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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thoughts on Piracy (mostly in Cydia)

Jailbreak developer, Nikias Bassen @pimskeks, posted the following tweets on Twitter on March 11, 2014 and they have been sitting with me ever since.

For those of you who may not know, Insanelyi is a repository for Cydia that is usually best known for connecting jailbroken iOS devices to pirated tweaks. At this moment in time, Cydia allows users to add any and all repos that they'd like to their devices including ones like this Insanelyi and even others like porn repos without any sort of regulation. In the attached tweets, Nikias says that he has tried to include security into this and that making it so users of Cydia can't add repos like Insanelyi won't do anything as someone will release a patch anyway.

If you check on the Safari Upload Enabler tweak in Cydia, you will notice that Nikias is one of the authors of the tweak as N. Bassen. It's understandable why he is so upset with the community at Insanelyi and others who pirate his tweak. It was his hard work after all and if he requests payment, he deserves payment. And if you don't agree, you ought to not use the software and instead find a more moral alternative.

Admittedly, I do use Insanelyi and for the purpose of piracy...but allow me to explain my side. I only say piracy as that is what it is currently defined as by many authors: the use of an application without properly paying for it first. Why would I use it and how could I justify it?

When it comes to Cydia, what you see isn't what you always get. With as many different versions iOS has had, it's difficult to know what tweaks will work with what version and what won't; not all tweaks explicitly state if they work or not. This is where Insanely comes in for me.

Most tweaks on Cydia do not have trials/demos of their applications. For example, before MyWi 7 was released, I wanted to have some way of getting tethering for my iPhone 5 but wasn't sure whether the current version of MyWi was compatible with my iOS version. Rather than paying $19.99 to try the app and finding out it doesn't work, I wanted to try Insanelyi's pirated version to ensure it would work. (In the case of MyWi, the pirated version didn't work as its security was very tight.)

Is it really right for someone to charge for something without allowing you to make sure it works completely? In the case of brick-and-mortar businesses, most customers will not purchase a product unless they can touch it and/or physically see it. When it comes to online transactions, especially digital software, it's a bit more difficult. But most companies and developers have been accommodating by either applying some sort of very reasonable means of return in case the product was not as described or with trials and demos that allow users to try bits and pieces of the product before coming to the ultimate conclusion to purchase. But how about in the case of things like Cydia and many of the repos that don't offer some sort of refund or trial/demo for the product?

In the absence of a reasonable refund or trial/demo, and when dealing with something as tricky as unapproved-of software, I feel that piracy in the short term is definitely justifiable.

Coming back to my story about MyWi, I eventually purchased the app when I found out that it was truly compatible with my iOS version and that it was just as it was described. With the case for many other tweaks on Cydia, I admit that I did try them first through Insanelyi then purchased them when I found out that they really worked. Also, I admit that there were some tweaks I got through Insanelyi that I found out didn't work and never purchased them because of that. Once I realized that, I removed them from my device and that was that.

I understand Nikias' frustration with users and I wonder if his tweet was targeted at users like myself who use Insanleyi in this same fashion. I certainly hope not as my intention to use Insanelyi is not to be cheap but to ensure a product's validity and certainty with my device. Am I not entitled to that security as a user? I'd prefer that developers like Nikias could offer a better way to try their product, but for the meantime, this seems like the only way and until then, piracy will continue supported by people like me for this reason because we have no other option.

To you, Nikias, and any other developer angered by piracy, strongly consider changing these conditions so that users like myself don't feel a need to support piracy. I've noticed that some developers, like that of MyWi 7, allowed for a trial which allowed users, like myself, to try the tweak before purchase. If it weren't for their trial, I wouldn't have been able to try the app and found out that it works and was worth my money.

Like you, as developers, who work hard developing these wonderful tweaks, we work hard for our money and don't want to feel like we were ripped off because the tweak never worked for us. Through trials, demos, or a better refund policy, users, like myself, feel more secure and safe knowing that we won't be forced to purchase something that never worked for us. It won't completely stop piracy as there are and will always be some who pirate because they're cheap and inconsiderate in not thinking of your hard work, but there will be those of us who won't indirectly support these pirates because we have better ways of getting what we need.

So what are your thoughts guys? Do you disagree or agree with my opinion? If you pirate or use things like Insanelyi, for what purpose do you choose to use these?

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