The problem with labeling any program as a tool for piracy is that a program can have many uses. A pirate can use a service like Installous to steal popular apps without paying the developers, but the service can also be used to gain access to apps that Apple has removed, apps that have been blocked from your region, or even to track down a working version of an app when an update breaks compatibility.
The consequence of lacking a distinction between pirate apps and pirate users can be found in a new anti-piracy controversy. Andreas Ødegård‘s recently updated Oxford Deluxe dictionary app decided to rat Ødegård out for piracy because he happened to have Installous on his iPad, despite the fact that Ødegård had been using the app store version of the $55 dictionary app. (Hasn’t he heard of Wiktionary?) The app demanded permission to access Twitter, and it wouldn’t allow him to access the app otherwise, so Ødegård accepted. The app immediately posted the following message on Ødegård’s behalf, without his knowledge:
How about we all stop using pirated iOS apps? I promise to stop. I really will. #softwarepirateconfession
Yikes. At least they didn’t brand that onto his forehead. According to Ars Technica, other users claim that the app is posting the message even from non-jailbroken devices. Not only did the developers of the app overreach by labeling everyone who has ever used Installous as pirates, but it’s even targeted people who stay within Apple’s boundaries as well.
Accessing someone’s personal Twitter feed to post a stigmatizing message–when you can’t even be sure that person is guilty of piracy in the first place–should be a keelhauling offense for developers. I do sympathize with the developers, who claim “Only 25% of our apps in use are legitimate copies.”, but this isn’t the solution. To be fair to the developers, they did post a public apology and are advising users to update to the latest version of their app.
Looking at screenshots of the Oxford Dictionary app, I’m actually baffled as to why anyone would try to pirate it in the first place, much less fork over $55. It looks like it came from website from the 90s.
Do you use dedicated dictionary apps, or do you rely on web searches to find the meaning of words? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.