Google Play still has the problem of cloning in 2019 without an end in sight


Image of the Google Play clone problem feature
Some problems exist for so long they become normal. Sometimes, like Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death, they become memes. Application cloning and direct forgery disguised as legitimate applications on the Google Play Store are problems like this. Clones are everywhere on the Play Store. Fakes are less common, but potentially more destructive.

The difference between the two is subtle, but important. A clone is an application or game that looks and acts very similar to an existing application or game, but is not a complete copy. IGG's Clash of Lords is basically Supercell's Clash of Clans, with some minor changes to gameplay, names and graphic assets. This is generally legal, but annoying.

Fake applications try to clone other applications in name, appearance, and functionality, often adding something like malware. Apart from Google's best efforts, these two types of applications are quite common in 2018.

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2018 has a fair share of clones

The two biggest mobile games in 2018 are Fortnite and PUBG Mobile. As you can imagine, many other developers want that action. Battle Royale shooters made headlines constantly, collected millions of downloads, and took the top spot in most mobile games this year. VentureBeat noted that more than 100 clones successfully entered Google Play before any game was launched. This problem regarding PUBG Mobile is more than Fortnite, because Google actually took steps to prevent the clone from stealing Fortnite's actions.

We want to say this is a new problem with a quick solution, but it turns out it's not. Every year, a number of very large applications or games are followed quickly by invasion of clone troops large enough to make Palpatine jealous. This is a very old problem so we barely realize it anymore. Most of us only learn how to navigate nonsense, or we simply trust Google to put the real version as the top search result.

That hasn't changed in 2018.

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Fake applications and clones make everything more boring

The threat of fake applications and monotonous game clones affects consumers a little. This causes trust problems and sometimes makes the Play Store confusing and annoying to use. However, if you think the consumer is the only one who has a problem here, consider what the developer can do.

There is a funny story about how Blek developer (a game on iOS) receives consistent emails from people who complain about advertisements when Blek doesn't have ads. People play clones and don't know it, so they complain to the real developer of the game. Such stories seem ridiculous and ridiculous, but they often occur. Well-placed clones can cause all kinds of havoc on the Play Store and even the Apple App Store. In some cases, the clones end up more popular than the actual game, as is the case with 2048 and Threes.

False can cause some real problems too. At the end of 2017, fake Avast application basically farmed phone numbers and five star ratings on Google Play. Google Play removes the original Magisk Manager in mid 2017, and then removes the fake ridden malware in 2018. The same developer also faked ZArchiver, Dolphin Emulator, and KKGamer Pro. There are some fake applications using Android device resources to mine cryptocurrency in 2018 too. You can see where this direction is.

Counterfeiting and clones make everything difficult and usually causes at least some type of damage to developers and consumers.

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Can this problem be solved?

The problem is a little more complicated than what appears on the surface. Cloning a problem, but in some cases it's also legal, so Google can't do anything. Let's talk about the biggest problem we face with clones and fake.

Problem One: Reissuing is easy

The first big problem is re-publishing. Google Play accounts are charged a single $ 25 fee and the App Store developer account is $ 99 per year. The cost is basically pocket money for a cloner who makes decent money. If you block IP addresses, they can only use VPN. If you block email addresses, they can make another email. You can try to block the application itself, but the developer can only change a few lines of code and package names to subvert the ban. Short of flying to the cloner residence and burning it, there isn't much Apple or Google can do about cloners other than just banning and deleting applications when they can.

Prohibition or deletion of applications is nothing more than a temporary disruption to the clones and counterfeiters.

321Mediaplyer is a clone of the popular VLC media player. That's usually fine because VLC is open source, but 321Mediaplayer has ads and advertisements not permitted by VLC open source licenses. It was deleted in early 2018, and returned on Google Play with more than 500,000 downloads. Sometimes it's easy to republish clones and store them under the radar.

Problem Two: Legalese

The second big problem is the legality. Video game developers can copyright graphics, music, stories, character designs, and many other things. However, they currently cannot patent the copyright game mechanism. The reason is rather complicated, but simply put, the developer cannot copyright the idea of ​​a health bar, shoot other players, or other super basic things like that. There are some exceptions, but generally most game mechanisms cannot be copyrighted.

The game is like a painting. You can give copyright to the finished work, but that's it.

Think of it like art. A painter can make elephant paintings and copyrights of the painting. However, the copyright does not prevent others from painting elephants. They can even use the same brush strokes, canvas brands, and color palettes, because you also cannot get copyright. As long as it doesn't look exactly like the original, it's not considered a fake or a clone. You can end up with hundreds of elephant paintings similar to the same canvas, brush strokes, paint types, and colors, and that's fine. Very similar to mobile apps and games.

You can let the game's copyright mechanic play, but this will destroy the game industry. However, PUBG Mobile is a shooter, which is hardly unique. This is not the first royale battle game, nor is it the first survival game with a stand-alone mechanic. PUBG Mobile is a collection of ideas from other games, like most games today. We let the clones live the way they are or we start a terrible legal battle where the developer Doom, Myst, and Canabalt get everyone's money.

This is only illegal if you copy assets and code from the original game.

In the actual legal sense, imitation or imitation is only truly illegal if it copies assets directly from another application or game. We call it a clone, but we use it as a slang term. Most game clones on Google Play are just an iteration that takes part in fashion. Very similar to why we got two volcanic films in 1997, two films about meteors destroyed Earth in 1998, or why every country music song uses electronic drum tracks now. People follow success, even if it means shamelessly riding a coat tail. Unfortunately, the practice is very legal.

Problem Three: Whose job to fix things?

When I first started writing this article, I will follow the popular opinion that Google and Apple only need to work harder to eradicate clones. However, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has a very interesting quote in Polygon's interview:

I don't think we should blame Google or Apple for the appearance of clones. They operate stores that receive hundreds of thousands of products from the developer community, making it impossible to track original authorship, and there is a reasonable DMCA notification process for developers to notify them of copyright infringement.

He is right and that is the problem. It is very unlikely or inappropriate for Google and Apple to assess each shipment of all other shipments and products to see if they are copying assets or ideas. With everything we talked about so far, we will basically ask Google and Apple to create a system that does all of this:

  • Sort hundreds of thousands of shipments every year.
  • Match new items with assets from other new items or existing products without marking false use cases.
  • Apply very complicated laws for copyright infringement without incorrect tagging.
  • Institutionalize a system where developers can appeal fake signs that actually function.
  • Operate quickly, because it is unfair for developers to wait weeks to deliver.

We still have this cloning problem, even after Google removed more than 700,000 applications and games from Play Store in 2017 alone. Plus, Google doesn't have the best history of dealing with application developers, even letting them deal with vague bot messages that don't explain anything. Look a little further into YouTube, and content creators are often demonetized, downgraded, and sometimes removed for hidden reasons without much feedback from YouTube. The Google AI and Search Techniques are very strong, but even they are not strong or consistent enough to make a big effort.

AI Google is very strong, but so far Google bots haven't done the best with Google Play, Search, or YouTube.

The most logical action is crowdsourcing, developer intervention, and perseverance. As Sweeney said, Google has a DMCA notification process for developers. There are also marking procedures for all of us normal people. It takes less time, effort, and money for developers and consumers to tag our own applications rather than relying on Google (or Apple) to build, fund, and hire an entirely new department to do it for us. Sometimes, the best answer is good hard work, communication, and old attention.

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The good news is that overt forgery is usually easily recognizable, and Google is usually willing to delete it after being notified. Google also does a good job of removing malware and other types of dangerous or dangerous applications long before they reach our device.

As it stands, a system that is fully applied to remove illegal clones from the Play Store will actually change very little. There is nothing anyone can do about it unless there are legal changes at some point.

For now, it depends on us and the developer to eradicate the problem.


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