25

I'm making a piece of software right now, and I'm just doing it in my free time, so I'm not too serious about it. I want to make a version of the software and put a tracker in it that interfaces with Google Analytics. That will allow me to track things like country of origin, OS information, and hardware specs. I won't be able to see anything that is personally identifying or be able to single any one user out.

Anyways, I want to upload this modified version of the software to Pirate Bay, just to see what percentage of my users are pirating my software. I don't want to go after them, I don't really care that they're pirating it. I just want to see if there are any demographic differences between piraters and non-piraters.

This brings up privacy implications. Do I need to disclose that some sort of tracking is or may be happening in my software? If so, what do I need to disclose?

I live in the US, but since it's online software, people from other countries are bound to download it. Is there anything I need to do to account for that?

UPDATE:

I didn't realize that by uploading it myself that it would make this no longer piracy, but it doesn't really matter for my purposes. I have no intention of coming after these people. I just want to gather some data on piracy for my own curiosity (I know this seems weird but I'm fairly laid back about this piece of software)

  • 9
    Only users using the legal path are forced to accept your TOS. Piracy infringes copyright but can also be a way around TOS - you are not exposed to the TOS and can only "get caught" for mere copyright infringement, instead of being bound by a draconion TOS with e.g. arbitrage clauses. You may be violating the law if the TOS is required for legality and pirates use without agreeing to the TOS, especially if you make that pirate version yourself. Uploading the software yourself may also make the piracy legal (in fact, downloading is legal in most jurisdictions). – Willem Oct 30 '17 at 12:25
  • 9
    You could always do it with style (although the developers did have to admit that the stunt was not as effective as they had hoped). – Cort Ammon Oct 30 '17 at 14:50
  • 8
    Your question contains a serious misunderstanding. if you upload this software, and you are its author, then nobody would be pirating it. You would be the one distributing and copying it, and you can't pirate your own software. And in the US, if you lawfully acquire a lawfully-made copy of a work, you have the legal right to use it without any license or permission. – David Schwartz Oct 30 '17 at 19:56
  • 1
    This is a fascinating question, because it concerns your responsibility with regards to a product to those who steal the product. In other words, what is your responsibility to accommodate those who violated the conditions of use of a product in regards to maintaining their typical protections? – TheEnvironmentalist Oct 31 '17 at 2:26
  • 6
    @TheEnvironmentalist: copyright infringement is not stealing. Do not confuse the two, especially in a discussion regarding the Law. – whatsisname Oct 31 '17 at 2:31
13

Building off @DigitalFire's answer, I looked into the TOS related requirements that Google Analytics puts out and I found this on Google Analytic's TOS:

You will have and abide by an appropriate privacy policy and will comply with all applicable laws relating to the collection of information from visitors to Your websites. You must post a privacy policy and that policy must provide notice of your use of a cookie that collects anonymous traffic data.

Apparently, Google themselves also requires you to notify users when you are using their service to track people (That's pretty good of Google). Here is a simple example of what a privacy policy would look like. There doesn't appear to be any issues with laws in other countries either.

For my purposes, I'll just implement an agreement that pops up during installation that users will have to accept.

  • 2
    That is a requirement when using google's analytic system that you will abide by the privacy policy google has created for their software. I.E; You will not use their software to track people illegally without notify the end user as google want to limit liability. – Digital fire Oct 30 '17 at 4:19
  • 2
    As much as that your approach might seem absolutely reasonable, GDPR (as mentioned in @magnuslundberg answer) specifically precludes (or will on 25.5.2018) creating mandatory agreements about data collection. In other words you may never make provision of a service or good contingent on agreement to collect data. There are other ways to do the same thing but not using a "have to accept" agreement. – DRF Oct 31 '17 at 7:16
  • Given the current score of DigitalFire's answer and its ridiculous advice, it might be worth changing your first sentence not to imply that you're endorsing it... – R.. Oct 31 '17 at 17:02
  • @DRF What are those other ways? Are there any norms regarding this that usually can keep one out of trouble? – Byte11 Oct 31 '17 at 20:49
  • @byte11 They are a bit too tricky to put in a comment and really they pretty much constitute "legal advice" which I, not being a lawyer, can't give. Very succinctly there are some exemptions for research, the public sector and necessary use. I don't think any of them apply to what you want to do though. To be honest this kind of "I want users data so I will provide some service "free" and gather the data as required payment" is exactly one of the things that GDPR was designed to stop. Mostly aiming at big names of course (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook etc.) – DRF Nov 1 '17 at 5:28
9

In the UK there is the Data Protection Act which prohibits the accumulation and collection of personal data (within a predefined scope) without the consent of the user.

If you're unconcerned with personal data and merely want usage statistics, notification and consent gained through TOS is probably sufficient.

  • The OP's question is U.S. based. Not sure of the relevance with U.K. laws. – Digital fire Oct 30 '17 at 14:04
  • 2
    What happens when someone inevitably downloads the thing from UK? I imagine OP will be still open to persecution – OganM Oct 30 '17 at 19:41
  • 5
    @OganM And prosecution! – CJ Dennis Oct 30 '17 at 20:22
  • 3
    The EU GDPR, which comes into effect in May 2018, automatically covers all cases where software or services are used by citizens of the EU. Like the UK's DPA (which was modelled to be compatible with the GDPR), it provides strong protections to end-users. Unless you don't want your software to be used by EU citizens, you will have to comply with the requirements of the GPDR, regardless of whether you're located in the EU yourself or not. – detuur Oct 31 '17 at 11:59
8

The answer is definitely not as easy as "you can do whatever you wish with your software". If that were true I guess I could create a software that steals credit card numbers and uploads them to a public website.

In the EU theres soon a new law governing personal information called the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that governs what you can and can't do with personal information. Would you be in breach of it with your idea? Nobody can be sure until you have discussed it with a lawyer. What I can guarantee you is that no TOS in the world can help you with this.

The risk of you being charged are of course somewhere between a snowball chance in hell and 0 but are you really willing to take that risk?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Oct 30 '17 at 21:17
  • This is a good point because hackers might be able ti use whatever data your broadcasting from the app if you've implanted some kind of tracker that sends reports. – Mark Rogers Oct 30 '17 at 23:03
7

Just an FYI: If you are uploading it to The Pirate Bay, anyone using it is, by definition NOT pirating it. Even if you put a license or some other language saying otherwise, and later try to enforce your copyright.

People have tried doing that, and the court decided this point. The Prenda Law court cases was a situation where a criminal enterprise was uploading pornographic videos to file sharing sites, then attempted to sue the sharers of those videos. While the defendants in that case engaged in considerable other shady behavior, the court ruled their action of uploading to the file sharing sites constituted a voluntary release of copyrights to the public and ruled against the defendants copyright claims.

If you want to see what happens when people pirate your software, you'll have to wait until someone does it, and face the risk the pirate also removes your code for it to phone home in the process.

  • I didn't read that law, but is it safe to assume in your second paragraph, you mean "...ruled against the plaintiffs copyright claims."? – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Oct 31 '17 at 17:02
  • @CanadianLuke: well, ordinarily it would be, but the ruling I mentioned came about in a case where the court itself was dropping the hammer on the Prenda law guys for the mentioned "considerable shady behavior", so they were the defendants in that particular situation. – whatsisname Oct 31 '17 at 18:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.