Naadan Chords - Mobile App Legal Roadblocks

This post is to explain why I had to stop iOS App updates and remove images from the Android App for Naadan Chords. I believe you guys deserve an explanation as to what exactly happened behind the scenes, and why I was forced to take these steps.

First things first, I've been running the website - http://www.naadanchords.com for over 5 years now. My mission, passion and driving force has been to help fellow Guitarists to learn to play Malayalam songs. I am just a single person running and maintaining the website and the mobile apps with occasional help from my dear friends. It was a dream come true for me when I published the mobile apps on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

Images in the Android App

If you remember, the Android App used to have nice beautiful images for every post:

Android app image

Then I got an email notification from the Google Play app review team saying that I needed to provide them with legal documentation that proves I can use these images in the app.

Here is the full mail:

Thanks for submitting your app to Google Play.

I reviewed Naadan Chords, com.amitsn.naadanchords, and had to reject it because of an unauthorized use of copyrighted content. If you submitted an update, the previous version of your app is still live on Google Play.

Here’s how you can submit your app for another review:

1. Remove any content owned by a third party from your app. For example, your app Store Listing contains: images of “Aanandam” in the App experience.

2. Read through the Unauthorized Use of Copyrighted Content article for more details and examples.

3. Make sure your app is compliant with the Impersonation and Intellectual Property policy and all other policies listed in the Developer Program Policies. Remember that additional enforcement could occur if there are further policy issues with your apps.  
Sign in to your Developer Console and submit your app.

What if I have permission to use the content?

Contact our support team to provide a justification for its use. Justification may include providing proof that you are authorized to use the content in your app or some other legal justification.  

They claimed my use of the "Aanandam" movie poster as a copyright violation. I tried to fight back, but finally I agreed to remove all the images from the app, and Google's Play store review team approved the revision to be published.

The real blow came from Apple.

iOS App - Third Party copyright infringement

Here is the email I got from Apple:

Your app includes third-party lyrics and/or sheet music without the necessary authorization. The use of third-party copyrighted materials requires documented evidence of your right to use such content in your app.

Your app and its contents should not infringe upon the rights of another party. In the event your app infringes another party’s rights, you are responsible for any liability to Apple because of a claim.

Next Steps

To resolve this issue, please provide documentary evidence of rights to use this content. Once we have reviewed your documentation and confirmed its validity, we will proceed with the review of your app.

Alternatively, please remove the third-party content from your app and its metadata.  

This email really broke my heart. With Naadan Chords, I have no intentions to violate any copyrights. I do not allow song downloads or promote piracy in any way. I painstakingly figure out all the chords and tabs just for the purpose of helping others to enjoy, play and appreciate good music.

I am stating this firmly - If any of the songs copyright holders feel that I am infringing their rights by using the lyrics of their songs in my website, I am ready to remove those posts from my site and the mobile apps.

Apple has left me no choice but to stop all updates to the Naadan Chords iOS App and this means that unless this issue is resolved, there won't be any updates after v1.6. I tried my best to fight back against this issue by clearly saying that I have no intentions to infringe on any copyrights and in my 5+ years of running Naadan Chords, I've not received a single copyright violation concern.

Apple has left me no choice but to stop all updates to the Naadan Chords iOS App.

The only way for me to resume the iOS app development is to provide them with "documentation" that states that I really am allowed to use the lyrics of these songs in my application. I have no idea of where to start, since the site contains 100+ songs and how to obtain the necessary documents / rights for all these.

TL;DR

Friends, I've described the problems that the Naadan Chords iOS and Android app is facing, and this is the current state:

  • I will continue to ship Android app updates, but I am not allowed to use any copyrighted images.
  • The iOS app is in real trouble since Apple has marked the usage of third party song lyrics as a policy violation. I will have to submit documentation to them that proves that I am allowed to use this content in the app.
  • The existing iOS app version will continue to be served in the App Store, but I am not allowed to submit any updates until I solve the copyright issue.