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Updated: Moon+ Reader Kicked from Google Play Due to Bogus Piracy Claims

February 3rd, 2013 by · 30 Comments · piracy, software news

moon plus logo readerI’ve mentioned the Android reading app Moon+ Reader  once or twice (it’s bundled into the hacked firmware for the Sony Reader T1 and T2). It’s a very popular app with excellent file management features, ebook formatting options, and support for downloading ebooks from website.

It’s one of  the more popular reading apps available for Android, second only to Aldiko in terms of downloads – or at least it was before the app was removed from Google Play.

It looks like the Russian ebook distributor LitRes.ru has been watching the Samsung-Apple patent fight and taken a lesson to heart: If you can’t find a legitimate way to compete, invent a rules violation and get some authority to throw the book at your competition. That’s what has happened to Moon+ Reader this weekend. According to the developer’s blog, this reading app has been removed from Google Play because of a piracy complaint.

LitRes has just discovered that Moon+ Reader, an app that has been available for a couple years now, lets you download ebooks from websites. And *gasp* that includes pirate sites.

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Like any number of other ebook apps (including Stanza,Mantano, and Aldiko), Moon+ Reader supports OPDS. This is an RSS-like protocol that enables websites to offer ebook downloads inside compatible reading apps. While at first glance it looks like a download protocol, it would be better to describe it as a catalog protocol because it also includes important metadata like title, author, file format type, and description.

Far from being a tool of pirates, OPDS is used by many legitimate ebookstores and download sites. Project Gutenberg, Baen Books, Internet Archive, and Feedbooks all use OPDS to offer ebook downloads, and the app developer Bluefire uses it to connect their reading apps for iOS and Android with partner ebookstores. There’s even a trick where you can set up your own library of legally purchased ebooks in your Dropbox account and create an OPDS catalog for it.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that this could be an honest mistake. Well, no. From what I can tell, this is not the first time that LatRes tried this particular trick.

The developers of a Russian text-to-speech ebook app Chitatel reported late last month that their app had been removed from iTunes for much the same reason (it’s back now). According to their announcement, LitRes accused them of piracy because it was possible for users to use the Chitatel app to download pirated content. Newsflash for Litres: You can also download pirated content with a web browser.

LitRes has a number of apps in Google Play, including both an audiobook app as well as an ebook app. Aside from the non-Russian reading app, none of the apps have all that many downloads. But one thing they do have are a lot of 1-star reviews. When this news broke on Reddit, one redditor proposed a campaign of retaliatory 1-star reviews. I’d say it’s having an effect.

As for Moon+ Reader, the developer has filed a counter notice with Google.  The app is bound to be returned to Google Play, though it might take up to a month for Google to get around to it.

Until then you can download the free version of the app from the developer’s website. The paid version of the app requires a $5 registration fee which can be paid via Paypal.

Update: LitRes has responded to the story. Assuming that Google Translate did its job, they claim that both apps mentioned above “include in their applications pre-installed links to pirated library as the main source for books”. I call BS on this statement; the main sources of Moon+ Reader are sites like PG, Smashwords, Feedbooks, etc – none of which are pirate sites.

And while it is possible that Moon+ Reader could have offered a link to a pirate library via a user submitted OPDS catalog, that catalog (as well as the link to it) is not in the app so removing the app from Google Play will not remove the pirated content.

I think it far more likely that LitRes filed a piracy complaint in order to harm the competition, not fight piracy. Had that been their goal they would have communicated with the developers first.

Second update: One reader is reporting that his version of the app has an extra download site in the list that isn’t showing up in the 3 versions of the app I downloaded. He reports that TUeBL is listed alongside Smashwords, PG, and the rest. That is (according to some) a pirate site, though the operators dispute this. But does it have ebooks which LitRes cam file valid DMCA notices? I don’t know.

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30 Comments so far ↓

  • nick bangO

    There is one major area where moon + is absolutely failing : css support.

    As a matter of fact, each time people promote those epub apps with such bad support, the idea that ebooks are sub books is reinforced.

    Moon + reader devs, like fb reader devs should be ashamed for this simple reason, especially as the moon + screenshot in this article displays 3 major typographic fails, and it’s just about fundamentals here.

    Could you please tell those devs or should we stick to the idea ebooks are shit?

  • Mike Cane

    Disgustingly hilarious. Google acting like the MPAA — the very MPAA that says *Google* enables piracy.

    • James L

      I wouldn’t say Google is acting like the MPAA. They’re acting like any ISP that gets a DMCA notice from the MPAA or RIAA and shuts a source down before verifying it for truth. The big difference in your analogy is that the MPAA represents content providers and claims domain over them all. Google doesn’t do that, they’re just rolling over when commanded to by a content provider.

  • Dyin

    Some at Google Play must be a very dumb bitch ass, since:

    1) Removed the application without investigating the matter. What? If I send a letter next day, that Angry Birds was totaly my idea, will they remove it aswell instantly?
    2) They clearly don’t understand, that implementing a protocol that might be used to exchange illegal content does not mean the developers should suffer from it.

    Letter to Google: I will download an illegal copy of something in the following minutes with Opera, and FTP client, so delete them from the store. Thus, ban Galaxy S3 from the market, cause my dirty hands will be guided by Samsung.

    Google smells like a dumb ass.

    • ZZC

      Well said, Dyin. It is puzzling to me why there is no zero star. LitRes deserves a 0 star. IMHO, Moon+ Reader is the best available on Google Play. I have been a satisfied paid user for several months now soon after I bought my Google Nexus 7.

  • igorsk

    Some more details: http://4pda.ru/forum/index.php?showtopic=426738&view=findpost&p=19254946

    Apparently the issue was not that the program offers ability to use OPDS, but that several links to pirate sites were preinstalled with the program.

    They also claim that the author should have received notice from Google about the complaint but did not react in time to prevent its removal.

  • Lynne Connolly

    My preferred reading app. if there are links to pirate sites, I haven’t seen them. I have the paid version on my Android devices and it does everything I want it to – and a bit more. Last night I tried out Cool Reader and FBR and Aldiko, and I still prefer Moon+. May it come back soon.

  • fjtorres

    A lesson for developers: relying on any single vendor to distribute your application exposes you to this kind of hijinks. Especially when it comes to free apps, why not distribute directly from your website? For paid apps, in-app unlocking from a free variant.
    MoonReader is available from Amazon and their website so they’re still in business but a small developer could get wiped out this way.

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  • Furio

    You can try Mantano reader instead… waiting for Moon+ resurrection

  • Brian

    ” the main sources of Moon+ Reader are sites like PG, Smashwords, Feedbooks, etc – none of which are pirate sites”

    What about TUEBL? I don’t know anything about the site, but it came pre-installed with my copy along with the ones you mentioned and it sure appears to have pirated stuff after a 30 second look.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      It’s not listed on mine. I also went back and got v1.8. It’s not on that version of the app either.

      • Brian

        I don’t know. It’s listed in mine (Moon+ Pro v1.8.9)

        • Nate Hoffelder

          Noted in the post. Thanks!

          • Asbjorn Grandt

            Looking at the Moon+ Reader change log, on version 1.8.11 it says:
            #Delete TUEBL book site from default list (Move to Moon+ Catalogs instead)

            Moon+ probably should have removed that one altogether. Still, does LitRet have a valid claim?

      • igorsk

        It seems one source of confusion is that the offending link (it was to LibRusEc) was not in the program package itself, but was present in the “weekly updates from our users” list which was fetched from the developer’s site.

  • Wotan

    Just wanted to note that there were some indications in russian speaking part of the 4pda that LitRes might have acted through a contact at Russian Google.

    The message that Seany got (the developer) somewhat confirms that:

    “… the last message I got from litres is “I will use my personal contacts in Google to speed up the recovery process…”

    http://moondownload.com/

  • iVan

    And some more interresting facts: there is russian reading app that took 2nd or 3rd place after MoonReader and Google Books in popularity, and the author recived a letter from LitRes (i’m sorry, but it really takes me to say ShitRes) that there are links to “pirate” sites (not taking into account that site may be called “pirate” only after court) and not to follow MoonReader the author MUST not only remove all preinstalled OPDS catalogs to pirated sites, but to insert a filter in the app to PREVENT USER adding OPDS catalogs from the list that LitRes considers pirate (list is enclosed).

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  • Vikarti Anatra

    This also makes one interesting question:
    DMCA is USA law.
    Google is USA company.
    but Litres is NOT USA company. It’s Russian company.
    How they have standing to send DMCA requests (if it was indeed DMCA request), and why google complied at all?

    And litres…only thing they DO good is that they are largest ebook retailer in Russia. And most books are sold without DRM(and you can choose format:FB2,EPUB,MOBI,…)(some of books are sold with ADOBE ADEPT DRM).

  • Oleg

    It was about preset ODPS flibusta.net , now deleted from Moon+ Reader.

  • Travis McCrea

    TUEBL is not a “pirate website”, and not only complies with every law in every country in the Western world, but goes above and beyond by providing a DMCA method which allows a book to be removed with minimal effort or technical ability.

    We provide a service, we allow people to upload books that they own the rights to. We tell them to only upload books they own the rights to. We provide a method to remove books which is more simple and faster than Youtube, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Grooveshark, Wikipedia or any other website which allows community added content.

    People complain about the copyright infringement on any community website, and TUEBL is no different. However, TUEBL has gone above and beyond in it’s requirements as a website operating in the US and Canada and to call us a “pirate website” is libellous.

    That said, we are deeply sorry to hear what happened to Moon+ Reader and we wish good luck to the guy who makes it.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Just because you follow a procedure that is intended to make it difficult for you to be sued for the ebooks you pirate, it doesn’t mean you’re not pirating the ebooks.

      Your site is intended to distribute ebooks that you don’t have permission to share. That is a good enough definition of a pirate site.

  • Mike Amundsen

    One of the main reasons I selected Moon+ was for OPDS support. I host my own private OPDS server where i store quite a bit of DRM-free material (all of which I legally acquired). While it may be that some of the “pre-installed” links now point to pirated material, that’s no reason to pull the application.

    I will continue to use Moon+ until I find a better reader app that supports OPDS.

  • Brian

    Moon+ and Moon+ Pro are back on Google Play.

  • ruth

    Yes, and it works better than the others, I found. I tried Aldiko for a while and it was great, then got hung up/froze all the time. Coincidentally around the time I downloaded Kobo to try it out? Not sure.

    Kobo=eh. Tried Moon Reader and its great so far — no freezing, no issues, no drama – just GREAT.

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  • Debbie Ryan

    I have a fix for Moon reader for android users and new apple user for Mega reader…woohoooo
    Add a new catalog http://tuebl.ca/catalog
    It is the same as the old

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