RPGMMobile Games, Apple iOS and Android Development


Down the Copyright Rabbit Hole

About a month ago, I set out to prove a point. First, a back-story: The staff of the software company Corona Labs (Ansca Mobile) allowed a teen who had made a quiz based on his favorite game to post on their blog about his success. He had over 100,000 downloads on his quiz app.

At first glance, you wouldn't think much of it - Corona Labs wanted to promote a youth who had used their software to do something fun. However, if you spent a minute or two thinking about it - and read the app's reviews - you see something a much less innocent: A software company promoting the use of patented / copyrighted material in an app (plus the app itself was sloppy and broken).

Not only was the premise of the post wrong, it was presented under the subtle message that "what this kid did is new and great, and you should strive to be like him". That message is ignorant on its face, even ignoring the fact that teenagers have always used the internet to build quizzes about things they like - it's nothing new. They put the kid into an inappropriate situation and defended it.

Nearly every comment on that blog post was negative; appropriately so. Corona Labs has since removed the embarrassing post. This is probably the only reference to it... Now to my point.

After my final comment on that post, I decided I would prove a point. I built a Pokemon Battler app. I downloaded the Pokemon logo and images of every single Pokemon from every single game from an unauthorized website (pokemondb.net). The content was freely available and took no time to find. The point of the app: When you are fighting a certain Pokemon, you find it in the app, and the app will tell you what Pokemon would be best to use against it, and what it's weak against. I finished it in 5 hours. Check it out

The point was: Anyone can take existing (even patented/copyrighted) ideas and graphics, put them together, and create a "successful" app. In theory, I was right. But in practice, I turned out to be (embarrassingly) wrong: While there are dozens of apps available for purchase or for free that contain the word "Pokemon" in the title, and a few that blatantly use the trademarked logo and copyrighted images my app was rejected!

It was rejected because... Guess why. No, seriously, guess why! ... ... ... Because I used copyrighted and trademarked images in my app. I could hardly believe it. I updated a few things to try and skirt around the rules, but I've been rejected 2 additional times.

My favorite example of published theft of trademarked (Pokemon) content in an app is this app. Note the use of the word Pokemon in the title and the main screen. Also note the use of copyrighted images and sounds from the games (the description even says it). This game is selling for $3.99 and is up to version 2.1 on the date of this post. It was even published around the same date I initially submitted my Pokemon Battler app. Apple is allowing this person (a Chinese guy whose Engrish needs a little work) to make profits from stolen property. It's exactly my point! But I can't make it for myself...

This is terrible. I am trying to make a point about how anyone can make a popular app by stealing someone else's work, but I failed to do it where others succeeded! Hahaha... I suppose theft is not my strong suit.

This evening, I put my Pokemon app content under a new app name and category (Reference Apps). I also "borrowed" the description from the above-mentioned app. I mean, I corrected the grammar and typos first. =)

This is an interesting rabbit hole, let's see where it goes.

Update: My app was unfortunately approved under the Reference category. Good job, Apple.