The US Department of Justice intends to criminally prosecute Android app store operators who host and help distribute pirated versions of mobile applications, the Wall Street Journal reports. Four people from Florida and Oregon have already been charged with copyright crimes.
The move represents a new legal approach to combating app piracy that the Justice Department hopes will be more effective than the traditional civil suit against people sharing copyrighted movies, music and computer software.
The purpose is to protect app developers from software pirates who not only gain money from distributing applications that are not theirs but may also damage the reputation law-abiding developers by endangering users who think they downloaded a legitimate app.
“These crimes involve the large-scale violation of intellectual property rights in a relatively new and rapidly growing market,” saidÂ Mythili Raman, the acting head of the Justice Department’s criminal division.
A recent study by the Bitdefender Clueful Team shows that more than 1 percent of approximately 420,646 apps are stolen from other developers and re-engineered for illicit gains. Moreover, applications uploaded by 2,140 verified developers are over 90 percent identical (library code aside) to the work of other developers on the official Android Store.
The study proves that pirated mobile applications are not only common in third-party app stores but also in Google Play. It shows users need to exercise caution when installing apps and double check the permissions they require.