Software piracy has continued to plague developers as it remains a massive problem no matter how much law enforcement agencies and companies like Google and Microsoft have tried to fight it over the years. While the history of software piracy is as old as the history of personal computing itself, those looking to use software without paying their legitimate price have now shifted their attention towards mobile apps and games as well. While iOS is still comparatively immune from app piracy because of Apple’s infamous ‘walled garden’ approach, some Android developers have been badly hit by the practice over the years.
However, law enforcement is now fighting back, as a Mississippi resident has now found out to his detriment. Mr. Aaron Blake has been found guilty of criminal copyright infringement for running a website called ‘Applanet’, which was once the go-to site for those wanting cracked and patched versions of Android apps, before the domain was seized by law enforcement authorities in 2012 along with a couple of other websites on similar charges in a crackdown over pirated Android software. According to law enforcement officials, Applanet provided links to cracked and patched apk files hosted on file-sharing sites, thereby allowing users to enjoy premium apps and games without having to pay for them. The total value of Android apps distributed by Mr. Blake and his accomplice, Mr. Gary Edwin Sharp II, is said to be upwards of $17 million.
Both men pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal copyright infringement and will be sentenced on August 1st. As for Mr. Sharp, he allegedly ran another pirate website, called ‘SnappzMarket’ that is said to be responsible for distributing illicit software worth $1.7 million. The two aforementioned websites were reportedly seized in 2012 by the police along with another similar site called AppBucket, all of which were allegedly involved in distributing pirated versions of premium Android applications for free. Unlike iOS, Android allows users to download and install apps from any source (a process known as 'sideloading'), and while that allows the sort of flexibility that iOS users can barely dream of, it also creates problems when it comes to issues like piracy and security.