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Can't Catch 'em All.

Apple is failing to stop even the most obvious copyright offenders. What can be done?

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"Fake Pokemon Yellow ends up on iOS App Store", that's what I read on Joystiq the moment I opened their App on my iPhone. As I shook my head in wonderment, I thought to myself, "Of course this would happen." Game makers are all too familiar with the rampant copyright and abusive cloning habits that have infested mobile platforms. It's easy fodder that fuels the eagerness for companies, like Nintendo, to seek out anti-consumer legislation - that they believe - would better protect their IPs. (i.e. SOPA and PIPA.) How could such a well known franchise be flagrantly approved by Apple and sold to the masses? What can Apple (as well as other mobile OSs) do to help combat the spread of scammers who seek to abuse the openness of the mobile landscape? I’ve outlined a few quick initiatives that mobile providers could develop to help curb the spread of infringement of copyright holders. 

  • Public Developer Profiles 
  • Pre-Developer Education 
  • Peer Reviews
  • Consumer Awareness

ioS Pokemon Violators
Developer Home of Anime has released other copyright violators this month, Digimon and YuGiOh.

Public Developer Profiles Like most people, I’ve never heard of Home of Anime, the developer of the Pokemon Yellow iOS App and what’s frustrating is that I couldn’t  find concrete information on this developer through Apple’s iTunes service. Forcing developers to create public profiles, for consumers consumption, could reduce fraudulent behavior. If anonymity  is allowed to exist, scammers will continue to produce and sell stolen content. Offering accessible information that exposes who the developer is, where their is team located, a link to their website, etc., will promote better consumer education and empowerment. 

Pre-Developer Education 
Comparatively, Apple has great online resources for their developers, but reading pages of TSAs is not likely to happen. Generating interactive content that educates developers on copyright laws might force them to rethink their game ideas. Developers from other countries, whose copyright laws may be incredibly relaxed, could be unaware of the seriousness of copyright infringement. 

Another useful tool may be case studies that Apple provides. For example, after Apple takes down this App (if it hasn’t already) they should develop a quick online campaign that illustrates why this App was removed from the store. Develop a dozen of these cases to expose the outliers and others who violated copyright rules without knowing it.  

Peer Reviews
As a game community, we tend to get on our soap boxes... a lot, and rightfully so. However, Apple could easily set up a community of trusted professionals and developers who could quickly review content before it is released on the App Store. Open peer and community reviews of content may thwart individuals who want to try to “game” the system. A panel or community of reviewers could easily spot stolen content before it is released. Furthermore, Apple and other OS developers, need to be more transparent about their review policy and oversight. 

Consumer Awareness 
Apple may argue that it isn’t their place to educate consumers on copyright laws and spotting fragrant rip-offs, but instilling confidence in your consumer base that could lead to more paid downloads. Most content users are not familiar with game developers or their publishers, they just see “Pokemon” and download it. When it doesn’t work, it’s a loss for Apple and the consumer. Apple has an incredible tool that could easily educate their users. Develop those Apps, make them fun, and you could see less people burning up the customer review boards. 

Consumers realize it's a scam, but they don't care. They just want the Pokemon.

These proposals will not solve all of the copyright issues that currently plague the mobile markets, but these simple steps could lead us to stronger rules and regulations. Policies that should thwart the scammers, empower developers, and protect the consumers. 

Finally, Nintendo, people want Pokemon on their iPhones. I believe you can have your cake and eat it too. More on that later.

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