Being an Android developer on the Play Store does not sound easy. If it weren’t challenging enough to build a name for yourself and your apps, and get people downloading, you’ve also got to worry about the incredibly unpredictable and oftentimes devastating impact of Play Store policy enforcement. Time and time again, we’ve seen devs making every good-faith effort to follow the rules have their apps unceremoniously yanked from the platform. The latest to suffer seemingly unjust removal is an app alleged to support piracy, all because it contains… a web browser?
Downloader is a popular Android TV app, designed to address one of the bigger problems power users tend to face: how to easily transfer files to these devices, for the purpose of things like sideloading apps. Among its features, the developer includes a remote-friendly web browser, letting users easily retrieve files from websites — like it says on the tin: Downloader.
The problem stems from a law firm representing a multitude of Israeli TV companies, which filed a DMCA complaint with Google (via Ars Technica). The firm claims that the app is able to load a piracy website and that many people use it to access content without having to pay. The developer, Elias Saba, insists he has no association with the piracy website in question and reports that Google rejected his first appeal. He says his app only leads users to the homepage of his own website, AFTVnews, and doesn’t point them anywhere else.
Saba filed an appeal shortly after he received the DMCA complaint through the Play Console, only for Google to reject it an hour later. He filed a second one using Google’s DMCA counter-notification form, though he has yet to receive a response. Saba explained to Android Police that the new appeal was last updated earlier this morning. He says he has “no way to see what has been updated, but this is the first sign that something has changed since submitting it on Friday when the appeal form was submitted.”
In a series of tweets, Saba explains that if a browser can get taken down because it can load a piracy website, then every browser in the Google Play Store should have been taken down along with it. He observes that he “expected Google to make some effort to filter out frivolous DMCA notices like the one [he] received instead of taking a backseat.”
Google has yet to reinstate the app, and it’s unclear if Saba’s arguments will find a sympathetic ear. Given that the app works just like many other browsers in the Play Store, it’s not unreasonable to picture it coming back, but there’s nothing guaranteeing that yet. There is plenty of precedence for Google reinstating an app after a DMCA claim, but even in the presence of a legit counter-notice, sorting things out is a process that can still take months and months for Google to make things right.