Copy Apps have been an issue for a while in the iOS App Store. But these usually come about in the form of low quality copies of existing successful apps, where artwork has been ripped off, gameplay aspects have been copied, and the app has been given a similar name. The companies, or people doing this have ranged from cheap back street sweatshop software companies in emerging economies up to even the likes of Capcom – allegedly!
But this week a new kind of Doppelgänger App has reared its ugly head in the app store. Small Indie developer Wolfire launched their “Lugaru HD” app in the Mac App Store a little while ago. Previously this app had been part of the Indie “Humble Bundle” software pack, and as part of that initiative some developers released the source code to their apps; so that up and coming coders could hopefully learn from it.
The terms of the GPL license under which this source was released are fairly clear, but in fairness are open to some interpretation – or at least debate. However, the spirit in which the source was released and the “plain English” explanation that devs. gave about how the code could be re-used is not.
Unfortunately a rather cynical Mac App Store developer known as ‘iCoder’ has taken the source, reengineered “Lugaru HD” and released it in Apple’s latest online software experience, alongside the original (with a very similar name), but for a sixth of the price. And despite direct approaches from the developer and other blogs they remain stubbornly convinced that what they have done is legal, and worse still morally justifiable.
iCoder’s interpretation of the situation is as follows:
the license we were granted allows for non-exclusive redistribution of the source code or the compiled product, modified or unmodified, for a fee or free of charge.
Where as Wolfire, and most right minded devs, see it completely differently:
Ignoring the fact that this is obviously a violation of our license, the reason we made the source code available is to give more opportunities for modders and novice programmers to experiment with full game engines and help promote the message of the Humble Bundle. Corrupting this effort for fraudulent financial gain is the worst ethical violation we’ve ever experienced.
To compound matters further Apple’s App Store Gnomes are being typically sluggish about responding to the original developer’s complaints, and all this time iCoder is stealing sales from Wolfire off the back of their hard work – and reasonable degree of success.
The downside of all of this, apart from the suffering that Wolfire are going through at the moment, is that devs are unlikely to be so free with their source code, or their trust in future. Which is a blow to the ideals of Open Source, budding developers being able to share ideas, and ultimately learn from their peers – a cornerstone of how our creative industry was founded – and still works in large part today.
This seems really unfair to us. What is your view? Should iCoder be allowed to get away with this? And shouldn’t Apple respond a little quicker to an issue like this? Have your say in the comments…