StoneLoops! of Jurassica Pulled from App Store Due to Copyright Complaint?

stoneloops of jurassica

One of TiPb's favorite iPhone games, indeed the game that cost some of us fingerprints on our index fingers, StoneLoops! of Jurassica has been pulled from the iTunes App Store following a copyright infringement complaint from Luxor-maker MumboJumbo. According to the developers' blog Casual Games Harmony:

About 3 weeks ago we have learned that MumboJumbo supplied Apple with a formal complaint and a request to remove StoneLoops! from the AppStore. The reason? Infringing Luxor copyright, confusing customers, stealing Luxor’s look & feel and even stealing their source code! This might sound absurd to anyone who knows both games but apparently Apple decided otherwise as we’ve been requested to prepare a formal response, which we did. We described how ungrounded each claim is and supplied various materials to back our claims.

The developers responded, denying all but one complaint (the word Luxor appeared in the text of a quoted review, which they offered to remove). Apple, it seems, removed StoneLoops of Jurassica anyway. This led to the developer further pondering that:

if Apple stands by its decision this will create a dangerous precedence. If you are a developer and have an application in the AppStore you should quickly request Apple to remove the apps of your competition, before someone else requests to remove you! I don’t believe this can get any more absurd, but this is exactly where this reasoning is getting us.

Copyright and infringement is a messy, litigious business, one which Apple puts itself squarely in the middle of by virtue of acting as sole App Store custodian. How can they determine merit all on their own, and avoid action by either affected party regardless of what they decide?

We love StoneLoops! We want it back immediately, but more than that -- we need a better way for these disputes to be handled. Is there one?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

StoneLoops! of Jurassica Pulled from App Store Due to Copyright Complaint?

36 Comments

"How can they determine merit all on their own"
They cannot, and it is hubris to try.
" and avoid action by either affected party regardless of what they decide?"
By adding a section (in they unlikely event they do not already have one) in the App Store contract where the developer affirms they have ownership/legal usage rights to all aspects of their application...
...and then STAYING OUT OF IT unless specifically ordered by the courts.

Good thing mines is still in my phone and working still. My first purchased game. Still love playing it.

This game reminded me of zuma when i played it so maybe they did copy? Maybe thats why i got a free code for it. Maybe they feel bad for making money off of something they copied.

Makes me want a refund from Luxor.. as their game was far worse compared to stoneloops. Glad I have mine already.. one of the best $1 games out there.

How about they get other people in trouble for example: some Twitter apps are based off of say twitterfon and it's modified and sold by a different company.so if it's your own work why remove it?apple needs to pick on other apps cause there's so much copying.I think they( developers of stoneloops) should fight that desicion of apple.it's a awesome game and it's better than luxor

By adding a section (in they unlikely event they do not already have one) in the App Store contract where the developer affirms they have ownership/legal usage rights to all aspects of their application… and then STAYING OUT OF IT unless specifically ordered by the courts.

I agree that would be nice, But it doesn't work that way.
It's every publisher's (magazines, television broadcasts, online stores like the App Store, and others) responsibility to avoid "known" trademark and copyright infringements, even that which is provided to them by others. And if it's unknown which party is right or wrong, it's expected of the publisher to investigate or discontinue the content as soon as possible.
Simple disclaimers only go so far.
These particular instances may be tougher for Apple. But an example of an easy one would be if a developer were to use Charlie Brown and Snoopy in their app without permission. If Apple were to simply hide behind a disclaimer saying "we warned 'em, it's their fault," no court would buy it, and Apple would be partly responsible for the violation. So where do you draw the line? You can't.
Apple has no choice but to listen and deal with everyone's complaints on these matters.

Way back at the dawn of the internet there were lawsuits involving CompuServe and AOL over content. CompuServe said they didn't moderate, and thus the onus fell on the posters. AOL said they did moderate, and so they were seen as having taken the onus on themselves.
Apple falls into the latter camp. By policing the App Store, they take on responsibility for the content.
(Google is likely more akin to CompuServe with their Android app policy).

@fastlane
You are conflating two separate issues -- contributory infringement and DMCA notices. In contributory infringement, which requires a) the party knows or should have known of the infringing activity, and b) the part makes a material contribution to the infringement, Apple is on the hook -- but only if the action itself is determined an "infringing activity." Unless Luxor has specific trademarks on the "Look and Feel of a Marble Game," that is far from clear here, and Apple has latitude.
In your Snoopy example, Apple should reasonably know that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is copyrighted, and so is on the hook, as they fulfill both a) and b).
HOWEVER, Luxor has claimed a copyright violation, without presenting a copyright on "look and feel" or anything else mentioned in the article. Apple has no responsibility to follow up unless and until that case is made.
Now, Apple's options are more restricted if Luxor did not threaten Apple with contributory infringement, but instead filed a DMCA notice. If Luxor did file a DMCA takedown notice, Apple would indeed be legally bound to remove the application after Luxor's notice, but they would also be required to reinstate it upon receipt of a counterclaim from Stoneloops. In the Snoopy case, such a counterclaim would not surface, but in this case (if it was a DMCA case), it would appear it already has.
At that point, the question would be remanded to the courts, who would determine the final disposition of the case.
So yes, Apple has plenty of options here, but they are apparently choosing to ignore them.

We are going to have to start lobbying Congress so that
False take down notices, and False charges of copyright infringement carry a $100,000 penalty once proven false in a court of law for a first time offense.
There should be a huge and swiftly increasing penalty for repeat offenders.
As it stands simply making the claim of infringement is all the proof you need.

@Rene
Yes.
99.9% percent of time, this sort of thing is no big deal. I've had complaints, and even been taken to court for publishing client-submitted ads that violated trivial trademarks and copyrights (that I had absolutely no knowledge of). So far, so good because I also take the AOL stance too... but it's still a pain to deal with the whole process each time.
Apple, however, is huge. I expect they need to have people watching things with a much closer eye.
Fassy:
Yes, I agree, they're completely different. I was going off on the subject and not necessarily this article's particular case. Sorry about that.
I was only pointing out that the disclaimers are never enough (though should always be agreed to)... and for Apple to just sit back and wait for courts' decision on these types of matters may not always work out for them.

@Rene
Yes, that is the stickiest point -- Apple's responsibility may be greater than that of YouTube, RIM in the BlackBerry store, and so on, because Apple claims actively to review all programs entering the store.
All the more reason for Apple to loosen the reins on the store.

Doh -- I have a comment awaiting moderation because of a URL, though I am not sure why, here it is again, with both URLs tiny-fied, instead of just one.
@icebike
The law contains penalties for knowingly posting copyright notices that are false, but the penalties are barely sufficient to stop individuals, much less companies. (Tinurl caselaw link: http://tinyurl.com/yzw5tx3 )
False DMCA takedown notices are similarly covered, though Chilling Effects notices how spectacularly ineffective they are in prohibiting bogus takedown notices, as they estimate just over 60% of notices are bogus.
For Apple, the relevant section of the DMCA would likely be the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. (TinyURL Wikpedia Link: http://tinyurl.com/2kmnmf )
The summary is as I indicated above, with additional details:
1) Luxor notifies Apple
2) Apple has to take it down (presumption Luxor is correct)
3) Stoneloops files counterclaim
4) Apple must notify Luxor of the counterclaim and inform them that the materials will be reinstated in 10-14 days unless Luxor sues.
5) Luxor sues and the courts decide, or Luxor does not sue, and the material stays online.

Hmm...two comments awaiting moderation, although I have TinyURL'd the URLs in them. Are URLs in parenthesis banned like this ( url ) prohibited by this software as well?

Reason number 437 why the App Store concept sucks. 1) developer makes app. 2) big company decides app competes with their product and complains to Apple. 3) developer shows complaint is unfounded. 4) Apple yanks app anyway. 5) consumers and developer get screwed.

If Apple doesn't clean all this shit up it's going to really hurt the longevity of the App Store.

hey i know, let me make an app 8 months later, and to boost popularity for anti compete let me throw dcma letters for all similar games!

@frog
The developer "admitted" that a review contained the name of the Luxor app, because that review compared the two. Not remotely fair.

They put the name of the competitor in their review so it shows up in searches for the original, and have a similar app - Apple is doing the right thing here.

That's ridiculous! I've played both of these titles and StoneLoops is FAR superior to Luxor, both gameplay-wise and graphically. I hope this little snafu doesn't hinder other games that "play like" some other game/app. It's not like Duck Hunt, which was DEFINITELY copyright infringement!

That’s ridiculous! I’ve played both of these titles and StoneLoops is FAR superior to Luxor...

Has nothing to do with anything. Copyright doesn't protect that which Brandon C. Butler likes the most.

@frog
No, they did not put the name of the competitor in the review. They put a review that mentioned the competitor in their description, which was not one of the "original charges." It is also perfectly acceptable to use competitors names and trademarks from reviews in advertisement, so long as the notices are present. Do you not remember all the Coke mentions in the Pepsi challenge?
If Stoneloops did use the name "Luxor" without mentioning the trademark notice, the long-established precedent for such a use is the removal of the offending mention, which has already been done. Occasionally, a fine can also be levied.
Even if you ignore precedent and insist this somehow is wrong and deserves a product death sentence, this is also another example of Apple applying made-up rules arbitrarily.
For just one example, when I search for "Skee-Ball" on the App Store, the competing apps Ramp Champ and Arcade Claw come up. (Unlike Luxor, Skee-Ball is a registered trademark name which Freeverse paid to use, so they actually have a far stronger case than does Luxor.)
So Apple obviously does nothing proactively about this, which means they are not actively reviewing apps for these violations, which should get them into trouble if, as Rene suggests, their guardianship of the App Store comes with responsibilities.
If they are only reacting, then Stoneloops accusation is true; developers can use Apple to remove competitors applications, and Apple offers no recourse, mediation, or reinstatement procedure communication.
Neither situation is good for Apple's role in the App Store.

@oboewan: if you are concerned about getting back a measly $1, then maybe you should spend your money on food rather than an iPhone because obviously you are hard up for money. I spend more than that skeeball and other games when I go to those places with my kids, and that only gives me 5 minutes of entertainment. How long have you had thrgame? And you still have it.
It is crazy to expect a $1 refund because of this.

@Christopher
It's the principle of it. And I don't want the Stoneloops devs to give me my money back - I want MumboJumbo to give me back the money I spent on the app that THEY got taken down.

@oboewan: When Sharp decided to pull out of the PDA market in the USA nobody expected a refund for the Zaurus units they spent hundreds of dollars on. They stopped selling. So what? You still have your purchase just like I had my Zaurus for a while. Stop whining.

I am just happy that StoneLoops is still on both of my iPhones and it's unfortunate that at least for the time being nobody else will be able to get a copy of such a great game.

This sucks cause my gf had almost beat the game. This is the first and only app she bought. Well I upgraded our phones to 3.1.2 yesterday and stoneloops was not on her phone. So she is freaking out and I'm trying to find it to redownload.. Sp I google and find this. Bummer  oh well thank god for jailbreak! Now she just has to start over 

GOD! Stone loops was 10 times better than LUXOR. Please make an agreetment cuz i dont want Stone loops, I NEED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

stone loops is a great game i hope it comes back to the app store with an ipad version (note if you get the new os for the ipad stoneloops will not 2x)