Light the Cat Signal: Did Google Ask the Feds to Arrest Android Hackers?
Are These More Alike Than Not?
According to the Department of Justice, the operators of the Android version of Megavideo have–with one exception–pleaded guilty. Recall that the DOJ seized two domain names earlier this year under its pre-trial seizure process (kind of like they did with Rojadirecta, the tiny Spanish single member LLC pirate site–more about them later–during the SOPA days).
Remember this is not just any pirate app site–this is an Android pirate site. And this exists because Google and Google alone allows unknown third parties to maintain storefronts for Android apps. Unlike Apple that actually thinks its more important to maintain brand integrity than to allow their footprint to be used for illegal activity. You can get iOS apps from one place only–the App Store. Windows Phone Apps from the Windows Phone Store. If Google had the same values as Apple or Microsoft, this problem would not exist, and app developers would face much lower risk of being pirated. All the more reason not to develop apps for Android.
The Department of Justice described their pre-trial property seizure:
Seizure orders have been executed against three website domain names engaged in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android cell phone apps, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia and Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Lamkin of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office announced today. The department said that this is the first time website domains involving cell phone app marketplaces have been seized.
The seizures are the result of a comprehensive enforcement action taken to prevent the infringement of copyrighted mobile device apps….The three seized domain names – applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com – are in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to the sites will now find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime.
This sounds very reminiscent of the pre-SOPA seizures by ICE that were so sharply criticized by the tech press and…Google. Wait a minute…these are Android app sites, pirated Android app sites. Why doesn’t Google’s name appear anywhere in the DOJ press release? Hmmm.
It’s the Developers, Stupid
One reason might be that Google doesn’t care about pirated Android apps which is why they adopt and easily hacked distribution platform in the first place. But you know who I bet Google does care about? App developers. And who gets ripped off when Android apps are stolen? App developers. And you know who will stop developing apps for Android if they can’t rely on the integrity of Google’s app market?
Not just any app developers, but really cheesed app developers who will then continue to build apps for Apple because Apple gives them a straight count and protects their investment.
Just like if artists found out that their record company was allowing pirated copies of their records to be distributed because the record company profited from it–no artist would record for that label.
Where is Google?
So maybe I just missed the Google reference–because how could such a comprehensive investigation be conducted without ANY Google involvement?
The DOJ tells us further that:
“Cracking down on piracy of copyrighted works – including popular apps – is a top priority of the Criminal Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Software apps have become an increasingly essential part of our nation’s economy and creative culture, and the Criminal Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the creators of these apps and other forms of intellectual property from those who seek to steal it.”
“Criminal copyright laws apply to apps for cell phones and tablets, just as they do to other software, music and writings. These laws protect and encourage the hard work and ingenuity of software developers entering this growing and important part of our economy. We will continue to seize and shut down websites that market pirated apps, and to pursue those responsible for criminal charges if appropriate,” said U.S. Attorney Yates.
Wow. That sounds like it could be the prelude to a comment from Chris Dodd, David Israelite or Cary Sherman, don’t it? Just change “software apps” to “movies,” “songs,” or “music.”
Flyover Kids in a Flyover State
And now it turns out that the operators of these sites pleaded guilty–with one exception who’s going to fight it–as we found out, again from the DOJ:
The leader of a piracy group engaged in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android mobile device applications and a co-conspirator have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme that distributed more than one million copies of copyrighted apps with a total retail value of more than $700,000….Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Fla., pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, and Thomas Allen Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Fla., pleaded guilty to the same change on March 10, 2014. Sentencing is scheduled for July 8, 2014, and June 12, 2014, respectively.
An information filed on Jan. 24, 2014, charged Narbone, Dye and others with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. According to the information, Narbone, Dye and their fellow conspirators identified themselves as the Appbucket group, with Narbone as the leader, and, from August 2010 to August 2012, they conspired with other members of the Appbucket group to reproduce and distribute more than one million copies of copyrighted Android mobile device apps through the Appbucket alternative online market without permission from the copyright owners of the apps.
Sounds pretty serious right? But you know–Google isn’t mentioned anywhere in this press release, either. Strange.
The Taxpayer has to Clean Up Google’s Mess
Big win for the sloppy distribution model of the Android platform–a costly investigation that could have been avoided if Google followed Apple and Microsoft’s practices. But then so many of Google’s problems with the entertainment industries could be avoided that way. Hopefully the government will be sending Google the bill for the negative externalities created by Google’s pirate-bait business model. The taxpayer once again has to sweep up behind the elephants in the circus of life.
One of the defendant’s in the case is fighting it, probably along the same lines as Rojadirecta used in the SOPA-era case against that Spanish single-member LLC. With the first class legal team from California to defend a criminal case in New York. Because they just don’t have enough first class legal teams in New York to defend criminal cases in New York courts.
No, Rojadirecta found the firm of Durie Tangri, and specifically Google’s fabled top artist buster, Darilyn Durie who was able to construct an alternate reality for a court that found that making tens of millions of copies of books (that no doubt power Google’s translation services for clients like say…the National Security Agency) was–wait for it–fair use. A stunning acknowledgement by the New York bar that they’re just not quite smart enough to handle such a case–or perhaps a fee arrangement by another interested party? Maybe one in Mountain View? Maybe the same one who was interested in sticking it to the Beastie Boys in the Goldiblox case (where Ms. Durie also found her way under circumstances that seem odd to me)? Who knows.
But apparently Ms. Durie is not being called into action to help a defendant from the decidedly ungroovy State of Mississippi (whose Attorney General is fighting the good fight against Google’s profit from human misery out of the unauthorized sale of prescription drugs) when the Android platform is involved.
Apparently there will be a civil rights component to this, no doubt having to do with the pre-indictment seizure of the web sites. Let it not be forgotten that there’s an easy fix for cases like this and it’s all within the control of Google.