The iPhone App Piracy Problem

The iOS (that’s the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) AppStore has a problem.

A piracy problem.

If you have a jailbroken iPhone, that is one where you have run a bit of software to allow you to download apps outside of the AppStore then you may have come across pirated apps, you may not have installed them but you’re probably aware of them.

Before I talk about the morality of piracy, let me address the question of why

Why do pirates crack apps?

This is an interesting question and to understand the piracy we must address the motivations

1) Try before you buy

I’ve heard this many times for people’s justifications as to why they crack apps.

Apple doesn’t offer any form of demo or free trial for Apps and so I can understand this motivation.  However there are two problems with this justification

  1. Many of the popular apps already provide a ‘try before you buy’ in the form of a free ‘lite’ app from the App Store itself
  2. The conversion rate from cracked to paid is less than 0.5% (source)

The conversion rate of cracked to paid is incredibly low which simply blows any form of arguement of try before you buy out of the water… it’s total rubbish.

Sure some of you out there have done so, and I applaud you for that, but unfortunately you are in the very small minority.

2) A hatred of DRM

DRM (or Digital Rights Management) is an encryption and licensing technique used on DVD’s, BluRays, some iTunes purchases, etc and Apps from the AppStore.

It’s a system, whether you like it or not, that restricts where you can and can’t install your purchase. How many times you can install it and then what you can do or modify in it once you have installed it.

Cracking an App on the iPhone removes this encryption and DRM.

Again I can understand this, if someone wants to remove the DRM and encryption for their own use, then for me this is fair enough and I have no problem with them doing this.

But how, I ask, did that app end up on file sharing sites and specialised cracked app repos.  Opps sorry you’ve lost your argument again.  The minute you share that DRM free version you’ve lost my respect again and you’ve breached my copyright.

3) A fundamental belief that software should be free

This is the last category and it’s either that the user has a belief that all software should be free or they simply don’t care about the law.

The former, is a belief that a number of people hold, however who are they to decide under what license my software should be released.  Did they write it? Do they own the copyright? NO they don’t. So they do NOT get to decide under what terms my software is available.

If they want to write their own software and release it for free I will defend their right to choose that path, but at the same time I will defend anyone who decides to charge for their software, as it is their right to do so.

The rights of a developer

A developer works, a developer has a family, a developer has a mortgage, a developer has taxes to pay, a developer has computers to purchase to develop on, a developer has software to purchase (developers don’t use pirated software to develop commercial software, that would be hypocritical wouldn’t it!), a developer has servers to license, domains to buy, food to put on the table.  Do you see where I am going with this.

That push notification feature you love, that scheduling feature you love so much.  A server is involved there and who pays for that? Well either the developer makes a loss paying for it, or legitimate customers have to pay more simply to cover the cost of you giving away the app for free.

A cracker in all likelyhood isn’t a developer, they probably have a job outside IT.

Think about it this way, if you work in an office and an intern comes in and claims credit for all your work and doesn’t get paid, but because they’ve claimed credit for all your work you don’t get paid either, in fact you get made redunant is that fair? Is that right? No of course it’s not.

Developers do not work for free, they have the same bills and financial outgoings as anyone else.  So a message to the app crackers who distribute cracked apps out there, what gives you the right to give away my software for free and prevent me from paying my mortgage this month? ABSOLUTELY NONE, you are thieves… end of story.

One thought on “The iPhone App Piracy Problem

  1. Building429

    Agree with you 100% there! I am a developer myself and its rather annoying when people download pirated apps without even realizing (or at least caring) that they are in fact stealing!
    As a user, I do download the occasional pirated app (for the try-before-you-buy reason), but I can only think of one app that I ever downloaded and then didn’t buy (the app was really lame and I deleted it promptly).
    Even if its a game and I get addicted to it for a little bit and end up playing part of it, I always make sure to head on back to the app store and buy the app, even if I delete it right afterwards.
    I know a lot of people might think I’m crazy for doing that, but I see no difference between pirating apps and walking into a store and shoplifting.

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