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IPhone application protection

Posted on 2009-02-19
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Hi, I'm thinking of developing a small application for an iPhone. I'd like to distribute it on the Apple Store web site. How do I prevent people from giving the application to their friends rather than downloading it properly?

Is there a way to prevent "iPhone Application Piracy"?

Thanks,
Fulano
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Question by:Mr_Fulano
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ogcyborg earned 800 total points
ID: 23692797
As I understand it the iPhone applications are tied to the user Apple ID.  So even in the .ipa file was copied over to another phone, it won't work.

Thanks,
Brian
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by:Chajjar
Chajjar earned 400 total points
ID: 23693922
the only way applications can be distributed is with a jailbroken iphone which apple has recently said is "illegal".  The applications as brian said, are tied to the itunes store account.
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by:ogcyborg
ID: 23694563
It's hard to say what you can control in a jailbroken iPhone.  I think you can embed some kind of validation routine into your application.  It could connect to a server you make and verify a code to see if it is the correct user.

Thanks,
Brian
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by:Chajjar
ID: 23694910
i guess if there was a simple solution to this, there would never be any piracy, ever :).  the majority of iphone users are law abiding, software buying individuals.  I would say the best safeguard you can have is to make a quality product that people WANT to pay for.
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by:ogcyborg
ID: 23695000
Most of them are law abiding.  A lot of them do pay.  The guy who wrote the pull my finger application made $150,000 in a week and a half.  So I'd just write it...but blocking the pirates is hard...they figure out ways around most things.
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by:Peter Harris
Peter Harris earned 800 total points
ID: 23697732
I'm guessing >90% apps sold are through the Apple-controlled official App Store (buying within iTunes or App Store on the iPhone itself).
Apple tightly controls this and certainly wouldn't allow a duplicate app to be posted (it all goes through Apple checks). Also you can't move an official app to another iphone (unless same user and authorized though Apple's system).

So I'd say more than any other platform you don't need to worry about piracy.

You may need to worry more about people copying your idea and reprogramming (which is more copyright infringement/intellectual property/patent issues etc.) and may need to be fought out in court if it comes to it. But that is an issue all software developers need to deal with.
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Author Comment

by:Mr_Fulano
ID: 23698747
Thank you all for your great responses. I agree that there is no easy solution and that re-programming the app might be a bigger problem, but I just didn't want to write something and have John give it to Sally and Sally give it to Bill and Bill give it to Mary and so on...

BWT, what is a "jailbroken iPhone"?

Thanks, Fulano
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by:Peter Harris
ID: 23698803
Apple controls who can develop apps for iPhone, what tools they use and what apps are allowed on it. Non-apple apps are officially meant to be installed via iTunes store or the iphone app store. Essentially it is a closed proprietry system.
If you want to just program an app and install it without apple's approval you have to alter the in-built software in such a way to allow this.
'Jailbreaking' tools are available to do this. There is a market in unofficial apps that flaunt Apple rules. Jailbreakers argue apple does not allow certain apps for anti-competitive reasons and that apps with superior features using undocumented functions are available to jailbreakers.
Iphones synced with iTunes and updated with an apple software update may be unjailbroken or even rendered inoperable.
Apple and others may argue the 'walled-garden' approach has benefits to users in ensuring the quality of apps on the store and overall iPhone reliability.
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Author Comment

by:Mr_Fulano
ID: 23701163
Hi cogitive, so if I write an app and sell it via the Apple store (which ever that my be) it would be considered an acceptable app for the iPhone and thus not a "jailbroken" app?

Do I have that right?

Also, when you say Apple controls who can write apps for the iPhone, what are the requirements for doing that? I thought I simply download their SDK, write my app, distribute it via their Apple store and that would be all legal and OK. Am I missing something?

Thanks,
Fulano
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by:Peter Harris
ID: 23702625
Yes you register for free as a developer, but you have to pay $99 (from memory) and be approved as an official iPhone developer. Then when you submit an app it is checked by apple before being put into the store. They can reject it at their discretion. I think apple are reasonable about this process, further info would be on the apple iPhone dev site.
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Author Comment

by:Mr_Fulano
ID: 23718492
Thank you all for your help. I've learned a great deal from all your comments. Its times like this when I wish I could award each of you 500 points, because you each deserve them. However, I'll have to split the maximum in a way that's fair to the ones that contributed the most. Thanks again!

Fulano
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Author Closing Comment

by:Mr_Fulano
ID: 31549145
Everyone contributed in an excellent manner. Thank you all for your great help!
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