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A letter from our CEO regarding Themer's absence from the Google Play store

After hitting 1 million downloads in less than four months a few weeks ago, Themer was suspended from the Play store on the night of February 2nd due to a copyright concern regarding our "Seven" theme (which is just one of over 200 themes available in Themer). Apple Inc. claimed that several icons used in Seven infringed their copyrights. We immediately removed this theme and thought that, at worst, Themer would be back on Play in a few days. But now a week later, we're facing the possibility that a few days might turn into a few weeks. We've spoken to legal representatives from Apple (who have been very nice, reasonable, and helpful), and they have no remaining concerns. But apparently, Google has a process for these things, and there's nothing we can do to accelerate that process. Unfortunately, we still have not heard from anyone at Google. 

We've included the letter from Google we woke up to on the morning of February 3rd at the end of this post. 

We replied to Google's letter and have contacted everyone in our Rolodex that could help to restore Themer. Because Google does not provide an advocate for developers (or even a single point of contact), we're stuck emailing random people who may or may not be able to assist.

So when will Themer be back on the Play store? It's frustratingly impossible to predict. Someone at Google must first confirm that the content in question has been removed and follow their own internal procedures before they flip the "on" switch. It's likely that we are in a queue, waiting with other apps that require evaluation.

Why not release the APK? Because we prefer to not circumvent the Play store. Doing so would result in those users not getting updates. And since we have an aggressive upgrade schedule on our way to Themer 1.0 (non-beta), that's a non-starter. 

We set out to create the best homescreen experience available for Android by allowing beautiful themes to be applied with one click. We've been thrilled by the response from the press and from our users. People love Themer, and that makes us really happy. Nothing has changed on our end in terms of the development path and the future we envision for the app. In fact, we're near completion of a new version that offers memory and battery optimizations, new customization options for the app drawer, and tons of bug fixes. We'll be ready to get this update out as soon as we're back on the Play store. 

Current users will continue to be supported with new themes daily and assistance with any software issues via support.themerapp.com.

There are 12 people that spend all day, everyday, working on about Themer, and this situation, while frustrating and a bit disheartening, has not detracted from our resolve and mission. We graciously thank everyone who has downloaded Themer, shared a theme, or recommended the app to their friends. And to those who want to try Themer for the first time but can't: we'll be back up soon. In the meantime, please enjoy our videos on: http://www.themerapp.com/

Please feel free to send any questions or comments to: support@themerapp.com. You will get a response. 

Letter from Google:
This is a notification that your application, Themer Beta, with package ID com.mycolorscreen.themer, has been removed from the Google Play Store.

REASON FOR REMOVAL: Alleged copyright infringement (according to the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act).

All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts. If your account is terminated, payments will cease and Google may recover the proceeds of any past sales and the cost of any associated fees (such as chargebacks and payment transaction fees) from you.

Please review the Developer Distribution Agreement and Content Policy to ensure that your applications are compliant with our policies.

The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. Click here for more information about the DMCA, and see http://www.google.com/dmca.html for the process that Google requires in order to make a DMCA complaint.

Google may reinstate your application into the Google Play Store upon receipt of a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of the DMCA. Click here for more information about the requirements of a counter notification and a link to a sample counter notification. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.

Please note that we have included a text copy of the Infringement Notice we received for your reference.

The Google Play Team

Text copy of DMCA complaint:

subject_lr_dmca: Your Request to Google 
full_name: xxxx
companyname: xxxx
represented_copyright_holder: Apple Inc. 
contact_email_noprefill: xxxx
country_residence: US 
location_of_copyrighted_work: The original artwork for the following 
infringed iOS7 app designs may be viewed on any iDevice running the iOS7 
operating system: 

Notes (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871602) 
Stocks (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871786) 
Newsstand (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871650) 
Maps (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871438) 
Camera (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871668) 
Photos (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871779) 
Settings (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871669) 

description_of_copyrighted_work: Apple Inc. is the sole and exclusive owner 
of the copyright in the original artwork for the app designs in its iOS 7 
operating system. The foregoing application being distributed on Google 
Play intentionally includes unauthorized reproductions of Apple’s 
copyrighted apps, including its icon designs for Notes (Copyright Reg. No. 
VA1871602), Stocks (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871786), Newsstand (Copyright 
Reg. No. VA1871650), Maps (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871438), Camera (Copyright 
Reg. No. VA1871668), Photos (Copyright Reg. No. VA1871779), Settings 
(Copyright Reg. No. VA1871669) and other features. This application 
violates Apple's copyrights, in addition to other Apple IP rights. (This 
app developer’s unauthorized reproduction of Apple’s multiple copyrights 
may be viewed in-app by first downloading and installing the app, allowing 
Themer to create widgets on one’s device, and loading the “Seven” theme 
from the list of the “Most Popular” category under the Browse Themes.) 
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39 comments
 
Typical Apple trying to make money because there phones don't sell that much. Very sad on Apple.
 
My god I never thought a theme or ones perspective of it would lead to this. It's like the war against Apple has started again. Remember this: good artists copy, great artists steal!. Bad on you apple. What can anyone do If you have only one theme. Hopefully wish themer soon to be on play store. All the best.
 
I'm glad you guys finally spoke up but this could and should have been said day one. I read about it first on a blog! 
 
Wow, is just a theme, can't believe Apple would do that.
 
Yea add this to another reason why I dislike Crapple!
 
Apple's itrolling the Play Store now? Sorry to hear about Themer. :-[
 
And if I needed another reason to hate Apple... 

Marco and Bill, anyone we can complain to at Google?

Have you ever considered Amazon App Store? 
 
+Trina Morgan We'll without the theme, there shouldn't be an issue with Apple but who knows. 
 
A lot of apps were suspended recently for copyright against Google and Facebook to name a few, so it's not just Apple raising a stink in the Play Store. No, I'm not an Apple fan. Never owned one , never will. 
 
More than happy to see the back of any Apple themes, always wondered why they're so popular in the first place. Hopefully Google will get Themer back in its rightful place real soon. Oh, and thanks Apple, winning again, eh?
 
I have had similar bad luck. I had an iOS7 uccw theme in the play store and it was kind of popular. Then all of a sudden, Google suspended it without mailing me. When I contacted play store support, they told me I can file DMCA counter notice. i.e. The app was taken down because of a DMCA complain and Google didn't even send me the DMCA complain copy. Anyway, I submitted the DMCA counter notice and instead of getting the app reinstated, Google terminated my developer account. I had 50+ apps in the store; I lost all of them. And they have rejected my petition to reverse the account termination three times now.
 
Thank you for the clear and concise letter detailing all the happened, especially +Marco Agas as I singled him out a few times with questions.
I had a hunch it was due to some copyright issue, but considering the length of time it took to get a response, was beginning to wonder if it was something concerning privacy. Now it's clear my concerns were unfounded.
Let's pressure Google to get off their butt and get moving on this.

 
+Gsuz barrientos "Why not release the APK? Because we prefer to not circumvent the Play Store. Doing so would result in those users not getting updates. And since we have an aggressive upgrade schedule on our way to Themer 1.0 (non-beta), that's a non-starter." 
 
Just to let you guys/gals who that thought this was due to security related issues know, the NUMBER ONE reason for apps disappearing from the Playstore is from DMCA takedowns. 

This is not truthfully Googles fault as much as it is the way DMCA was constructed by our lawmakers. The idea is that content should be removed FIRST, and questions are asked later. 

Could Google's method for counters to DMCA be better? Yes it could. 

If you want to see just how crazy DMCA takedowns are getting have a quick read over this article. 
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121211/16152021352/dmca-copyright-takedowns-to-google-increased-10x-just-past-six-months.shtml
 
+Bill Surowiecki This doesn’t explain the tons of fake BBM apps on Google Play before it was officially launched. 
 
Thanks for keeping us in the loop guys... hope to see you back soon
 
thanks for the update, reshared the post, google really needs to step up and right things already...  
 
It's disappointing that Apple is still favoring litigation over innovation.  Also a bit surprising that Google's process for reinstating an app doesn't seem to be as streamlined as we would like it to be.  I would like to say Kudos to Themer for keeping the community in the loop.  I've seen projects from other developers miss deadlines or remove features and keep completely silent on the issue.  Yet here's an example of something that's happened completely outside developer control, was handled well by the developer in regards to appstore policy compliance, and the developer is keeping everyone in the loop about the whole situation.  It might be a spot of bad luck, but I hope that the community recognizes the good steps Themer is making in resolving the issue and keeping the community informed.  Good job!
 
I think the problem here is that Google never learnt to work with developers or its customers. do they have customer service at all? because internet is full of horrible stories of banned gmail or developer accounts or missing play store credits. and the only solutions seems to be very loud on twitter or g+ so your post gets noticed by someone working at google who can escalate the issue. 
 
+Marco Agas so what would happen to all the others themes that have been removed (Movies or Brands)...Harry Potter or Jack D. for example? Would all those be back even though they have the potential to cause the app to be removed in the future because of the same reason?
 
+Marco Agas Do you have other sites to download the app, I need it, times ago i restart my phone
 
+Kev Var you can try old G+ posts or XDA, but as stated in the post - it's not recommended.
 
+Trina Morgan Yes it actually does... Blackberry needs to be the one to submit a DMCA takedown request. If they didnt, then google does not need to take it down. If they do, then Google has to. 
 
I'm going to make one last comment about the debacle; it is ridiculous that Themer could not tell us that themselves up til now. It makes me wonder what would happen if there was a serious issue with the app, say a security issue, and we were left in the dark as we were with this debacle. Themer, just tell it to us straight. There's no need to hide things. It does not garner trust from your fans.
 
For some of the people claiming about "innovation" and what not...any of you fanboys actually seen the Seven App?  It was flat out a straight rip-off of iOS7 (why anyone would want that I have no idea...)  There was no innovation in it, it was a copy.  Honestly, Apple did right in this.  Because of copyright laws they have a duty to protect their copyrights or risk losing them.  They worked with Themer, removed the offending theme, and gave the OK to repost the app.  They didn't go after Themer, just the theme.  This honestly is how these things SHOULD happen, not the crap we've normally seen in patent wars.
 
+Michael Harrison you know, you're absolutely right.  My comment towards Apple was more knee-jerk than thought out.  I'm still disappointed in the time it took for Google to reinstate the app, and I appreciate the clarity that Themer has taken in explaining the incident.  It's a little disappointing that Apple is going after something so harmless, but it sounds like they responded with a relatively light hand here.  
 
+Michael Harrison pretty much. I'm no Apple fanboy, but in this case the hate should be directed towards the root of the problem, which is the too aggressive, no-questions-asked, kill-first-review-later policy of DMCA takedowns. It's ridiculously bad.
 
Yeah. I think even bigger the problem is very old and crappy patent laws that are in drastic need of overhaul to the 21st century. 
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