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The US Department of Justice has long taken issue with large-scale copyright infringement. It’s gone after pirates of various different kinds of content, including music and movies—who could forget the FBI raid on the home of Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom.

But up until now, the DOJ has never gone after mobile app pirates. That changed this week, though, when it filed charges against 4 men behind Android app piracy websites Snappzmarket and Appbucket for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement…

Bloomberg has the report (via The Verge):

“Two separate schemes for illegally copying and distributing copyrighted applications for Android mobile devices led to a first-of-its-kind piracy case against four men, the U.S. Justice Department said.

“These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said yesterday in a statement. “This represents the first counterfeit apps case by the Department of Justice.”

Kody Jon Peterson, age 22, is one of the 4 men arrested for his work on the SnappzMarket, which reproduced and distributed more than 1 million pirated Android apps. The 3 others—Thomas Dye, Nicholas Narbone and Thomas Pace—worked for Appbucket.

According to the filing, investigators have access to chat logs between Peterson and his conspirators where they specifically agree to ignore copyright takedown requests under the DMCA. And they believe his piracy facilitated close to $2 million in illegal downloads.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Piracy has been a major problem for developers—particularly on Android, though it’s definitely rampant on iOS too—for years now, and this case could lay the foundation for the future prosecution of mobile app pirates.

  • Vvbreaker

    Dear freaking DOJ, for future reference, please stay away from Cydia and jailbreak community!

    • eKoknight

      Don’t worry it’s a matter of time when the jb community be next. Just a matter of time of when.

      • ARX8

        We’re safe as long as we revamp our phones with the awesome tweaks, not pirated apps. I’m just worried about iPhonecake

      • The only people that need to be the slightest worried are those who jailbreak to pirate apps and tweaks.

    • Nate McKelvie

      As long as your not using paid tweaks/apps without buying them you got nothing to worry about.

      • philad3lphia

        They’re probably going to target the distributors of the pirated software. More likely that repos are shut down and their maintainers busted than those who use it. Like Napster, or Megaupload or the ones in this article, it’s the people running it not the users.

      • Nate McKelvie

        I know, I meant if he’s not using pirated apps/tweaks then he doesn’t need to worry about the people supplying him being shut down. They VERY RARELY go after the people downloading the copyrighted material.

    • on3simpleclick

      I am all for DOJ cracking down on pirated apps & the websites that distribute them, but Cydia & jailbreaking lies outside that area.

      • 123bob


      • on3simpleclick

        Why? Because it’s um.. ILLEGAL.

      • Cool

        what? That’s why I want the DOJ cracking down on piracy on Cydia.

      • Richard Anthony Konsky

        that is not a good reason

    • 123bob

      You only have to worry about that if you are stealing people’s tweaks! If you don’t you’re ok!

  • Chris Jackson

    Whatever happens, whatever they do. That is never going to stop piracy. Why don’t they do a law where they stop the large-scale inflation in clothes, food, gas and everything? They just do whatever it’s better for them. What about college? $20,000 a semester, really? Plus books. I know some people that can’t afford apps. It’s not good to steal, but if they can’t get those things they want like apps, games online, they’re gonna have to go rob a bank for the money, people are never gonna stop man. And it’s sad to see some people do crazy stuff for something they want. We are humans and we ALL think different. I’m totally against pirating and stealing, but there’s billions of people out there that don’t think the same thing.

  • Jonathan

    I want your opinion. Is it wrong to download a pirated app on Cydia to try it and see if I like it, and if I do, purchase it, and if not, delete it?

    • Deljuan Jones

      Is it wrong to take a car from a dealership and drive it for a while to see if you like it and if you do pay for it but if you don’t return the car? Why don’t you answer your own question, different situation, same principle.

      • Jonathan

        Thanks. =)

      • M_thoroughbred

        Actually when you go to the dealer to buy a car they actually let you test drive so your example is the wrong one to use. Pirated anything is wrong but they aren’t going after the users they’ll be going after the people that make these pirated items available.

      • to86

        That’s one of the worst analogies I have ever seen – do the car dealers in your area not allow test drives or something?

      • Deljuan Jones

        I was speaking of taking a car without their permission. Yes they let you test drive a car but that is with an agreement and the agreement is if you like it and want to continue to drive it then you pay for it but you don’t go without their knowledge and decide your going to test drive one. My point I’m making here is “testing” anything without somenone’s knowledge or permission is stealing. If a dev want you to try their tweak they will make a trial version of it and if they don’t then you just don’t buy it just like you don’t buy a non test driven vehicle, their lost.

      • Sgt. Faggot

        Huh, yeah. Good point. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing that at all.

        That’s why dealerships let you test drive vehicles, you fool. Jesus, way to make your logic collapse on itself.

      • Greg Whitaker

        But would you pay to test drive a car that you might not buy after getting a feel for it?

    • Carmelo Mercado

      i see that as ok. would u buy a car without a test drive? most apps do not have trials or if they do they are strict on usage so you can not really get the feel.

      • Jonathan

        Thank you 😀

      • A tweak costs $1.99 at the most. A new car costs upwards of $20,000 in most cases. I don’t think the comparison can be drawn between the two.

      • It’s still money, and IMO, every cent counts.

      • iosPixel

        I imagine this is the reasoning for you involvement over at the SinfuliPhoneRepo.

        I personally hope the piracy of Cydia apps encourages developers to work on incorporating trials over DRM. But loosing 90% of your first week sales to piracy can leave you feeling like you should abandon the product altogether.

      • Rowan09

        No we don’t want law makers running our lives.

      • My point was that people shouldn’t be pirating tweaks if they only cost $1.99.

      • Couldn’t give a rats ass how little it cost, I’ve been at the mercy of careless devs with terrible customer service more than enough. They don’t reply to my emails, they falsely claim so-so in their tweak description, etc.

        So long as there are devs out there with such terrible customer service, I will always try out a software before purchasing it.

      • Carmelo Mercado

        In most cases U can not return the the tweak. In most cases U can return your car

      • Does something that costs $1.99 really need a return policy?

      • Sounding like one of them careless devs that I avoid supporting…I in no way, will ever support terrible customer service. Software (work once, sell it multiple times) is already of significantly less value to me than hardware (work once, sell it once), combining it with terrible customer service is just adding fuel to the fire.

      • 123bob

        Just go on YouTube, look at screenshots of apps and test it out on your friend’s phone. Many of the devs worked on this for many hours on these tweaks so 99 cents isn’t asking much.

    • to86

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, most software have free trials, but not all tweaks on cydia do.

      Particularly if it’s from an unknown developer, or it’s a tweak you are unsure you will use that much then it’s fine. It also gives you the chance to see if the dev is going to support the app by updating it.

    • 123bob

      I really think it’s wrong. People have been working for hours to make these things and a few bucks isn’t asking much. It’s as illegal as going to a store and stealing a bunch of things. Even if you say ‘oh, I’m going to give it back’ it’s still illegal. People should respect the app creators.

    • Dani Hayes

      I’m a firm believer in “try and buy” as long as you buy it or delete it.

  • blastingbigairs

    Stay away from my MovieBox DOJ, I need my Top Gear reruns!!!

    • lemonhead

      it’s pretty unlikely that they get sued.
      first of they are not the ones uploading the movies, it’s user from the site VK…
      Second the memebers of this app are all russians & Russia normally doesn’t care that much about piracy…

  • filter351

    I’ve paid for tweaks and apps, and then removed them because of one reason or another. A buck here and buck there should not be a big deal if you can afford an iPhone.

  • Rowan09

    While I agree pirating is wrong, I’m not one to agree to passing new laws or giving politicians on how to run our lives. Piracy will always exist and I’ve seen the damage the DOJ has already done in the past, so no thank you. To my understand Megaupload had big time musicians backing the site and one of them specifically was Sean Combs.

  • abc

    “According to the filing, investigators have access to chat logs between Peterson and his conspirators…” looks like NSA

    • troothseek3r

      hahaha. pro-bab-ly.

  • why are you guys surprised? This is why hackulo closed down installous BEFORE this happened! They saw this coming and closed down before the hammer fell down

    • Rowan09

      Actually I heard it closed because of inactivity. I’m not too sure how true that is though.

  • Hosam Nasr

    Right , i am in a country where you cant run any kind of banking account or any cash related operation throw the internet (forbidden , thank you usa! ) .. Due to that piracy is the only open way there , down there .. Its more like a life style !

  • Ernie Marin

    Damn, since they can’t get real criminals they go for mobile apps hackers.

  • Abdl

    ” And they believe his piracy facilitated close to $2 million in illegal downloads” I dont get that..does that mean thats the amount the hackers earn through this piracy or thats whats charged against them??
    And is it only on Android that piracy exist? It exist on iOS in large scale also,why did they decide to track down these guys only??..sometimes i take thses DOJ guys as not being considerate!

    • Rowan09

      On Android you can go to website and download pirated apps with IOS all downloads I know of for apps takes you to the App Store. Piracy exists on both but it’s a lot easier to get pirated apps on Android as explained in the article from those 2 websites. The 2 million is the amount of downloads totaled by individuals using the site, this means the Playstore lost out on 2 million in transactions.

      • babiloe

        There was a the time when iOS piracy glory as apptrackr available with hackulos appsync, and it was pretty difficult to find pirated apk. Now apptrackr closed, the real appsync is never rewritten, the copied other vers. appsync clashing with uikit jb, and what a glorius piracy for apk.

  • lanceuppercut47

    If by forcing jailbreak tweaks and apps to be legal and not pirated, if that somehow forces Apple to be more lax and somehow “allow” jailbreak officially, then I’m all for it even more.

  • Dixon

    What is if i download a cracked app on Iphonecake even if this app is free of charge in the appstore !! There are several app only available in NZ appstore for free but without a NZ account you have to download via Appcake …. So what about this case !? Imo they cant do anything against the situation i explained

  • 123bob

    This is great.

  • Ted Forbes

    I have purchased many apps that:

    1. I didn’t like
    2. Offered nothing more than the trial
    3. Didn’t serve the purpose it claims
    4. Full of bugs and crashes
    5. Poor quality
    6. Very disappointing results

    Apple, Google and the rest of them can easily solve half this crack apps problem and make it less attractive to use pirated apps.

    The apps that you don’t like they should give you credit. If they let you uninstall the app via the application that downloaded the app within a short time period (perhaps a couple of hours or so) then they could give you credit for it before they add your pennies to their huge cash pile. They are making more than enough profits to innovate and find ways around this rather than to short cut across the field to punish us. But no, they choose to lock you up.

    Imagine going through an airport or a ball game stadium and they stop to check your phone for pirated apps and stuff. So their goes your flight, or, there goes your game. Sorry, but you missed it.
    What other ways would they think of next to punish us rather than to innovate?

  • Mark

    They are not going after people who install them rather people who “broker” them. Meaning if you distribute them through your repo via Cydia or own and run a website specifically to allow users to download pirated apps you should be worried. They are going after the dealers not the users. They tried this a few years back against people who downloaded music, it got thrown out and then the industry realized it makes more sense to go after the distributer rather that user. Not that anyone should but if you downloaded a few pirated apps here and there you have nothing to worry about. If you’re running a ring, then stop now.

  • Ted Forbes

    Another thing that’s wrong with this silly effort is:

    1. The use of tax payers money to protect these huge and wealthy cooperations is a waste and a lost cost.

    2. These idiots can hardly stop a small group of pirates in a small region of the ocean from hijacking ocean vessels. So then how much sense it makes to stop a large gang of pirates spread all over the regions of the globe? Not only land (city, outskirts, deserts, woods, caves) but also oceans and skies?

    Like I said, it’s taxpayers money wasted on lost cost. It’s not the politicians huge pocket change and it’s certainly not their corporate buddies huge cash pile. No! But then again, who cares?

  • icezar

    Well, considering that you don’t need to root your android phone to install pirated apps, I believe this is not a bad thing.

    Anyone that had to work to accomplish something knows that it ain’t cool when someone steals whatever comes out of your work. It is pretty damn infuriating actually and the last thing you would do is improve upon your work.