Author Topic: Play Store and unfair DMCA takedowns  (Read 7280 times)

Offline Paul

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Play Store and unfair DMCA takedowns
« on: January 22, 2013, 09:16:04 AM »
I thought I would start a thread here for folks who might find themselves in a similar situation that I was in with Mupen64Plus AE, after Brad Geng had the app taken down by sending a bogus DMCA claim.  This will be a good place to consolidate information that could be useful.

For reference, the original DMCA complaint by Brad Geng against Mupen64Plus AE and Bobthebananna's branch 'N64 Pro' can be viewed on Chilling Effects:
http://www.chillingeffects.org/dmca512c/notice.cgi?NoticeID=418717
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 09:25:15 AM by Paul »
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Offline Paul

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Re: Play Store and unfair DMCA takedowns
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 09:16:12 AM »
In response to the following post in chat, from Genetix:

Quote from: Genetix
I found your article about your Google Play account being terminated and would like to know what ever happened... Im an Android developer and have worked very hard to bring my original content to the store without violating the terms... I had a very succesful app which another developer reported in a very similar fashion as happened to your emulator. Google has terminated my account and now my primary market source is gone... I had a few 100 thousand downloads and had built quite a good fanbase... Now its all gone... I am wondering if google ever responded further into your appeal, I appealed myself in a lengthy and thought out response attempting to point out that I had not violated any of the terms but have had no response whatsoever.​.. This is a horrible thing. Did you ever get back on Google Play?

Yes I am now back on Google Play.  The length of time it took Google to correct the situation was well over six months.  I'll summarize the process that I went through:

I submitted two DMCA counter claims relatively early on in the process, and eventually gave up trying to get in touch with Google.  Their system is completely automated, and the only real people you can get ahold of are for Play Store customer support.  Those people are unable to help, and point you to the abysmal developer support FAQ section.  The only discussion of DMCA in this FAQ section is how to file a claim, and there is nothing about what to do if you are an innocent victim of a take down.  Every email sent was either ignored or responded to with an automated email containing the developer agreement and Google's terms of service.  In my case (an open-source GPL-licensed app), the DMCA claim was so obviously bogus and my counter claims so well worded, that I truly believe if even a single real person had ever read it, they would have restored my app immediately.

Honestly believing Google was never going to review my counter claims, a couple months into the process I decided to re-publish my app under a new package name (same developer account).  Google very quickly removed my re-listed app and permanently banned my account.  I sent an appeal to restore my account, which I believe was well worded and very clearly demonstrated that I was not in the wrong.  Google rejected the appeal, apparently without reading it, and sent another automated email with the developer agreement and their terms of service.  The automated message warned that if I attempted to create another developer account, that account would also be banned and I would not be refunded the setup fee.

Since I couldn't get Google to provide a single intelligent human response (much less actually review the case), I decided instead to get the community I've built here involved.  My hope was to make large enough waves that word of my case might eventually reach someone working at Google who could do something.  I was quite successful with getting the word out (for example, if you do a Google search for something even as broad as dmca play store, the second hit is a post by our very own Tom.K about my case, and paulscode.com itself is hit number seven.  As you narrow the search, my case quickly dominates all the top hits.

Anyway, several months after the entire process began, I got an automated email from Google stating that my DMCA counter-claim had been reviewed and that I was free to re-publish my apps on Google Play.  My developer account had been restored, and my apps were unsuspended.  There were still some residual problems to clean up, because the suspension extended not just to my developer account, but to other Google accounts as well (to this day, I still can't buy things from the Play Store with my original account).  The biggest problem I had was that my Wallet account was still suspended (meaning I could only publish free apps, being unable to receive payouts).  I submitted an appeal to have my Wallet account unsuspended, with what I believed to be irrefutable logic that it should be unsuspended since I won the DMCA dispute.  Google rejected my appeal with another automated email containing a rather cryptic message "for security reasons we cannot disclose the reason", along with their terms of service.  I eventually worked around this problem by creating a new developer account, and going through the process of having my apps transferred from the previous developer account.  Because the new developer account was associated with a new gmail address, I was able to create a new Wallet account to associate with it.  Finally, several months after the whole thing began, I was able to re-publish my original apps and receive payouts once again.

While I'll likely never know what went into Google's decision to finally restore my account and apps, I honestly believe having a large community of supporters was a key component.  I would recommend making as big a deal as you can - get people angry about your situation so they go out and spread the word.  Also, don't expect a quick resolution.  It will take months for Google to resolve your case.  Sounds like you may have already done so and got banned, but for anyone else: do not try re-publishing under a new package name (trust me, you do not want to deal with the mess of a permanent ban on your accounts).  That's about all the advice I can give.  Keep us posted on how your case turns out.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2013, 09:36:20 AM by Paul »
Device: Samsung Galaxy Nexus i515
CPU: TI OMAP4460, 1.2 GHz (dual core, ARM Cortex-A9)
GPU: PowerVR SGX540, 307 MHz
RAM: 1 GB
Resolution: 720 x 1280
Rom: omni-4.4.4-20141014-toro-FML KitKat 4.4.4, rooted

Device: Eee PC 1015PEM
CPU: Intel Atom N550, 1.5 GHz (dual core, x86)
GPU: Intel GMA 3150, 200 MHz (dual core)
RAM: 2GB
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Rom: android-x86-4.3-20130725 Jelly Bean 4.3, rooted

Offline rajkotraja

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Re: Play Store and unfair DMCA takedowns
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2015, 04:15:29 AM »
Hello, We received a DMCA take down notice from Psiphon Inc email id. They state the our app is violating their copyrights and we should clear this. Therefore, in response we asked for clarification that what copyright violation does our app is doing. We sent this email to Psiphon CEO. In response he said that their company never sent this notice.Please clarify that are we safe to run our services as this proved to be a fake DMCA notice. We have all the mail proofs and Email ip as a proof to prove that notice as fake. How we can clarify to google so they dont remove our app if any further DMCA fake notices are issued. please guide on this. Thank you.

Offline Paul

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Re: Play Store and unfair DMCA takedowns
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2015, 06:57:44 AM »
As you can read from my case, I can't really give you any great advice on how to communicate with Google outside of their automated process.  Your best bet is probably to send them all the information you have (including copies of any emails with Psiphon), and be as clear and professional as possible.  After that it is just a waiting game.  If you have a community of followers for your app, you should also get them involved in blogging and talking about your case.  The more visibility this problem gets, maybe Google will eventually change their policies in regards to fake DMCA notices.
Device: Samsung Galaxy Nexus i515
CPU: TI OMAP4460, 1.2 GHz (dual core, ARM Cortex-A9)
GPU: PowerVR SGX540, 307 MHz
RAM: 1 GB
Resolution: 720 x 1280
Rom: omni-4.4.4-20141014-toro-FML KitKat 4.4.4, rooted

Device: Eee PC 1015PEM
CPU: Intel Atom N550, 1.5 GHz (dual core, x86)
GPU: Intel GMA 3150, 200 MHz (dual core)
RAM: 2GB
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Rom: android-x86-4.3-20130725 Jelly Bean 4.3, rooted