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Summary:

Imagine sitting down to talk with the guy who just broke into your apartment and stole your TV. You might ask him, “Why did you steal my TV?” and he might answer “Because I wanted it.” or “Because I wanted to sell it.” In the real […]

Imagine sitting down to talk with the guy who just broke into your apartment and stole your TV. You might ask him, “Why did you steal my TV?” and he might answer “Because I wanted it.” or “Because I wanted to sell it.” In the real world, a thief’s motivations are generally not very complicated. On the internet, though, those who crack or otherwise pirate software usually aren’t after money, since they generally give away the fruits of their labour. Since that’s the case, a conversation between thief and victim might prove a little more useful.

And it did, for iPhone developer James Bossert, who together with his wife, Constance, developed the Whack’em All game, which is based on the concept of the popular carnival Whack A Mole game. According to an article at TorrentFreak, James took matters in to his own hands when he noticed one day that his user base had spiked, gaining over 400 users in one day, compared to the usual ten. Excited, he looked into the purchasing numbers via Apple, only to find out he’d only sold 12 copies, which was pretty much par for the course.

As it turned out, Whack’em All had been cracked and distributed to users with jailbroken iPhones. At this point, most people would’ve just sighed and gone about their business, but James contacted the cracker responsible for pirating his app via email and asked him why he’d done what he’d done. The answer was an outright condemnation of the App Store, and suggestions as to how, as a developer, James might avoid being cracked by offering free trials or ad supported releases. Here’s a quote from the cracker, via TorrentFreak:

As many iPhone and iPod touch owners have discovered, Apple’s iTunes App Store has many flaws which render it useless to the common user. Apple has chosen to allow a multitude of ridiculous, worthless, poorly-represented applications through its ’strict’ screening process, nearly all written by mediocre programmers with a dream of getting rich quick. Many of these programmers game the reviews system, misrepresent their application in the description, and generally try to swindle the honest buyer.

Regardless of what you think of his methods (i.e. stealing and distributing stolen software), the pirate in this case makes a number of valid points. He goes on to point the finger at Apple for refusing to allow users to download apps for an initial free trial period to test out the game and see if it’s worth the money. And we’ve seen review gaming in action.

Do you see this kind of thing as a valid form of protest against the sometimes tyrannical App Store? Or is this software cracker just going out of his way to justify what is still essentially just the basic desire to get something for nothing?

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  1. The hacker’s a thief. There is no justification for what he’s done. He’s stolen an application and then released it into the wild for other thieves to exploit.
    If iTunes ran their processes any differently the thief would find some other reason in their own head to justify stealing.

    1. Exactly. He’s been caught red-handed stealing somebody else’s hard work and he’s coming up with a lame excuse.

  2. Ditto to Kelvin’s comment above. I agree that there should be a demo period available for new software, but using that as one’s justification for stealing another’s work is deplorable. The guy’s a thief.

  3. Are you serious? How can you even ask if this is a valid form of protest!?

    In order to protest, he’s taking the money out of the pockets of good and decent folks who 1) aren’t Apple and 2) can’t do anything about the App Store? Seriously?

    The fact that you’re even asking the question of whether that it’s a valid protest means that you simply don’t get it.

  4. I don’t read anything in this “cracker’s” remarks that is even on topic, let alone anything that justifies his actions. I challenge the author of this piece to point out any of his “many valid points.”

    To be a “valid point” relative to the discussion at hand, it would have to be something that justifies the theft IMO. Here’s a parsing of what the guy actually said in plain speak:

    1st sentence – (I think) a lot of folks don’t like some parts of the app store.
    2nd sentence – There’s a lot of junky apps in the app store.
    3rd sentence – (I think) some developers are being underhanded/misleading.

    Therefore: I can steal stuff??? WTF? What a thesis!

    He is actually tipping his hand here a bit in that reading between the lines, the only *real* motivation I can see is that he is sort of saying he stole it because most apps are junk and he wanted to steal a good one. Most likely he has made a pledge to never use the app store or something and sees his “liberation” of the applications not only as a blow for freedom or some such, but necessary to his lonely little world of stolen applications.

  5. I don’t thing the issue is so black and white as to call the guy a thief. I mean, generally, if you were talking to someone who stole your TV (or your precious iPhone that would cost over $400 to replace a devise you probably only paid $199 for because of how AT&T pricing model is evil :)) maybe if you could talk to the thief you would find out that the guy was trying to feed his daughter (Biggie Smalls). Or maybe he was just going to get buy meth to get high. In either case, I would feel bad for the thief and it would suck to have to bust my bum to get money to buy something that someone else spent 2 minutes stealing from me but at least I could kinda understand. Just recently someone broke into my car and took all my loose change and an iPod and a few other things . . . but I didn’t fret about it much . . . not worth the time. In this case, the hacker actually has a well thought out response. We may not agree with his opinion but I’m glad he has at least thought about it. A thief to me is one who steals without reason.

    That said I don’t agree with the hacker in this case. Apple didn’t hide how the app store was going to work and if you don’t like it the best way to express your opinion would be to not buy the iPhone in the first place and spend your time hacking up Android and making his own marketplace that he thought was right.

  6. Geoffrey Wiseman Wednesday, January 7, 2009

    Eh; I guess I’m less hard-line than the previous commenters. I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to call it a valid form of protest, but I’m not opposed to people using pirated software as a kind of free-form trial as long as they are willing to pay for the software they use with some regularity. The fact that the App Store doesn’t really support trial models well seems like a significant flaw. And, if it helps to support my case, I’m a software developer, so that means that I’m ok with people treating the software I develop accordingly. Unfortunately, since I mostly develop enterprise software, that’s largely academic.

  7. Amazing how people can turn a condemnable behaviour into a form of “protest”. There are no two way about it: pirating = stealing.

    How about I hate the way the nearby department store organizes their clothes and I also don’t like the quality of some of the clothes they carry. Based on this “article” (emphasis on the quotation marks) I have the right to just walk in, grab a bunch of clothes and walk out without paying for any of them.

    How can you expect to have quality applications in the AppStore is people are doing this to the developers?

    You want people to put time and effort into creating good applications? If so don’t condole stealing.

  8. Stealing bread to feed your family is one thing- hacking (which requires marketable, in-demand skills) an application for whatever reason isn’t justifiable. The programmer is not responsible for Apple. Mediocre apps abound, sure, and so do great ones. Gaming the system occurs. Yep. The hacker here proves his point by becoming the problem? Ridiculous. We can rationalize any kind of bad behavior. I would surely love for anyone stealing something from me to have the courage to take it from my hand. It would certainly give them pause and turn this rationalization crap to the nonsense it is.

  9. what some people do not understand:
    you can not return something to the app store. it simly does not work. so your comparison with stealing from the shop simply shows that you did not understand the problem: I can not try an application before i buy it. if it is crap and does not what the developer said it would do, i simply lost money on something which:
    first: can not be returned
    second: can not be resold.

    hacking (cracking actually…you guys never seem to get it right) is the simple consequence.

    1. Yes you can. Go into your account and find your previous purchases. Hit “Report a problem” and type in a reason. They will be glad to refund your money.

  10. We live in an age where integrity is not an asset. It’s a liability..with some at least. We live in an age where we ‘do’, just because we can, and we can get away with it. There is no stealing. We simply ‘take’ or ‘share’ because someone else wasn’t smart enough to lock things up tightly enough. And you call this logic? It’s wrong. Digital theives NEVER have valid moral reasons for taking from others. What he did was wrong. Plain and simple. A man’s heart was filled with darkness when he took what did not belong to him, and then enabled others to do the same. How incredibly sad, and what a blight on the digital community. Let’s hope this “We do because we can” disease doesn’t become epidemic. Lending credibility, in any fashion, to thieves is wrong as well. Shame on the author.

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