Pirated copies of UX Write on the App Store

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been dealing with a very frustrating problem. I’ve become aware of three different instances in which unauthorised, repackaged copies of UX Write have been submitted to and approved for sale on the app store, each under a different name. I’ve been going through the standard process to pursue these cases, but decided to post here as well, to clarify that these copies are not legitimate versions. The genuine version of UX Write is available on the app store here.

The unauthorised versions are as follows:

All three are verbatim copies of UX Write version 1.1.4, with only the name and icon changed. The Getting Started guide has been modified to use the name “Document Master”, even in the case of the last two apps. The screenshots on the app store are completely inaccurate and the descriptions highly misleading, in many cases listing features the app does not actually provide.

The only reason I even became aware of these is because the people who did the repackaging made a certain mistake (the details of which I won’t go into) which results in the app crashing under certain circumstances, where the original does not. Since the actual program itself is unmodified, it still uses my email address as the destination for all user-submitted bug reports and feedback. I’ve received emails about these from more than 200 people so far, none of whom initially realised that what they’d purchased was an unauthorised copy.

Piracy is a fact of life in the software industry and ultimately there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It would not surprise me one bit to see copies of UX Write on the Pirate Bay or other sites that have apps for downloading to jailbroken devices. But the app store is different – it’s run by Apple, who review every submission to ensure it complies with their rules, and once approved, they earn a 30% cut of every sale. So while I wouldn’t even bother spending time trying to deal with copies posted on torrent sites or similar, the nature of the app store is such that I think it’s reasonable to expect a higher standard from it.

The last time something like this happened, Apple refused to do anything about it and told me I had to deal with it myself. I made it clear to them that I’m expecting a better answer this time, and the people I spoke to were very understanding and I’m hopeful they will eventually remove the apps. After all, telling developers such as myself to email the people selling pirated copies to ask if they’d please stop doing so is not, in my opinion, a viable solution. There’s nothing to stop the other party from ignoring emails, refusing to take their copies down, or simply doing so but then resubmitting with a new account and a different name.

I don’t directly blame the reviewers for approving these copies in the first place – there are hundreds of thousands of apps out there and it must be huge task to manage it all. But the process is clearly broken, and needs to be fixed. I’m due to attend WWDC in a couple of weeks and hope to have the opportunity there to speak with people from Apple about the issue and how the situation could be improved. I’m far from the only developer affected by this problem – in checking for other copies of UX Write, I’ve found many other instances of apps from other companies being repackaged and approved as well; it’s clearly a widespread problem.

18 thoughts on “Pirated copies of UX Write on the App Store

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  2. How disappointing to learn apple sells pirated software. You would think such an organization would screen all the products sold in their store more carefully.

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  5. Dear Peter,

    I bought UXWriter a few months ago and think it is excellent.

    I am just trying to work out if it is the best option for writing and editing a book and then putting onto kindle, or if there may be problems with this.

    Are you able to tell me the best way of doing this with UXWriter?



    • Hi Richard, sorry for the delayed reply.

      For writing and editing, UX Write will do the job just fine. You can save your document as either HTML or docx, and then use another kindle publishing program to export it to the kindle format.

      In a future update, I will be adding native support for EPUB export (and possibly kindle’s format also, but I need to look into this), so you’ll be able to generate these directly from the app itself. This feature is a little while off though.

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  7. Peter, please follow up after WWDC. We’re interested in how you go.

    Seems to me Apple are open to a lawsuit for distributing pirate software for profit.

    • I certainly will. The app store is currently like the Pirate Bay only worse, as they’re actually hosting the files (not just linking to them), generating income for both the people who upload pirated versions and Apple themselves, and giving users the impression that they’re buying legal copies of software.

      Not the standard of behaviour I’d expect from a company like Apple!

  8. Is there a way we as users can complain to Apple? This kind of theft cheats both you and consumers. BTW I’ve promoted your app on my blog and am also posting a link to your blog post. Thanks for the insight and good luck.

  9. We had the same thing happen to us, and the only reason we found out about it, was because a friend of ours spotted our icon on some other game.

    This guy (also a Chinese name) had a bunch of apps under his name that had stolen icons and screenshots. All sold for $0.99. Probably empty apps or just have one image.

    We reported it to Apple, but they sort of just sent an email to the guy. Luckily the app that stole our icon was taken down (not sure by him or Apple). But there’s nothing really preventing him from doing this again, under a different name or even with the same name, and just hope Apple doesn’t catch on or keep good records.

    What will you suggest as a solution to Apple?

  10. Wow, really aggravating.

    I wonder if Apple could come up with a semi-automated solution to identify scams like this based on context-triggered piecewise hashing? Check out: http://dfrws.org/2006/proceedings/12-Kornblum.pdf

    Seems like they could create a database of signatures for apps and have a script run an automated signature analysis and compare to existing apps in the database. Tweak it so commonly used libraries boiler-plate stuff is ignored.

  11. I’ve been hearing a lot of app reviews are being approved after 7 hours. Consistently. Which to me seems like they’re probably not being reviewed at all at the moment.

    The above commenter might be jumping the shark a little though.

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