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Skim Knockoff(s) on the Mac App Store

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Sometime in January, a Skim user asked the developers if we’d submitted it to the Mac App Store. We hadn’t.

The app listed for sale for $29 on the store as “PDF Reader” is actually our free and open source Skim app, although no mention of the Skim Sourceforge project is made in the description, and the support link just goes to a livejournal post where the Skim web page ad copy has been pasted. There is also a $19 app called “PDF Expert” that appears to be another copy. That one even went ahead and used Adobe’s Acrobat trademark in their icon!

Anyone who buys these apps is paying for a program that has no support from and no coordination with the actual developers and an unknown update or bug fix schedule. They won’t know about the tips and support available on the Skim wiki or the users mailing list. They could get a better product for free.

Naturally, I’d like to see these unofficial copies removed from the store.

Because the project uses the permissive BSD license, it’s officially OK to take the code, change nothing, and sell it. However, there is an acknowledgement clause, so if a copy doesn’t mention the actual authors anywhere, it’s in violation of the license.

At one point in mid-January, “PDF Reader” was offered for free, so the main developer, Christiaan Hofman, downloaded it to check. He found no mention of the original authors. So now we have something we can actually complain about.

Now, I wrote an initial prototype and started the sourceforge project, but Christiaan deserves most of the credit for the great app that it became. However, mostly because of my role at the beginning, I am the copyright holder of the overall product and many of the source files. So I took the lead, and over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out who to talk to in Apple to even find out what my options are.

I emailed Mac App Store support, who pointed me to both the Developer Relations contact info and to Apple Legal. Developer Relations said they can’t help me because I’m not a member the Apple Developer Program, so they also pointed to Legal. Ok, a bit of runaround, but I thought contacting Legal seemed reasonable.

Funny, I never thought I’d want to send a DMCA takedown notice, but this is a copyright claim. I decided to use their copyright violation reporting form. In Safari and every other browser I tried, this form just doesn’t work! It keeps asking for my phone number even when it already has it… So on January 26 I sent a request to copyright@apple.com with the info for the form and asked what to do next.

Since then I’ve heard nothing, so I thought it might be time to ask the rest of the world – has anyone had to deal with violations like this before, and is there a better way to address it?

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