“Better Android” lost their account. Boo hoo…

6 Aug

(updated below)

Bashing Google seems to be all the rage today, and in that spirit,  “Better Android” blogged  a few days ago that their Android market account was suspended, and that they had no idea why because Google wouldn’t tell them anything beyond “Your Android Market developer account has been suspended due to violations of our developer agreement and policies” . Those poor guys, right?

Not so fast…

Let’s look at that developer agreement, for example  section 5.5, which states:

You represent and warrant that you have all intellectual property rights, including all necessary patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights, in and to the Product. If You use third-party materials, You represent and warrant that you have the right to distribute the third-party material in the Product. You agree that You will not submit material to Market that is copyrighted, protected by trade secret or otherwise subject to third party proprietary rights, including patent, privacy and publicity rights, unless You are the owner of such rights or have permission from their rightful owner to submit the material.

Now, let’s look at some of Better Android’s apps:

Disney icon pack
Hello Kitty keyboard skin
Mario home screen skin
Spongebob Squarepants home screen skin

The list goes on. I counted at least a dozen skins, themes and icon packs based on copyrighted material. Now what do you think the chances are that Disney, Sanrio, Nintendo or Nickelodeon actually licensed these to  Better Android? Now, Better Android claims that those are old apps that they unpublished a long time ago because they were asked to. While it’s true that some of these apps were unpublished in 2010 or earlier, even a casual search of sites like androidzoom.com, androlib.com, hawkee.com and other sites that list apps from the Android market, not to mention a Google cache search, shows that some of these apps were still in the Android market as recently as a few months ago. For example, compare the user comments here, here and here, and it’s clear that the Disney icon pack was still available in the Android market in May 2011. It’s obvious that they’ve been publishing copyrighted stuff as early as 2009, and continuing through 2011. Clearly, they’ve been in violation of section 5.5 of the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement since 2009.

But wait, there’s more…

Note that Google’s response mentioned “violations of our developer agreement and policies“. So let’s take a look at those policies, specifically the very last paragraph, which states:

Serious or repeated violations of the Developer Distribution Agreement or this Content Policy will result in account termination. Repeated infringement of intellectual property rights, including copyright, will also result in account termination.

Are you still wondering why Better Android’s account got suspended?

But wait, there’s still more…

“Android” is a registered trademark, and there are rules for how you can use the Android brand, which are described in the brand guidelines. Item 4 in those states:

Any name with ‘Android’ alone may not be used in a name without permission. Any name with ‘Droid’ alone may not be used in a name.
The word ‘Android’ may be used only as a descriptor, ‘for Android’. If used with your logo, ‘for Android’ needs to be smaller in size than your logo. First instance of this use should be followed by a TM symbol, ‘for Android™’

and:

Any usage of #04 or #05 needs to include footer attribution in your communication:
“Android is a trademark of Google Inc.”

Now remember that this developer was going by the name “Better Android”. Do you think Google gave them permission for that? Do you see the required attribution anywhere on their website?

So there you have it: “Better Android” is a repeat copyright infringer that is using the Android trademark illegally. Is it any wonder they were booted from the Android market? The only surprising thing in this whole story is that Better Android continues to play the victim by claiming they have no idea why their account got suspended, when they should have seen this coming from miles away.

Update:

“Better Android” created a new developer account (despite being asked not to), and got suspended again. Sadly, they continue to play the victim and misleading their users and readers. For example, they say that only twice in the last two years did they receive app suspension notices, and that they’ve been very careful since then, when the reality is that they had many more copyright violating apps that got pulled, and their most recent ones were available as recent as a few months ago. They don’t even acknowledge their Android trademark violation, though they were careful enough to reregister under a name that did not violate the Android trademark policies.

Then they go on to say that “banning all apps from a developer because of some of the apps the developer had published is absolutely despicable.” I disagree. What’s absolutely despicable is committing multiple copyright and trademark violations,  lying to your customers and readers of your blog posts by pretending that you had absolutely no idea why your account got suspended, and then once you’re finally forced to admit the reason, continuing to put the blame at Google’s feet by demanding that Google only ban apps, not developers, even if those developers committed multiple violations.

 

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