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Apple’s App Store has a copyright infringement problem, business owner claims

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Software on Apple’s App Store may be reviewed by human editors and approved before distribution, but one business owner claims the iPhone maker is not doing enough to prevent copyright infringement. The Roanoke Times published a piece this week highlighting the issue of paid iOS apps scraping content from the web and packaging it in paid apps. While developer relations issues often get a lot of attention, the problem with the App Store according to Brian Raub is not a story heard often… Raub runs a travel review site called that employs 3 editors and 20 paid freelancers who review lake vacation spots across the country. The website’s content is original and earns revenue through web advertising, but Raub was recently tipped off to a handful of paid iOS apps that repackage and resell content from his website.

The company behind the pirating apps showed no interest in working with Raub to resolve the situation, so he says he involved Apple which originally wanted Raub and the other company to work things out. After some back and forth between the three parties, Apple eventually pulled the 11 piracy apps from the App Store.

Problem solved. Except the company behind the pirated apps responded by creating 20 more paid apps that simply repackaged content from Raub’s website, and Raub says Apple hasn’t been interested in fixing the problem this time.

Apple has App Store Review Guidelines to properly ban copyright infringement and scraping and repackaging web content, but those rules haven’t helped in Raub’s case obviously. Raub says he’s had to purchase the apps to even verify his content was used as it’s not searchable otherwise, and pursuing legal options wouldn’t be economical.

The bigger issue is that the problem clearly isn’t limited to Raub’s website. Search the App Store for ‘9to5mac’ and you’ll find our recently launched app plus a combination of both free and paid apps that present content pulled from our website.

For a business owner like Raub where there’s zero attribution or linking to his own website, the current App Store system seems to offer no clear solutions and legal options aren’t feasible.

In this case, the simple solution is probably banning developer accounts related to the pirating company in question, enforcing copyright protection tighter, and clearer communication to developers and impacted business owners alike. But no one wants to create a wild, wild west situation for anyone can cry foul and have a competitor removed from the market. Read the full piece here and let us know what you think.

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  1. lkrupp215 - 7 years ago

    What do I think? I think crooks are all around us. I think the violation of copyright and software piracy has been rationalized in the minds of those individuals who don’t see anything wrong with stealing someone else’s work since it’s not ‘real’ as they put it. We have seen this for years in the music industry where individuals justify theft by blaming the record labels and RIAA. I think it’s a culture problem, an ethics problem, a morality problem.

  2. banzboy - 7 years ago

    How about the hundreds of games which ripoff each other? It’s funny how Apple will sooner pull an app because it offends some people rather than one which pulls its assets from another app.

  3. This is actually super interesting and I never though of this before. Would this case apply to paid RSS readers apps as well? Such as Reeder on iOS or ReadKit on the Mac.

    • No. RSS readers fetch and read content published by the original authors and will display whatever the original author inserts in their feed, including attribution and link(s).

      The problem with the App store for iOS and the Mac is that they’re just giant cess pools. Mismanaged and unorganized giant piles of garbage. You have to practically “win the lottery” to find the gems within it – to say that 99% of content in the iOS app store is worthless junk would probably be understating the issue. That number falls for the Mac App store, but it’s still a poor ratio.

  4. realgurahamu - 7 years ago

    Their developer accounts should be instantly banned and all profits confiscated and paid to those who have had their rights breached. There is no excuse for stealing content of another publisher – eventually if this trend continues as it is, publications will be forced to close down due to loss of profits from advertising revenue etc and that is just plain wrong. Apple need to act better on this ASAP or risk becoming just like android where everything can be pirated freely.

  5. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    If your work is not copyrighted, and you put it on the internet, then there isnt an issue… I can’t find anywhere on the 9to5 website that states its content is protected by copyright laws… If you are a freelance writer, then it is very unlikely you have copyright protection and in fact by submitting that to a company it becomes their property…
    Websites like 9to5 regurgitate information that can be found on many websites – in some cases i have found some articles to be almost identical – plus the content is free…
    At the very least these apps should reference where the content originated from…they shouldnt be claiming it as their own… if content is copyrighted it would depend on the level of copyright and if you are still covering the charges for the copyright…

    Basically, anything you submit to the public domain is open and accessible to anyone — it’s not the app developers fault that users are willing to pay for content that is readily available online — but i guess some of them would rather pay for an app that pulls multiple sources together in one place… i don’t that is strictly illegal, your content is still be read… the issue would be IF they are claiming the content as their own creation – but from the article and from other users experiences, these apps are more like portals (imagine the news app from apple that link to a variety of new sites – apple are not creating the content themselves)

    Plus i dont really see it any different from people sharing posts on their facebook or in emails etc without asking permission… there are twitter accounts that more or less act like these portal apps – the person gathers information from different websites and puts them all in one place…

    • Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

      sorry… i should have read up a bit more — the above is partially true — apparently for the US online content is automatically protected by ‘copy right laws’ — things like comments, news etc can be used under fair use… reviews are kinda a grey area though cos they are sometimes news like material…also it can depend which country you are in and if they recognise copy rights or a particular kind of copy right…

      My previous comment is correct in saying that you can technically create apps to link or display websites as a whole and unedited – but should should site the source link… you cant just copy and paste content as your own… if websites dont want this kind of ‘free advertisement’ they should express this on their website that permission is needed… however, if the other person is approached and told by the owner of the content that they dont wish it to share, then it’s a breach… Apple shouldnt be held responsible though… some of these apps have other content that has either been approved or no one has said otherwise… technically it is between the content owner and the app owner… only serious breaches (such as paid copy rights, images, music, video etc) should apple be involved…

      • Glad you posted a second time, because your first post is absolute HORSE SHIT to put it politely. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • dannorder - 7 years ago

      “If your work is not copyrighted” The first words out of your mouth are wrong. All information produced by someone is copyrighted.

      “I can’t find anywhere on the 9to5 website that states its content is protected by copyright laws…” So? Writing a copyright on something hasn’t been required for many decades now.

      “Basically, anything you submit to the public domain is open and accessible to anyone” You are using the words “public domain” to mean something that is exact opposite of what it really means. “Public domain” means no copyright, Posting on the web is the copyright of the author, or whomever you assign that copyright to (generally the website).

      You’re painfully wrong here.

  6. alangallery - 7 years ago

    Well the US is planning to have a small claims copyright court running in a few years just like in the UK where is has been as success in making small scale claims possible to pursue. Since most of the copyright rip-off artists don’t understand copyright or wantonly deny infringement, it works very well with around 97% of cases successful for the claimants and many settling out of court when they receive the court document.

    For a magazine it should be economical to register the copyright of all the articles and pictures as individual works for one fee which takes the scale of statutory damages for each work into the $150000 level and where DRM has been removed for each work there or the whole product the statutory damages are even higher and that would mean a good IP lawyer would work of contingency.

  7. bb1111116 - 7 years ago

    Problem #1;
    “pursuing legal options wouldn’t be economical.”

    For many content providers, the legal system is not an option to protect the copyright for content.
    And when content is removed due to a violation, it often quickly comes back on the internet. This was shown in the current example. The content being on an app store does not change that situation. Gatekeepers like Apple or Google (including with YouTube) keep removing content and then it pops up again.

    Problem #2;
    “the simple solution is probably banning developer accounts related to the pirating company in question, enforcing copyright protection tighter, and clearer communication to developers and impacted business owners alike. But no one wants to create a wild, wild west situation for anyone can cry foul and have a competitor removed from the market.”

    The banning of companies involved with piracy will be oppossed by a large and vocal group in the tech community which is in favor of pirating content. In Europe there was a Pirate Party after all. Many entrepreneurs make money off of piracy.

    The end result is a Whack a Mole situation where the rights holders are continually trying to get content removed and it keeps being pirated.
    Except for rare exeptions, in the long run online piracy cannot be stopped.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news, hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast, and created