter Free”—now titled “Copter Free”—and “iCopter Classic” were released, further confusing consumers by using an only slightly modified version of the original iCopter’s logo. Thus far, Apple has been unwilling to help affected developers by removing the impostor applications, says Ho, and instead has told them “to sue the offenders themselves.” Ho sees it as “Apple’s duty to ensure that such plagiarism is rejected in the first place, and to at least take them down upon complaints,” noting that “it is scary to think that anyone developing for the platform can have their business stolen [at] anytime.”

Updated: In an e-mail response to iLounge, the developer of Touch Scan Pro has presented several counter-arguments to the ones made by Ho above. “I wrote Touch Scan Pro in 38 minutes,” explains Gary Fung, suggesting that due to the trivial time it took to copy Touch Scan, and the lack of originality in the original application’s graphics, name, and concept, all of which he claims were legally unprotectable, “[t]he author of Touch Scan simply cannot expect this amount of effort to earn him a living for the rest of his life.” Fung also claims that he developed the Pro application to make a statement about the lack of value that the original Touch Scan application offered. “I felt that consumers are not getting their $0.99 worth of utility from this app so I wrote one and gave it away for free,” said Fung. “For the first week Touch Scan Pro was free not as a trial or limited time offer. It was simply free. It was only until Markus started to harass me then I decided to change my mind.” Now Fung is charging the same $1 that he said the original program was not worth.

Update 2: Markus Stöbe, developer of the original Touch Scan, has weighed in with his own e-mail response: “What kind of difference does it make how long it took me to code TouchScan?… And it doesn’t make any difference if he thinks this is not original… it’s my work and hence it is protected by copyright. [M]y interpretation of the theme, regardless how long it took me, regardless if he doesn’t like it and regardless of the prize I ask for it: it is my work and it is protected… [he] did not start charging because I mailed him but because he wanted to make some quick bucks with someone elses work.”

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