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Protecting Your Mobile App IP: The Mini Missing Manual by Richard Stim

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Using Other People’s Work

You may have seen the photo: a solitary figure seated in front of a thousand TV monitors. The picture is by Louis P. Psihoyos, a National Geographic photographer, who earns his living from the sale and license of stock photography. Psihoyos was upset to learn that an iPhone app, i.TV, used his copyrighted photograph (known as “1000 TVs”) without his permission, so he sued the makers of the app and Apple, claiming that Apple was equally responsible for the infringement. His lawyers claimed that, “Apple failed to take steps to ensure that third-party application developers weren’t infringing copyrights. Apple was aware that i.TV was making questionable uses of Mr. Psihoyos’ famous and iconic photograph, and didn’t prevent the developer from placing the photograph in the infringing application.” This case hadn’t been decided by the time this Mini Missing Manual was published, but regardless of the outcome, the message is clear: Using other people’s material without authorization will get your app dumped from the App Store (at least until you remove the unauthorized material) and it won’t endear you to Apple, either.

It’s one thing to swipe someone else’s photo an use it on your website. In that case, you can pull it quickly if you get caught and—unless you took it from a major stock-photo vendor like Getty Images—probably get away with a slap on the wrist. But things are a little more complicated with mobile apps because you’re making and distributing a ...

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