Google Bans ‘Downloader’ Again Following Markscan DMCA Notice

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Close to seven years online and after more than 50 million installs, in May 2023 Android app 'Downloader' was removed from Google Play following a baseless copyright complaint. The app was restored three weeks later by which time Downloader had lost almost half its userbase. A few hours ago, Google suspended Downloader again in response to a substantially deficient takedown notice filed by anti-piracy outfit Markscan.

downloader-logoCreated by software developer Elias Saba and released on the Amazon Appstore in November 2016, ‘Downloader’ offered two things; an empty URL field and a download button.

Downloader was intentionally basic but as a former Fire TV Product Manager at Amazon, Saba knew that a simple tool to transfer files would solve a fundamental shortcoming. Over 50 million installs of Downloader to date speak for the software’s popularity but in May 2023, progress came to a screeching halt.

Several Israeli TV companies filed a DMCA complaint at Google Play alleging that Downloader offered copyrighted content. The companies supplied no details of the content allegedly infringed and said nothing about how ‘Downloader’ somehow managed to violate copyright law.

Google suspended Downloader leaving Saba no other option than to file a DMCA counternotice. The developer was forced to wait 10 business days for the complainants to respond and a total of 20 days for Downloader to be restored. After almost three weeks offline, Downloader had lost 47% of its active users.

Just six months later and it’s happening all over again.

Another Baseless Copyright Complaint

Speaking with TorrentFreak last evening, Saba calmly explained that a new DMCA takedown notice, filed by India-based anti-piracy outfit Markscan, had resulted in Google suspending Downloader once again. The news was delivered by Google on Sunday evening via the notice below.

Google Play DMCA Downloader

Deficient DMCA Notice, Entirely Deficient Claims

Given Downloader’s limited capabilities, even a sensible discussion on the merits would’ve required Markscan to come up with something special. In the event, the DMCA notice filed at Google Play falls substantially short of the established minimum standard for removing a single URL, let alone an app boasting 50 million downloads.


In response to a request to ‘Identify and describe the copyrighted work’ allegedly infringed, the response ‘Properties of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’ is especially unhelpful.

In 2022, Warner revealed that its library consists of more than 145,000 hours of programming, including 12,500 feature films and 2,400 television series comprised of more than 150,000 individual episodes.

Alleging infringement of just one of these copyrighted works would’ve been trivial, had the DMCA notice stated a valid claim against an app that carries and indexes zero content, and is substantially less functional than a web browser.

Google says that it was notified that Downloader “allegedly infringes upon the copyright of others, and violates applicable copyright laws in the relevant country/jurisdiction.” Logic suggests that any alleged infringement would indicate a violation of United States copyright law. However, if we take Markscan’s home turf as an example, are vague allegations acceptable in India?

Just two examples picked at random (1,2, pdf) show that takedown notices filed by the same team offer a level of detail likely to meet standards almost anywhere. Why this wasn’t replicated in the complaint against Downloader raises serious questions.

Another DMCA Counternotice, More Time Offline

On Monday evening, Saba filed an appeal at Google Play and 24 minutes later received notification that it had been rejected.

DMCA Appeal Rejected

As a result the developer followed up with a DMCA counternotice. No response had been received at the time of writing.

Shortly after, Saba was contact by Google AdMob who informed him that ads in the Downloader app will stop being served if it isn’t restored by Tuesday (today). The background to this message is interesting, as Saba explains.

“You see, I never had ads in my app and relied solely on donation buttons in the app. But when the app was suspended last time, I learned those donation buttons stop working, even for people that already had the app installed,” he informs TorrentFreak.

“As a backup plan, in case the app was suspended again, I added ads to the app for the first time. Now I know it was a mistake going with Google for the ads since, evidently, they break those as well when the app is suspended. I just can’t catch a break.”


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