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'I'm a PIRATE' confessions spew from OED iPhone dictionary

Cross developers puppet innocent along with buccaneers

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Users of iOS dictionary apps from Collins, Longman and the OED have found themselves outed as pirates on Twitter, as a name-and-shame tactic used by the apps' developer backfires.

The company concerned, Enfour, apparently reckons that 75 per cent of its users are pirates, which is why it planted some code in its applications to get their Twitter credentials and post confessions into their Tweet stream. However the apps failed to finger the right people ... prompting red faces all round and multilingual apologies from the company.

The applications are mainly dictionaries and were updated at the start of November. Then some users started noticing a mysterious tweet appearing in their stream:

"How about we all stop using pirated iOS apps? I promise to stop. I really will. #softwarepirateconfession"

One of the first reports of the tweet was from Pocketables, where the disgruntled writer managed to dig up the receipt for the Oxford Deluxe Dictionary app he'd paid $50 for two years ago, but that didn't stop the tweet being sent out.

The app obviously had to ask for the user's Twitter details, which it did following the last update, but with such an old app and one bearing the Oxford Dictionary brand, the user didn't feel there was any risk involved - not to mention that other users report the applications would not run unless the Twitter details were provided.

Ars Technica has gathered a selection of reports, though it hasn't been able to pin down what's causing the inaccurate accusations - beyond establishing that not every installation is tweeting and that both jailbroken and vanilla handsets are among those which are.

Enfour did swiftly apologise, in Japanese (PDF), and provided a list of applications (PDF, also in Japanese, though the app names are in English) which are being updated to remove the anti-piracy code. Staff also apologised on Twitter, which is where the 75 per cent claim was made.

Not that the problem has disappeared, as a casual search of Twitter shows such tweets being generated every minute or so even now, so the updates are clearly a work in progress.

Piracy on mobile devices is still rife, despite the ease with which applications may be purchased, so it's not surprising to see developers trying different approaches. App stores packed with pirated content are blatant, often not even attempting to apply a veneer of legitimacy and it's disheartening to see one's work ripped off to such an extent. Enfour's idea of shaming users into paying for their software is very Japanese, but its hard to imagine many gaijin being bothered by such a tweet appearing in their stream, unless they hadn't nicked the software ... in which case they'd be absolutely livid. ®

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