Wednesday, April 8, 2015 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Mac App Store Licensing and Copy Protection

Gus Mueller:

I’m seeing 40x more downloads than purchases. Hello massive pirating.

It’s been happening for years.

Cabel Sasser:

Yeah, easy as pie. One username/password shared. As if I needed another reason to hesitate from the MAS…

Ian Meyer:

My girlfriend’s workplace uses a single MAS account to make purchases for hundreds of users. She’s trying to change that.

Jason Snell (in 2011):

When you buy an app on the Mac App Store, you’re getting the rights to run that program on any Macs you own and operate, for your personal use. Basically, if your household has a half-dozen different Macs, including desktops and laptops, you can buy a copy of Gratuitous Space Battles and play it on every single one of them. Consider a purchase of consumer software via the Mac App Store to be a bit like buying a household site license for the app.

The situation is slightly different for apps that are considered commercial or professional in nature. For apps that fall into this category—Aperture’s a good example—the Mac App Store license says that you essentially can install that item on computers you use or on a single computer shared by multiple people. Basically think of it as a one-seat license for a pro app.

[…]

There’s no authorizing or deauthorizing of Macs, like you do with iTunes media. There’s no five-Mac limit, or device limit of any kind. […] Beyond entering in your Apple ID and password, this is all on the honor system.

It seems like Apple should be able to solve this problem rather easily. It already has a system to keep track of which devices are authorized to play media files. This could have been a reason to sell in the Mac App Store, because a FairPlay system would be both secure and easy to use. But Apple doesn’t really sell software anymore, so it probably doesn’t see this as much of a problem. And developers are not breathing down its neck the way the record labels were.

Enforcement aside, Apple isn’t even trying very hard to communicate how the honor system is intended to work. Alastair Houghton:

To be fair, it’s far from obvious how businesses are supposed to handle purchases from MAS.

There are no links from the App Store front pages, and no obvious indication what to do.

Normally businesses buy the same way as consumers and don’t need to use a special channel.

Apple should be more pro-active; right now, it’s costing developers quite a lot of lost revenue I expect.

Update (2015-04-09): There is further discussion on Twitter.

10 Comments

"But Apple doesn’t really sell software anymore, so it probably doesn’t see this as much of a problem."

I'd assume it's even more extreme than that. From the Cupertino POV, it's a feature, not a bug, no?

They sell hardware. Serves their purposes if software gets pirated.

Rip, mix, burn!

"It already has a system to keep track of which devices are authorized to play media files."

A system that does not handle multiple accounts for the same device. It's a real pleasure not to be able to purchase music you've purchased in iTunes on an iOS device because the FairPlay system is dumb.

@stephane I’m having trouble parsing your second sentence. Is the first “purchase” meant to be “put”? And isn’t this one of the problems that Home Sharing is meant to solve?

In any case, I don’t see how the fact that each iOS device is linked to a single Apple/iTunes account relates to Mac apps. Apple already supports multiple Apple IDs on a single Mac, i.e. one for each Mac OS X user account. Macs are the only devices that Mac apps run on.

Perhaps I have better customers, but my ratio is about 1 re-download for every 2 purchase.

@Michael Yes, purchase put.

The point is that since they are not able to deal with multiple Apple IDs in one case, I would not trust them to get it right for Mac apps.

There's also the issue that the legitimacy of an installed app is based on the receipt:

- this is an opt-in solution. No apps are rejected because they do not check the validity of the receipts AFAIK.
- it's up to the 3rd party developer to implement the code checking the validity of the receipt
- since the Mac is still an open platform, the binary of the apps can be hacked to workaround the validating code
- and if the checking of the receipt validity was performed by the OS vendor, it would be even better once it's cracked because this would allow to run any application from the Mac App Store.

@stephane Well, I think this just goes back to the old debate about how much effort to put into thwarting cracks. I think Apple could build a system sufficient to keep honest people honest. If the app developer is worried about people jailbreaking their Mac, they could still do their own checking, as some iOS developers do.

[…] Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X […]

[…] Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X […]

[…] Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X […]

[…] Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X […]

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