Online piracy has been a thorn in the side of both the music and film industries for almost as long as the internet has been in existence. While the battle is still waged on dedicated websites where people can download files, another avenue has popped up since the emergence of the smartphone, mobile apps. Big Hollywood is now taking the fight to “rogue” apps that use images from movies and television shows without permission by going through the proprietors of the app stores, Apple and Google.
For instance, just last week Time Warner Inc. Warner Brothers Studio discovered “Hobbit 3D Wallpaper HD” which is an app in the Google Play Store that uses images from the popular movie without permission. The studio sent Google a take down notice to which the search giant quickly complied by removing the illegal app. According to Google, Walt Disney Co’s Marvel unit, Sony Corp, Viacom Inc’s Paramount, and News Corp’s Twentieth Century Fox and Warner have all submitted infringement notifications.
With “app stores” becoming a greater source of revenue, a predicted 2013 figure of $20 billion, these content providers are taking greater steps to protect their intellectual property by enforcing licensing fees. Obviously this isn’t just about streaming content anymore either. Studios are using apps more and more to engage viewers through ads in specific games and as ways to sell merchandise.
Recently IP Lasso, a firm that monitors brands on mobile apps, “surveyed 100 apps that mentioned Oscars or the Academy Awards, and found that 90 percent of those apps available on major app stores, like Google Play and Apple Inc’s app store, contain content that may not have been authorized by studios, TV networks or other creators.”
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has also expanded their surveillance into the mobile app field. According to Marc Miller, senior vice president for internet content protection for the MPAA, “Smartphone apps that provide a direct link to infringing content have become a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Not only do these apps offer access to creative content that has been illegally copied, but they also pose risks to consumers from malware and often fail to provide viewers with the quality product they could often get through a growing number of legitimate sources.”
Also unlike websites where people go to download illegal content knowingly, consumers using unlicensed applications may be unaware that they are using something illegally obtained. “Consumers have been led to believe if an app is available through iTunes or Google Play, then it must be safe” said Reggie Pierce, chief executive officer of IP Lasso.