1. bjordan's Avatar
    I really wish Google would add some way to tell if an application uses any form of DRM (or at least their market DRM).

    I'm under the strong opinion that DRM hurts paying users more then it does pirates. I'm not really looking to debate that in this thread though.

    I just wish there was some way to know if an application uses DRM before downloading it. There are several applications that I've purchased and use not knowing that they use DRM. Well I didn't know until their was an issue with the DRM and I couldn't use the application until the developer fixed it. I would really prefer to not support applications that choose to use DRM. However there's really no way of knowing before hand (without emailing the developer).

    It would really be nice if it was clearly stated in the market information about the application.

    Edit: It appears there's a "Market License Check" permission that may be a way to see if an application is using the built in Market DRM.
    04-05-2011 09:07 AM
  2. alostpacket's Avatar
    Looks like you answered your own question. But I think it's worth pointing out that piracy is rampant and way out of control on Android and most indie developers are struggling to get by.

    Many devs would rather not use DRM at all, but a lot will come to conclude they must use some type of it after seeing the rampant piracy. And even then, the goal is to only use enough DRM to try and stop the casual semi-techie pirates.

    Consider this guy's thoughts on the matter:
    http://blogs.balsamiq.com/product/20...ftware-piracy/

    He's an Adobe AIR developer. AIR devs face similar piracy problems due to that nature of how easy it is to decompile apps on both platforms.

    So, DRM hurts devs too. I know I dont like wasting time on it and would rather develop features for my apps.

    But my guess is you're looking for apps for your Nook Color which doesnt have the Market and hence cant work with market DRM. Market DRM is actually widely considered pretty flexible from the user standpoint.

    If you have specific apps you want on your Nook, you could email the devs. This would give them an indication that there is interest in them offereing alternative download options, such as Amazon or SlideMe.

    Anyways, I'll leave it at that since you dont want to debate it, but remember, you stated your opinion before saying you didnt want to debate it.
    04-05-2011 10:07 AM
  3. bjordan's Avatar
    Anyways, I'll leave it at that since you dont want to debate it, but remember, you stated your opinion before saying you didnt want to debate it.
    I realize that stating my opinion and saying I don't want to debate it is a but off. I just didn't want to derail the thread but it seems I found the answer so I don't mind debating.

    I'll view your link when I get back to a desktop.

    Nook color isn't the real problem. I can get the market on it. Although it would be nice if I didn't have to fool with it.

    (will post more when not on phone)
    04-05-2011 11:03 AM
  4. bjordan's Avatar
    Mainly my view has been reenforced by two recent app updates. A week or so ago Audio Manager Pro posted an update that either added or changed their DRM. The update had an issue where everyone who bought the app was receiving a "Licensing" error and the application was closed. So paying legitimate users were unable to use the app they'd paid for. I was one of those unlucky people.

    While the developers of Audio Manager Pro were quick to respond and had a new updated with 15 to 30 minutes to fix the issues it's still frustrating. Especially when you consider that the people who'd pirated a cracked version of the app were completely unaffected. (yes I realize they had to wait for a cracked version to update)

    Koush recently posted an update to ROM Manager Pro on the market that added licensing checks. Apparently it had issues as well and locked legitimate paying customers out. After the Audio Manager issue I fortunately read the comments and decided not to update. Was it a mistake and accident? Sure it was and it's probably been fixed by now. My point is still that the people it effected negatively were the paying users.

    I'm in no way promoting piracy. I've bought a ton of applications and believe strongly in supporting developers. Being a programmer myself I appreciate how much hard work is put into apps. I just don't believe DRM is the answer to piracy. The saying, "Build a 12 foot fence and you create a market for 13 foot latters", comes to mind.

    Consider this guy's thoughts on the matter:
    http://blogs.balsamiq.com/product/20...ftware-piracy/
    Definitely an interesting read. As he states though his app had already been cracked. Which is kind of my point. You're not punishing the people who are pirating the app. As long as your DRM works flawlessly you won't punish your customers. However there's always the risk that if something goes wrong with your DRM paying customers won't be able to use the app.

    The developer for SystemPanel has one of the best responses I've read about DRM and piracy. It pretty much sums up my thoughts exactly:

    Im the developer of SystemPanel and WebSharing.

    Let me just say that I think spending resources fighting piracy is lunacy, and that those resources should instead be directed toward improving the Android market experience, creating alternative payment options, and expanding the availability of the Android market into additional countries.

    I have no interest in strong-arming idiots who are unwilling to pay $3 for an app to go with their $100/month cell phone contract. And I cant exactly hold a grudge against residents of countries who have been informed that they just arent important enough to even be allowed to purchase our apps.

    I do not understand why anyone is surprised that APK modification is being performed to work around LVL. Such has been the nature of application copy-protection attacks since their origin.

    Though I would prefer to be wrong, I believe there will be an inevitable wave of malware that may mitigate this problem. I base this belief on the fact that pirated apps will be an effective transport for such malware, and there is obvious revenue potential for authoring it.

    The biggest threat from piracy is in attempting to lock down the platform to prevent it. Piracy will still occur, but the legitimate users and the platform itself will lose capabilities as a result. The previous forward locking copy protection mechanism is an example of this, given that it relies on users not having control over devices they own in order for it to operate correctly.

    Link to comment
    After reading this statement from him I have a ton of respect for him. I believe his views are pretty dead on with how I feel and have felt about DRM.
    04-05-2011 04:33 PM
  5. alostpacket's Avatar
    Well I dont think anyone is really a fan of DRM and it's not about punishment. It's about stemming the tide of people moving from customer to casual pirate. This was the point behind balsamiq's post on that blog.

    It's also not about strong arming anyone. It about informing the user that the easiest and safest way is to puchase, and it's about slowing down the freeloaders.

    An no countries are left out just becuase they are "not important enough." That part of the comment alone sounds very naive. The are so many factors involved with selling things globally, no one has the right to feel entitiled to be sold to. The have a right to complain, and to ask for support but they dont get a free pass to take whatever they cant get legally. I feel for them and how it can be rough, but there are many options for puchasing software these days and the number of countries the market serves is vast. This excuse is growing less relevant and was never valid.

    Still, he makes some very good points otherwise (as do you).

    Unfortunately though, none of it explains the near 90% piracy some app devs are seeing. And if you look at a map, 90% of that is coming from countries that can use the Android Market.

    That's the reality of all this. What would you have those devs do? How am I supposed to improve the Android market experience?
    Remember too, SystemPanel is an exception to the rule with regards to popularity. The number of indie-dev apps seeing that kind of success (financially), I can count on my hands. Do the smaller devs not deserve success unless they are a mega-hit like system panel?


    Anyways, again, you make very good points -- almost all of which I agree with. But I feel the reality forces both devs and users into the uncomfortable situation of having to deal with some kind of DRM. So some of these questions are meant more to be rhetorical/thought provoking than anything.
    04-05-2011 07:26 PM
  6. bouncing's Avatar
    Well I dont think anyone is really a fan of DRM and it's not about punishment. It's about stemming the tide of people moving from customer to casual pirate. This was the point behind balsamiq's post on that blog.
    The problem with that view is that it assumes that every casual pirate would go through a reverse-engineering process. It only takes one determined pirate, or a determined legitimate user who wants to remove the DRM, to break it wide open.

    Take DVD's. They are very well encrypted on the disk. No one can make a DVD player without joining a consortium for DVD DRM. Individual players can have their certificates revoked. Millions of dollars went into preventing DVD piracy. And within a few weeks of the release of the first DVD players, they were cracked.

    Only a tiny minority of the population, even of the hacker population, understands the math that goes into encryption and the DRM on DVDs. And yet, my mom could probably easily pirate DVD's.

    So the idea that DRM can prevent casual piracy is a myth. It takes one determined hacker and a million casual pirates for an app with the toughest DRM to be pirated a million times.

    It's also not about strong arming anyone. It about informing the user that the easiest and safest way is to puchase, and it's about slowing down the freeloaders.
    Again I disagree. Take ROM Manager. I bought the premium version of it and now I can't use it on non-market devices. Why? Because Koush says so, that's why.

    As a paying user, I've turned to pirated copies of ROM Manager without DRM. Again, that's as a paying user. But I want to use it on non-Market devices.

    Unfortunately though, none of it explains the near 90% piracy some app devs are seeing. And if you look at a map, 90% of that is coming from countries that can use the Android Market.
    The "90%" number is based on taking the number of sales and dividing it by the number of devices running the device. Sounds reasonable, right? Except Android Market lets you install your app on multiple devices, and these piracy statistics don't take that into account.

    For that matter, as a paying user, I'm probably counted as a pirate when I use cracked software to get around broken DRM. (And let's be frank, there has never, in the history of the world, ever been a DRM implementation that isn't at some level, broken.)

    That's the reality of all this. What would you have those devs do? How am I supposed to improve the Android market experience?
    Remember too, SystemPanel is an exception to the rule with regards to popularity. The number of indie-dev apps seeing that kind of success (financially), I can count on my hands. Do the smaller devs not deserve success unless they are a mega-hit like system panel?
    I don't think there's any evidence that adding DRM actually increases sales. Besides, arguing for DRM because you think it might be more profitable is like arguing for any other anti-consumer business maneuver in the name of profit.

    Should banks start charging ATM fees of $10? Why not, it would increase their revenue right?

    Well, I'm a believer in the saying that the customer is always right. And as the customer (and a full-time software engineer and hobbyist Android developer, BTW), here I am, and I'm saying, there is never a time when any DRM is acceptable, ever.
    04-19-2011 11:20 AM
  7. alostpacket's Avatar
    Bouncing, I appreciate your point of view, but you sound really entrenched in it. Thus I'm going to have a hard time debating this with you. My sincerest appologies in advance if my reply comes off as brash.

    "there is never a time when any DRM is acceptable, ever. "

    That just makes me think that your view is a philisophical one and has nothing to do with the practical situation on the ground. You clearly see black and white here and no shades of grey. It also even feels like you clearly don't care for the plight of those being stolen from/pirated from, but rather, you're reacting viscerally from being inconvenienced with regards to your purchases. I always wonder what people would say if their paycheck was pirated from some guy in another country, how they would feel.

    Also, before we go down the road: I know not all piracy is lost sales, but if you believe that nothing is lost, then you are too irrational to even have this conversation. The success of Steam is an easy enough example to point to. Remember too -- we're also talking $1-$5 apps here generally. So affordability is less likely to be a factor. This is not a $60 game for $600 copy of photoshop that a user could never afford otherwise. Sure, some probably cant, but if they can afford the phone, they are likely able to afford the software.

    The reality is that there are ways for casual pirates to auto-pirate stuff. I've downloaded them and they are very, very effective. I will not discuss them here however. There are also effective ways at slowing down the time from release to crack.

    I see casual piracy happening every day, again I am not going to go into the technical details here. But it's no myth, I ASSURE you. You don't just have big cracking groups making names for themselves cracking little 99c apps. It's a whole range of people, using a range of methods. (see the Balsamiq link above, his graph sums it up well).

    The trick is to stop some of the casual stuff, and if the more adanced guys break your app, then so be it -- but hopefully it will take them a month or two to get around to it. And by then you're on to new features/releases.

    At that point, the easier way to get your software is from the market or legitimately, rather than through the hacking groups (some of whom are clearly criminals trying to make money from your software).

    You should also know the cracking groups on Android are a different breed than the PC/Video/other media. Many are trying to make money via advertising. One of my apps was pirated that didnt even have copy protection, and thus had nothing to do with any moral high ground. The guy even award himself "points" for what amounted to copy and paste. This clearly isn't your top tier technically inclined hacker. And this was before I had even made $50 from the app.

    Anyways, most of your arguments are also talked about in that Balsamiq link I posted above, have a look and see what you think. The piracy stats came from KeyesLab btw. Source: A Global Piracy Heat Map

    Also, the "multiple devices throwing off the stats" theory is a convienient assumtion that I doubt is true. When compiling statistics like this, that would be one of the first, most obvious things to try account for, and factor out. Dismissing statistics as invalid, because you guess that they didn't account for the obvious, seems irrational at best. You're basically saying that every single user installs legit apps on 2-4 additional devices in the span of 90 days? And/or that the counting had no way to detect re-installs? That's the flip side of it. That's how far off they would have to be for the stats to be flipped the other way.

    If you factor in two opposing data anomolies too, like the fact that any user of DroidWall may not get counted (pirate or legit), and that they factored cancelled puchases as "legitimate", some of that clearly counter-balances multi-device installs. So while those number may be showing a skewed picture, I'm pretty sure the conclusion is the same: there is a shocking amount of piracy that is coming from countries with the Market available. I'd be suprised if you disagreed. Statistics don't need to be perfect to give you a valuable peice of the picture. And I dont think there could have been enough multi-device installs to change that.

    Anyways, the point of what I was saying is that some developers are claiming as high as 90%, maybe their stats are off, but that number is most assuredly still shockingly high. And as for where the piracy is coming from, it's clearly not just countries without access to the Market. That excuse just isnt valid anymore.

    And no one is arguing for DRM because they think it might be more profitable, it's NOT an added value. This is my work, people are taking my work without paying. I am not stealing "extra" money from anyone's pocket. That bank analogy is ridiculous and insulting hyperbole.

    Also I feel like I should say I was of a similar opinion to you until I sat on this side of the table and gained a bit of perspective. And I too have had issues with frustratingly restrictive and bad, broken DRM. And I'm not 100% convinced I should use it in my apps but I will probably experiment with various means of protecting my livelihood.

    I take your concerns to heart, I really do, and the last thing I want is to upset a customer. There is no faster way to a 1 star rating than a customer depreived of his purchase. But at the end of the day philosophies and frustrations don't pay my rent. So that's what I have to weigh, when determining if I can convert some of the pirates to paying customers with a reasonable amount of effort and reasonably low chance of inconviniencing my paying customers. If I can't, then it isn't worth it. If I can, it might very well be. But this is not an easy decision to come by and is something a lot of developers struggle with and we're about the last people you should blame for this situation.

    As for ROM Manager, have you thought of emailing Koush to express interest in being able to install his app on a non-market device? I would think he'd be receptive to that considering not all ROMs come with the Market app.

    Anyways, try and keep an open mind and I will listen to your opinion but I dont deserve to be ranted at or lectured as "the guy defending DRM". I dont defend it. No one likes it. All I can do explain some of the thinking that leads developers to implement it, and why it is the pirates, and not the devs, that deserve the scorn.

    But now I should ago write some code as I've rambled too much...

    Have a good night --
    04-20-2011 12:15 AM
  8. bouncing's Avatar
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, alostpacket. My perspective is a little different. I've released two apps to Android Market (GPS Share and Charmap), both small experiments to help me learn the process. I'm toying with releasing a paid task switcher I wrote for mods like Cyanogen that let you add custom task switchers. My day job is writing software behind ec2, so as you can imagine, I didn't see your post Thursday.

    You're right in that I'm pretty intractable in my distaste for DRM. At least insofar as, if I see a paid application that has the Market License Check permission, I'm unlikely to buy it. Like any purchasing decision, there are pluses and minuses to consider, and the existence of DRM is a really, really big minus. I don't think having that preference makes me an unreasonable person.

    The app may only be $3, and am I really out that much if it doesn't work on some weird ROM a flash my Nook to? Maybe not, but speaking personally, if I go back through my Google Checkout purchase history, I've easily spent $100+ on apps. Most of these apps had no DRM at the time of purchase -- heck, when Locale was one of the first apps to go paid, I bought it in a heartbeat. ROM Manager too, back when premium was the "donate" version.

    Then I came back to find that updates, often ones necessary just to have the software work in newer versions of Android, attach DRM. It's a bait and switch issue, as well as an ownership issue. In the same way I want a phone that is rootable and/or has an unlockable bootloader, I want DRM-free software. Whether it's "run this ROM" or "install here", I expect things I own to be under my control. Even worse is when I buy something thinking it's DRM-free, only to have a necessary update take that freedom away. Remember Sony removing Linux support from the PS3 because they were worried about some unspecified piracy threat? It's like that.

    In the same way I'm skeptical of Sony's lost revenue numbers, and the RIAA's claim that damages for music piracy should eclipse worldwide GPD (this is true BTW), I'm very skeptical of the Keyes Lab numbers, if for no better reason than they have a conflict of interest: Keyes markets its own DRM. Their DRM solution is open source, but that's a recent development, and their original version of it was notoriously draconian. Without any explanation of their methodology, I'm inclined to discount their numbers outright.

    But throwing out Keyes Lab, let's suppose Koush's estimate of 40% piracy is closer to reality. In his own words it was "up to 40%" so again, it isn't an exact science. Did the addition of DRM increase is sales? Was it worth breaking it on all non-Market ROMs? I don't know. For what it's worth, less than 2000 installs of GPS Share in the first week or so rocketed it to the top of AppBrain's "hot app list" and I haven't seen any such movement from ROM Manager Premium, and I check AppBrain daily. That isn't proof of much, but I would expect that if Koush's DRM were to cause a spike in sales, an app that popular would show increased traction at AppBrain.

    I've heard statistics and more statistics on piracy, but no one is talking about how their sales went way up after adding DRM. Is whatever increased revenue you're experiencing worth damaging the software you ship to paid users? What if I buy an Amazon phone when they release it. Unless I hack Android Market on there too, I'm out >50% of my investment in apps.

    Anyway, I too am rambling. I don't reject the obvious truth that there's a lot of piracy going on. Applanet is appalling and I wish someone would shut it down. But I'm a little suspicious of grandiose claims of lost revenue, even if there is certainly some revenue loss, even enough to hurt.

    Piracy is wrong because it deprives original creators of their copyrights. But DRM is also wrong because it deprives users of their fair use rights. I don't condone either. And when I see DRM on an app in Android Market, I take a pass. In fact, I'm buying fewer and fewer paid apps simply because I have the fear that DRM might be added even if the current version is DRM-free. It isn't an issue of money, it's an issue of freedom, at least for me.
    alostpacket likes this.
    04-22-2011 07:17 PM
  9. bjordan's Avatar
    My day job is writing software behind ec2, so as you can imagine, I didn't see your post Thursday.
    I truly feel for you. I'm surprised you were able to respond at all last week.

    Then I came back to find that updates, often ones necessary just to have the software work in newer versions of Android, attach DRM. It's a bait and switch issue, as well as an ownership issue.
    I agree 100% this is a huge annoyance for me as well. It's very frustrating.

    Piracy is wrong because it deprives original creators of their copyrights. But DRM is also wrong because it deprives users of their fair use rights. I don't condone either. And when I see DRM on an app in Android Market, I take a pass. In fact, I'm buying fewer and fewer paid apps simply because I have the fear that DRM might be added even if the current version is DRM-free. It isn't an issue of money, it's an issue of freedom, at least for me.
    Again I agree completely and feel the same way. When I invest my time and money in an app I want to know what to expect in the future. This is why I mainly stick to FOSS software when/where I can and I think it matters.

    Bouncing I'm not sure if you've heard of F-Droid. I've been using it lately and love the idea. It's basically a FOSS Android software repository. You can download and install within the app or link over to the Android market from the app.

    F-Droid Repository
    04-25-2011 11:45 AM
  10. bouncing's Avatar
    Again I agree completely and feel the same way. When I invest my time and money in an app I want to know what to expect in the future. This is why I mainly stick to FOSS software when/where I can and I think it matters.

    Bouncing I'm not sure if you've heard of F-Droid. I've been using it lately and love the idea. It's basically a FOSS Android software repository. You can download and install within the app or link over to the Android market from the app.

    F-Droid Repository
    Thanks for your words of encouragement -- it's nice to know I'm not the only one. I too try to find free software for my Android and use it when I can. Maybe I'm spoiled because I'm a long-time Linux user and I expect the most important functions of my computer to be FOSS.

    I have tried F-Droid. I love the idea too, although I wish they would drop the vetting process. Or maybe instead of having a vetting process, they could offer one of many apt-style repositories the client could connect to.

    A boy can dream...

    But yeah. I would love to have a 100% FOSS smartphone. I'd pay twice what I did for my G2 or Nexus One to know all the software it ships with is FOSS, even if I install something like Google Maps later on.
    04-25-2011 06:42 PM
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