An operation started by the FBI in 2012 is beginning to come to fruition. The target was Android app pirates, a market which had never actually seen a prosecution before despite costing the app industry millions of dollars every year.
Assisted by the French and Dutch police the FBI took down three illegal Android app stores – Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket. Their domains were seized, the first time this had ever happened with regards to mobile app piracy.
A man believed to be heavily involved with SnappzMarket has now been arrested. Scott Walton, 28, of Cleveland, Ohio, USA plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement on November 3rd before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the Northern District of Georgia.
Walton admitted to his involvement in the illegal distribution of more than one million pirated apps worth a total of $1.7 million.
As such, Walton could become the first person to ever serve jail time as a result of a mobile app piracy conviction. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Unlike iOS, it is possible to download Android apps from a variety of sources outside of the Google Play Store. These .APK files can then be ‘sideloaded’ (installed via unofficial measures) with a very little effort or specialist knowledge, meaning that piracy on the Android app scene is rather rampant – as the sizeable figures put forward by the FBI attest to.
Earlier this year several members of the piracy outfit Applanet were also arrested, with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming they were responsible for a staggering $17m worth of illegally downloaded apps.