Has HTC’s Theme Store Become A Den of Pirates? (Update: HTC Responds To Outcry)
Last month a number of icon pack designers noticed copies of their work being posted by one Sergejj Osmakov in HTC’s theme store, free of charge but without permission from either Google Play or the designers themselves. For those of you who are unfamiliar with HTC’s theme store, it’s a place where you can get custom themes for devices running HTC’s Sense skin.
The store was launched last year with the release of the HTC One M9 and includes both system themes and icon packs. Although the copied icon packs submitted by Osmakov only include a subset of the icons in the original packs published in the Play Store, they nonetheless are unauthorized copies of others’ work and discourage users from paying for the original work in the Play Store.
Make no mistake, this isn’t some innocent sharing of free samples. Willful and deliberate effort is required to extract the icons from the Play Store apps and repackage them for distribution in HTC’s theme store. While there are no doubt other people submitting such pirated artwork to the Sense-centric store, Sergejj Osmakov is the most prolific poster of such infringing content. His submissions are a virtual who’s-who of the Play Store’s most popular icon packs, including those by famous designers such as Tha Phlash, Stealthychief, Sikebo Giraz, Travis Hall, Maximilian Keppeler, Vadnere and George Kaipalexis just to name a few.
Unfortunately, while Google provides an admittedly hit-or-miss mechanism for reporting apps that violate intellectual property in the Play Store, no such remedy is provided in HTC’s theme store. To their credit, though, HTC has proven to be more responsive on Twitter as shown below…
@BenczeMark This is no good. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and file your complaint there. If you've already done this please let us know
— HTC USA (@HTCUSA) February 19, 2016
On the other hand, they had responded similarly over a month ago, yet the pirated work remains. This is likely because most icon pack designers don’t have formal copyrights for their apps, and HTC seems to be taking a “letter of the law” stance regarding content submitted to its theme store. For what it’s worth, if you see your work being posted without permission on HTC’s site, you can either send an email to email@example.com or submit your complaint via the form on HTC’s main site.
The issue, of course, has been around for much longer, as the following Google+ post demonstrates https://plus.google.com/+MarquesBrownlee/posts/ZsrkiJu2Nrh. I reached out to HTC myself via Twitter but
haven’t heard back from them yet they just recently responded to my query. HTC has allowed pirated content for far too long in its theme store, and there appears to be little or no moderation to speak of, which is unacceptable for even a small-time publisher let alone a major corporation. Perhaps they might take action if public outcry reaches a sufficient crescendo. One can only hope HTC will implement some kind of visible moderation in its content store or at least provide some form of reporting mechanism for inappropriate content like Google’s Play Store.
UPDATE: HTC recently tweeted that they’re working to address this issue, which is a welcome departure from the “if you have a copyright, submit it to our email address” responses earlier.
@_AndroidAlex_ We're working towards a solution. If you or anyone you know has experienced this piracy, please DM us.
— HTC (@htc) February 19, 2016
Time will tell whether the infringing content will be taken down or whether HTC will implement some type of moderation/reporting mechanism for its theme store.
UPDATE 2: HTC has also responded to my own query:
— HTC USA (@HTCUSA) February 19, 2016