|A Global Piracy Heat Map|
With the release of Google's License Verification Library (LVL) and the subsequent cracking of applications that make use of LVL, the Android development community has been buzzing. The Android Developers Google Group has several active threads discussing how LVL can be improved and what the best approach to solving piracy on the platform might be.
One Google engineer made an interesting statement in response to my claim that I thought a "culture of piracy" might be developing in the Android user community:"If you are saying that [there's a culture of piracy] because you think most people are pirating Android apps... I think your perception of things is probably pretty off. I know lots of people who have Android devices, and none of them even think of turning on the option to install from external sources, let alone go out and find pirated apps."
That's actually a really good point. I don't know anyone that pirates apps. The statement raised a very interesting question in my mind: Who actually is pirating Android apps? In my experience for my apps such as Screebl Pro, I've seen piracy rates that are very high (as I described in this blog posting). Things had gotten so bad, in fact, that we actually developed our own license verification solution some months before LVL in an attempt to stop piracy of our applications.
But the question remains. If I'm not pirating apps, and you aren't, and no one knows anyone who is, where is the piracy coming from? In the case of my app, I thought it would be interesting to try and identify which parts of the world were spawning the most pirates.
With these assumptions in hand some very interesting observations can be made from the raw data. Here's the overview.
Over the course of 90 days, the app was installed a total of 8,659 times. Of those installations only 2,831 were legitimate purchases, representing an overall piracy rate of over 67%. For my app, the largest contributor to piracy, by far, is the United States providing 4,054 or about 70% of all pirated installations of Screebl Pro. Since the U.S. has supported paid apps from the very beginning, this would tend to argue against the idea that piracy comes primarily from countries that don't support the sale of apps. The other biggest contributors include Australia, Germany, and the U.K., also countries that support the sale of apps in the Android Market. In fact, of the total 5,828 pirated installs only 844 or about 14% came from countries that don't support the purchase of apps in the Android Market. The Piracy Contributors figure below represents the distribution of pirated installs by country. The category "Other (Paid Apps)" represents all countries (other than those listed explicitly) in which users can purchase paid apps from the Android Market. "Other (No Paid Apps)" covers countries in which apps can not be purchased.
An interesting exception is Japan. I was doubtful of the numbers when I first saw the results. In fact, there were some anomalies -- Flurry reported slightly less installs than Google Checkout had records for (about 2% lower), which violates assumption #1 described above. I'm tacking this up to the Flurry Agent not being as good at reporting installs in Japan as it is for other parts of the world. According to this data, 100% of installs of my app are purchased legitimately in Japan. Wow! If there's a lesson to take away here, it is localize your app for Japan! I will be interested in hearing people's theories on why piracy is so low for that locale...
But what about those "no paid apps" countries? Well it does appear that piracy is significantly higher as a percentage of total installs in those geographical areas where apps can't be purchased, as one would expect. In fact it should be 100%, but the average was more like 99%. That difference is likely due to some kind of error in my assumptions.
I'm interested to hear your thoughts...