UPDATE: I was in error when I wrote this post. Apparently, all Pokémon-related Android apps were cited in the DMCA takedown notice, not just paid ones. Every Pokédex app has been removed by Google except for Pokédroid and Pokédex Companion. It’s not clear why.
Today I received an email from Google explaining that Pokédroid Donate was removed from the Android Market due to a DMCA takedown notice from The Pokémon Company (a subsidiary of Nintendo). The email begins:
This is a notification that the application, Pokédroid (Donate) with package ID com.nolanlawson.pokedex.donate has been removed from Android Market due to a violation of the Developer Content Policy. Please review the Content Policies and Business and Program Policies before you create or upload additional applications. Note that repeated violations may result in a suspension of your Android Market Publisher account.
Mine wasn’t the only app removed – in total, about a dozen Pokémon-related apps were cited in the DMCA notice. These include “Poké Pal Donate,” “Pokédex,” and “Who’s That Pokémon?”, among others. Apparently only paid apps were targeted; the free versions of Pokédroid and Poké Pal, for instance, were not mentioned.
In response, I made an update to Pokédroid and added the following text at the beginning:
Google has removed Pokédroid Donate from the Android Market, due to a copyright claim by The Pokémon Company. In fact, all paid Pokédex apps (Poké Pal Donate, Pokédex) were removed. Free apps were not affected.
In response, I am adding the shiny sprites to Pokédroid for free. To the people who already paid for Pokédroid Donate, I apologize for the sudden bait-and-switch. So you won’t feel like you wasted your money, I am hereby donating all proceeds from the month of May (about $150) to Doctors Without Borders.
I disagree strongly with what The Pokémon Company is doing. It hurts Pokémon fans the most, because they are the ones who benefit from having a variety of apps on the Market. Also, the apps don’t even threaten Nintendo’s bottom line, because they’re strategy guides and not competing games. However, there isn’t much I can do, because Nintendo is a powerful company and I’m just one guy.
Please keep in mind that your donations sustain my interest in developing this app. You can still donate via PayPal at my website: nolanlawson.com/donate.
Thank you for using Pokédroid, and stay tuned for more updates! I have some very cool features in the works, and I will try to get them to you despite these legal hurdles.
And for the “pics or it didn’t happen” crowd:
Mostly what I’m doing here is damage control. Nintendo has backed me into a corner, and I’m too sheepish to fight back. So I’m just doing what I assume they want me to do – make Pokédroid 100% pro bono. But since this will irritate people who already bought Pokédroid Donate (and who are therefore my best and most enthusiastic users), I’m also doing the donation as a show of good faith.
This is my own, somewhat cowardly reaction to the news. I’m not sure what other app developers will do. I’m in contact with Stephen Willey, the developer of Pokédex, and Khiry Arnold, the developer of Poké Pal, but neither seems to have decided what their strategy will be. Admittedly, we’re all in a bad predicament. I feel especially sorry for Khiry, because he had just started doing a freemium model like me, and his app was really spectacular in terms of depth and detail.
Of course, none of these deleted apps really violate fair use, insofar as they might compete with Nintendo’s core product. There’s nothing about a strategy guide or a silly “Who’s that Pokémon?” quiz that diminishes anybody’s desire to go out and buy the next Pokémon game. If anything, these apps actually increase interest in the product, because they add value for current Nintendo customers and encourage them to learn more about Pokémon. And if nothing else, they’re free advertising.
But this is the tragedy of current copyright law. Presumably, Nintendo took out its copyrights to protect against blatant infringements, like game piracy. But here instead it’s using its IP to attack the Pokémon fan-developer community, at great cost to its customers and, indirectly, to itself. To be fair, though, none of this is really Nintendo’s fault. They’re just operating within the mad logic of a broken system.
People who know me personally know that I am very skeptical of copyright law and intellectual property in general. I tend to view patents and copyrights as government-enforced monopolies that drive up prices, reduce choices for consumers, waste money on litigation, and stifle more innovation than they spur. For your own interest, and to challenge any assumptions you may have about IP, I recommend reading these articles: here,
here, and here.