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August 25, 2010

Android Market and Piracy

Google has recently released a licensing service for Android applications that is supposed to make it more difficult to pirate paid apps. The service is not yet part of the operating system and it works by sending a query to Google's servers in order to determine if the user has bought an application.

Android Police found that it's quite easy to circumvent Google's verification, especially if the application's code is not obfuscated. "Because the License Verification Library is not part of the Android OS, an app developer needs to package it with the app that uses it, making it an easier patch target, without requiring root access. (...) The method is so simple, even a novice programmer could write a script to automatically patch most apps."

Google's Tim Bray responded by saying that "the first release shipped with the simplest, most transparent imaginable sample implementation," which didn't focus on security. He recommends developers to obfuscate the code and to use other implementations. Tim Bray also says that "the best attack on pirates is to make their work more difficult and expensive, while simultaneously making the legal path to products straightforward, easy, and fast. Piracy is a bad business to be in when the user has a choice between easily purchasing the app and visiting an untrustworthy, black-market site."

Tim Bray's answer is ironic, if you think about it. Google's Android Market lets you install paid applications only if you are in one of the 13 supported countries. The "legal path" is neither "straightforward, easy, or fast" if you don't live in one of the 13 countries that are supported. Maybe instead of focusing on developing anti-piracy services, Google should add more locations to the paid Android Market.

12 comments:

  1. right. waiting for the day i can directly purchase the paid apps from android market from here in india.

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  2. I'm pretty sure it's perfectly legal for anyone to create an alternative marketplace for Android apps in other countries.

    I don't think Google invented and patented the e-commerce store.

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  3. Either/or, neither/nor

    Sorry, but that's an elementary grammar faux pas.

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  4. @Anon:

    1. it was a quote

    2. "Although use with or is neither archaic nor wrong, neither is usually followed by nor." (source).

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  5. > Maybe instead of focusing on developing anti-piracy services, Google should add more locations to the paid Android Market.

    It's not one or the other. You think that working on anti-piracy tech slows down work on adding new countries?

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  6. Seems to be 14 now:

    Australia
    Austria
    Canada
    France
    Germany
    Italy
    Japan
    Netherlands
    New Zealand
    South Korea
    Spain
    Switzerland
    United Kingdom
    United States

    But only available to dev from 9 countries:
    http://market.android.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=150324
    Austria
    France
    Germany
    Italy
    Japan
    Netherlands
    Spain
    United Kingdom
    United States

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  7. I couldn't agree more with the last statement. Work more on expanding the market before working on antipiracy that will be circumvented anyway. Larger market = larger revenue.

    @StareClips.com: Someone already did. SlideMe.org

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  8. But unlike the Apple store, it's possible to install applications from elsewhere on Android phones.

    However this doesn't mean that Google really should put in more efforts to make their market more accessible...

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  9. Google main priority is to sell more ads, hence more free apps with ads is their agenda..and this sucks for people like us who live in the other countries.

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  10. I don't know what Google's issue is with this, but it's beyond retarded. People are pirating apps because they aren't allowed to buy them. A logical solution would be to allow them to buy the apps - if Google Checkout isn't up for the job, FFS just use Paypal like every other ecommerce site.

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  11. Too bad if the license itself is easy to break. The Android Guys should fix it as soon as possible.

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  12. I agree that one of the big problems is unavailability in countries other than those 13.

    I live in Vietnam, and I have no problem paying for apps I find useful. Unfortunately, I can't even see paid for only apps in the market. I love this little app called lightning bug, but I can't buy themes that are interesting for me (like the forest theme).

    On the other hand, paying through google is a good solution, I hope it will be integrated in the future, or that more developers will use it. I payed for MixZing trough google, worked without problems, it was easy and straightforward enough.

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