Hollywood cracking down on copyright infringement in apps

Hollywood is starting to hunt down mobile apps that contain infringing content and asking that they be removed from app stores.

Content rights holders like NBC Universal, Marvel comics, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, and Warner Bros. all have submitted requests to Google to take down apps from its Google Play Store that contain infringing content, according to a report by Reuters.

Apps targeted by the content owners allegedly contain unauthorized images from such properties as "Clash of the Titans," "Glee," "Gossip Girl," "Green Lantern," "Spider-Man," and "The Hobbit."

Apps containing infringing content are a growing problem. "It's proliferating," said Steven J. Metalitz, a spokesperson for the International Intellectual Property Alliance in Washington, D.C., in an interview.

A large problem?

A survey conducted by IP Lasso, which makes software to identify sources of infringing content, showed that 90 percent of apps in Google's and Apple's app stores that mentioned Oscars or Academy Awards either contained infringing content or flagrantly deceiving consumers.

"These rogue apps are becoming a growing concern as many of them are deceiving consumers with unauthorized copyrighted material while damaging the credibility of branded entertainment, and ultimately violating consumers’ private data by requesting unnecessary access to contacts, camera, and even exact GPS coordinates stored on smartphones and tablets," IP Lasso declared at its website.

As Google removes the alleged infringing content from its app store, it has been sending copies of the takedown requests to the Chilling Effects website.

It's Google's policy, however, not to discuss individual takedown requests. Under the company's policies, it removes apps from its online store that show a clear case of copyright infringement.

Taking down an app in Google Play, however, doesn't guarantee its removal from the Internet. For example, Google sacked an app called Hobbit 3D Wallpaper HD from its online outlet. Yet, the app is still offered elsewhere on the Net.

Apple, too, isn't discussing the problem of infringing apps in its iTunes store.

It's Apple's policy to review all apps for compliance with the company's rules for its online outlet. No reports have appeared yet of an app being removed from Apple's app store because it contained infringing content.

Digital rights protectors concerned

This latest crackdown on infringers is raising concerns among digital rights activists.

"Historically, a lot of these companies take a dragnet approach to copyright policing," said Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, in an interview.

"They end up sending takedown notices without being careful about whether the notices are targeting infringing activity or not," she said.

"We've seen that in other spaces," she observed. "Over time, we'll see that in the app space as well."

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the movie industry, did not respond to our request for comment for this story.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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