Home > iPhone > These Guys Should Work for the RIAA

These Guys Should Work for the RIAA

January 15th, 2010

Wow… a week without blogging? What’s up with me?

Just wanted to comment on the recent report that Apple and iPhone developers have been robbed of $450 million due to piracy. Really? Part of what that number is based upon is the estimation that fully 75% of all purchased apps are pirated.

That’s where I get off the train. Three out of four? Doesn’t quite jibe with what I observe amongst fellow iPhone users, but then I am not hip deep in the pirating community–I only know one person who jailbroke their iPhone and I know a lot more than 10 iPhone users. Even so, I find the 75% piracy rate a wee bit unbelievable. The figure comes from a report on 24/7 Wall St.:

While it is difficult to get a firm grasp on exact piracy rates, some developers have put features in their software that prompts it to “phone home” when the phone has been cracked. Developer testimonials put the figure much higher than many analyst [sic] would expect. Developers Neptune Interactive Inc and Smells Like Donkey Inc have reported piracy rates has [sic] high as 90% for their game $1.99 Tap-Fu, and claim that it was available in a pirated version within 40 minutes of its release on the App Store. Web Scout Inc. reports a 75% piracy rate for its $0.99 iCombat game. The developer of the $4.99 art program, Layers, reports a piracy rate of 75%, and Fish Labs reports 95% for its $7 Rally Master Pro 3D. Piracy rates almost certainly increase with the cost of an application. TomTom’s US & Canada GPS product for the iPhone, which retails for $79.99, ranks second in handheld application downloads on piratebay.com, a file-sharing torrent. The top 100 downloads listed at piratebay.com is littered with expensive TomTom and Garmin GPS products. A conservative estimate of the average piracy rate is that for every paid application developed and sold at the App Store 3 more are pirated.

It doesn’t take much to begin to see the biggest flaw in their reasoning: just because a few among the tens of thousands of paid apps are popular among the community that pirates, that does not mean that every single paid app has a similar piracy rate.

First of all, companies that add phone-home-when-cracked features in their apps are, naturally, ones which are much more likely to have the apps pirated, thus skewing the numbers. Next, one would expect that a company with a very low piracy rate might not want to publish those results for fear of seeming unappealing (“Nobody wants to steal our crap!”); similarly, it’s the developers who get pirated the most who will make the most noise. So, right off the bat, the estimates are slanted.

They then add more blind guesses atop more blind guesses: they estimate the number of paid apps, the average cost of a paid app, and the percentage of pirates who would have paid the full price if they hadn’t pirated–that on top of guesses as to how many iPhones are jailbroken, and how many jailbreakers pirate apps. By the time we come out the other end, the estimate is so iffy that it’s pretty hard to take seriously, even if the authors didn’t have so many typos and awkward phrases in their published writing.

TUAW does a handy calculation which helps knock down the estimate: if the numbers presented are accurate, then every iPhone/iPod Touch software pirate has an average of 510 pirated apps on their device.


Categories: iPhone Tags: by
  1. January 15th, 2010 at 14:43 | #1

    The figures sound crazy. Although I must say that when the phone was 1st launched in my city, there were people who queued 3 days as if it were an American Idol audition.

  2. Troy
    January 15th, 2010 at 14:49 | #2

    As an app developer it really makes me wish they could lockdown the damn phone.

  3. Roger
    January 16th, 2010 at 02:15 | #3

    I see this as similar to the RIAA music issue.
    I have borrowed a number of CDs from friends over the years… for free… and scanned them into iTunes. Contrary to this somehow reducing CD sales, this is what happens:

    1) If I like the CD a lot, I eventually buy my own copies of the rest of that artist’s offerings… and often the original CD as well – even though I’ve scanned it into iTunes. Indeed, I’ll also go on Amazon and see what else people who bought that CD are buying and recommending. The artist and the publishing company come out ahead – way ahead.

    2) If I don’t like the CD, I don’t buy any of that artist’s CDs. But, if I hadn’t borrowed the CD, I wouldn’t have bought any of that artist’s CDs anyway. The artist and the publishing company have not lost any sales.

    If I try a fully functioning demo or a pirated copy of software you can be sure that I would buy the next available version. …and will also take a serious look at what else that company makes. Why would I not stick with pirated versions? 1) no updates (or a hassle to update), 2) my time is valuable and buying a piece of software at a reasonable price is not a big deal, 3) safety from viruses and attacks, 4) it makes me feel good to pay for things I use. The people I’ve met that habitually pirate everything they use and don’t buy (I’ve met a few) are teenagers… who also raid the refrigerator when they can and don’t do their dishes. These people tend to grow up.

Comments are closed.