Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apple creates 'iTunes Content Dispute' system for developers to report possible intellectual property theft

This morning Apple launched an area of its website where developers can report suspected violations of their intellectual property rights. The new paged, titled "iTunes Content Dispute" allows developers to report the apps suspected to Apple's legal team.

Strangely, though, the site is out in the open – that is, not behind the firewall of the developer site, where you would expect it. My fear is that this might lead to some funny business. But Apple has probably thought of this and has created a system where the complaint gets forwarded directly to the developer of the offending app. The developer, in this way, is put on notice. Apple then emails both parties so that they can work together to solve the dispute.
When the iPad first was launched, and before that the iPhone, quite a number of apps slipped into the App Store that blatantly violated trademark rights (for instance, calling a news app by the name of the newspaper where the content originated, yet the app was coming from an outside developer).

Several newspapers, after reporting here at TNM, had to contact Apple to get those offending apps pulled from the App Store.

Today apps that blatantly steal a media property's trademark are rarer. In some case, such as the Drudge Report, some level of trademark stealing seems to be encouraged as a way to drive additional traffic back to the website.

But most media properties are not thrilled to have their content stolen by apps that do not link back, or provide a complete story with only a token link thrown in.

But many media companies are not very good at intellectual property issues, commonly allowing e-newsletters and other aggregators to take their content wholesale (while others call this aggregation, I call it theft).

So it might well be that the biggest user of the new Apple complaint form will be game developers who feel the look and feel of their app, if not the code itself, has been hijacked by another developer.