Nintendo used Takedown! It’s super effective!

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.

– Nolan

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.

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anthony on May 11, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Copyright law is a pain, and I agree with your choice of direction. Good luck!

    Reply

  2. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

    Reply

  3. Posted by Erin on May 26, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Its a total shame, really. Pokedroid was the first thing I downloaded when I got my. Android phone, and it will be missed. Ironically, I OWN every printed Pokemon guide as well, so I don’t fully agree with their arguemebt that it will clash with their sales. I don’t know a PokeFan who doesn’t own everything they can.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Jason on May 26, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    I just wanted to thank you for all the hard work and dedication you put into the app. I showed an iPhone owning friend of mine the app and he was legitimately jealous.

    It’s still the best app I own. =)

    Reply

  5. Posted by oldpokefan on May 26, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Maybe an email campaign would help make Nintendo understand that they are only hurting the people who support pokemon. Most players still buy and use the guide and the pokemon on the black and white games are not in the guide book, and as far as I know there is no guide available for pokemon on these games, so just where and how are the players supposed to get this information if not from pokedroid. They certainly haven’t helped the players with this, I know because I have the guide. Maybe if we as,players bombard Nintendo with emails they will realize that this is not in competition with the guide, its in conjunction with it.

    Reply

  6. This is truly horrible. That said a lot of friends of mine would love the app but dont have android as of yet. =,=

    If TCP is going to go so far as to do this to FREE apps, it shows just how terrible they are, especially when there was no piracy involved. :/

    Anyway, TPC still has lost in a sense. They just lost one faithful customer here- while I will still play the old games, they can forget about my getting into the card game now, I’ll just trade my cards in for MTG ones.

    Perhaps a few people will take interest in hiring you to make apps for them tho? Pokedroid is/was amazing, and proof enough of your skill!

    Reply

  7. […] -> “Nintendo used Takedown! It’s super effective!“ […]

    Reply

  8. Will my premium version continue to work once all the dust clears?

    Reply

  9. Posted by Samantha on June 3, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    I understand your skepticism about copyrights, patents, etc. But if you made something amazing, you can’t tell us that you wouldn’t want to make it legally yours. IP is there to protect the little guy from the big corps that want to farm your ideas and make easy money.

    I personally see patents as a way to force market diversity. If a corp owns a patent to a product, and another corp wants to join the market to fill the same niche, the second corp is forced to either buy the patent, or develop their own product which they can then patent. This repetition of production and development is what creates the evolution of commodities. So really, copyright, IP, and patents on average help you and me more than anyone.

    However, I do agree that Nintendo’s ridiculous over enforcement of their copyright is a bit out there especially since none of the products were competing games, and were, like you said, “free advertizing”.

    Reply

    • Posted by Samantha on June 3, 2011 at 3:23 AM

      I don’t disagree that the current system is broken. But I do think it is wrong to slander all copyright IP patents etc. Because if you came up with a great idea for an app or a game, you would want to be the one making money, not Nintendo after they copy it and farm it into stardom.

      Reply

  10. Posted by cHemphill on June 29, 2011 at 9:49 PM

    I don’t get it. Why is it perfectly reasonable to host Pokemon related apps in the Apple store? Before I got an Android phone, I used the iPokedex app on my iPod touch forever. Much like your work, it was a high quality development, is regularly updated, and yet since it is in Apple’s hands, it’s still allowed to be there. This doesn’t seem like a copyright issue so much as it is favoritism.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Chris plessinger on March 14, 2012 at 8:23 PM

    Sir….. I think I donated and had the pokedex. I had to have my phone replaced and now I no longer have it. Is it possible for me to get it back some how? I am sorry that nintendo did that. I have bought every pokemon game and video know to man. I am very disappointed in them

    Reply

  12. *cough I still have the APK for the regular app and the extras cough* Be creative :P

    Reply

  13. […] like many other companies, has a long history of agressive IP protection and claims enforcement.  However, their most recent move has many […]

    Reply

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