Wheelz got pirated!

I don’t mean people downloading the game off sites like The pirate bay, or elsewhere…
That’s not pirating – I uploaded Wheelz to TPB and Demonoid meaning no-one could pirate it, as they had permission to download it!

What I mean is, I quietly released Wheelz under the GPL (shared a tarball on andengine forums) – then when hanging out with a friend of mine, Luke Stanley, googling ourselves I came across a screen-shot of Wheelz, with different textures.

My first reaction was “Sweet! a fork!” but upon closer investigation, I found the GPL Licence had been removed, along with all credit or other information, and a claim that it was an original game…

After some slight investigation, I could not see who the pirater was, but (regettibly) contacted google with a complaint – then contacted the pirater, requesting an explination, and a copy of the source. He said he found “sample code” with any information relating to me removed – could not remember where it came from, and was away from his computer for 12 hours, when back he could send me the source.

~10 hours later, I received an email with the code – seemingly recently modified in a rush – containing almost no information pertaining to me, but still some. My suspicion is that the pirater had spent some time removing all the details about me he could find in the source, copyright notices, email, website etc. I asked him about these parts he claimed they were “example@example.com” etc when he found the code – and still said he could not find where he downloaded it from…

I tried to convince him to come clean (OK – 1% chance he was not lying, but too many suspicious things to believe him…) – he did not.
I offered him a good deal – keeping 25% of the profit. He tried to haggle, I pressed the point it is a *very* good deal for him, and if he did not accept, I’d withdraw the offer. He accepted!
I also required the login details to his advertising accounts, to make sure he was being truthful, pointing out he is lying to me, I can see why he was, so as not to make himself legally vulnerable.

In one of these accounts I found his personal email, quietly switched our conversation to that to verify his identity. I now knew his name, and university in Romania! found his G+ account, etc.

Still, he sent me some dollars – I gave him lots of advice on his code and workflow, also contacted google to let them know things were resolved. Things seemed groovy!

Then ~1 week later google removed the app from the market. I asked them to reinstate it – but never got a response of any kind.
This was a few months ago now.

Still – it was an interesting experience, and mostly worked out very well, with learning for me and the pirater.

I should have had my information more all over the code, and open-sourced it properly. I should contact an individual before an authority. I could have just got the pirated to open the code again, and let him keep the money…. but was grumpy he was not being moral from the start.

The pirater will hopefully not close up open code again (unless I was *too* lenient)

Google should… be more thoughtful, communicative and attentive when contacted. Though nothing indicates they will be – I can’t really blame them.

In reality – all three partys could have acted better


Sunlight, nature, Code and Information

One Comment:

  1. Hi you prob don’t remember me from college but great article. Really enjoyed reading and glad you still making great games. Also Thankyou for exposing me to c++ was good experience for working with c# later.

    Best regards

    Karl langman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *