Movie studios target mobile apps for copyright infringement

Apps that contain the likeness of movie characters such as Spiderman, Green Lantern, or Bilbo Baggins have come under scrutiny from Hollywood.

Google Play app store. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

After targeting Web sites for copyright infringement for years, Hollywood is now setting its sights on mobile apps, according to Reuters.

Time Warner, Walt Disney, Sony, Viacom, and Twentieth Century Fox have all recently sent app "take down" notices to Google. Citing copyright infringement, these studios are demanding that the Web giant remove apps that use the likeness of characters in their movies or TV shows.

One of the offending apps is "Hobbit 3D Wallpaper HD," which has images from the popular movie, according to Reuters. Other apps are from movies like "Clash of the Titans," "Spiderman," and "Green Lantern."

The app market is a lucrative one. According to Reuters, it's worth $20 billion as of this year. Also, many of these apps get away without paying licensing fees.

"Smartphone apps that provide a direct link to infringing content have become a growing problem that needs to be addressed," Motion Picture Association of America's senior vice president for Internet content protection Marc Miller told Reuters. "Not only do these apps offer access to creative content that has been illegally copied, but they also pose risks to consumers from malware and often fail to provide viewers with the quality product they could often get through a growing number of legitimate sources."

According to Reuters, Google is complying with the studios' requests and is removing many of these apps from its Google Play app store. An Apple spokesperson wouldn't comment on take down notices for Reuters but did say that it reviews all apps before offering them in its App Store.

Over the past few years, Google has continually made more concessions to copyright owners, who have long demanded that it take steps to prevent copyright infringement. And, in August, it took action that was among the most significant antipiracy measures the company has ever adopted by penalizing sites that generated many complaints from copyright owners.

It's unclear if the Web giant has taken additional measures to curb copyright infringement on apps in Google Play.

CNET contacted Google and Apple for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

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