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Android Marketplace starts cleaning house

Console emulators first against the wall

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Google has been cleaning up the Android Marketplace, kicking out developers responsible for some of the most popular Android apps – without notice – and leaving customers scrabbling for an alternative.

The applications concerned are games-console emulators: N64oid, Ataroid, Gamboid and Snesoid have disappeared from the Marketplace in the last few days, following PSX4Droid which was vanished last month.

Such emulators are on very dodgy ground - not being licensed by the original manufacturers and almost certainly in breach of copyright. But Google isn't just pulling the applications: as Engadget reports, it is also cancelling the developer accounts of those responsible, making it impossible for them to sell anything else.

In theory those developers can seek alternative markets – selling through their own website or via an alternative such as SlideMe – but the Android Marketplace is a lot more than an application shop. As well as collecting payments, the Marketplace application provides copy protection and ownership information, so switching to an alternative market means cutting off the existing customers.

Developer Yong Zhang, who has moved his plethora of titles onto SlideMe, has had to offer them free to appease customers who paid money via the Marketplace and want ongoing support and updates: there's no way to transfer receipts between markets.

Yong Zhang is, of course, in breach of various copyrights in creating and selling the emulators, not to mention facilitating wholesale copyright violation by the players of console games who don't own the corresponding cartridges (and, arguably, even if they do). So one might argue that he only has himself to blame.

Google has a very laissez-faire attitude to policing the Android Marketplace: only removing content when someone complains. In this case it seems Sega was the complainant, but with the chocolate factory proving so responsive it seems likely other companies will follow suit. ®

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