App Store Plagiarist Back Under New Name

A noted iTunes App Store plagiarist seems to be at it again.

A developer called Yan Zhenhua has a fairly robust catalog of games in Apple’s store for play on the iPhone. The latest is Tiny Skater, a casual skateboarding game. That’s a screenshot of Tiny Skater up there.

It looks remarkably like this screenshot:

That second one is Tiny Hawk, a Flash game from a developer called Polygon Toys. The remarkable similarity between the photos is because, according to Tiny Hawk’s creator, Pekka Kujansuu, Tiny Skater is a plagiarized version of Tiny Hawk, as Indie Games Blog brought to light in this story. Having played through the early portions of both, it becomes quickly apparent that Tiny Skater isn’t just borrowing elements or riffing on the concept of Tiny Hawk — it is, in fact, a mobile recreation of the Flash title in almost every respect, with slightly different art assets.

This isn’t the first time Yan Zhenhua has gotten up to such antics. In fact, games created by someone called Yan Zhenhua (and also published under the developer name of EdisonGame) are largely borrowed from Flash titles, and sometimes lifted wholesale. Months ago, one indie developer, Halfbot, successfully petitioned for the removal of EdisonGame’s plagiarized version of its game, The Blocks Cometh, from the App Store.

Since then, Halfbot has released its own version of the game to critical acclaim, but there was a lengthy span of time that EdisonGame/Yan Zhenhua was profiting from the game Halfbot created. Other games, like a version of DonutGames’ Traffic Rush, have also been bounced from the App Store — seemingly for the same reasons, as many disappeared immediately following attempts by the media (Game Front included) to contact the originals’ developers and Apple about the situation.

With Tiny Skater, Yan Zhenhua is operating under a new name — a studio called Domi Games. Domi even has its own website, which you can find here, but it’s “under construction” and includes no information.

Up to now, there has never been a direct way to contact EdisonGame or Yan Zhenhua, but Game Front reached out for comment by using a WHOIS lookup to find the registration contact email for the site — yanzhenhua86@163.com. Attempts to make contact with the owner of that email address have not been returned, and 163.com is Chinese website that provides free email accounts.

Game Front also contacted Apple with questions about the continued developer relationship of Yan Zhenhua, EdisonGame and Domi Games with the company, but no responses were received. The removal of questionable or plagiarized games from the App Store up to this point suggests that Apple has taken action against Yan Zhenhua — yet the developer’s titles persist in the App Store, making money off the work of other developers. The Domi Games label on Tiny Skater suggests Yan Zhenhua is either growing an App Store operation or attempting to escape the bad press that surrounds EdisonGame.

Either way, one would think Apple would have stepped up by now to remove this repeat offender from the App Store. Yet nothing has changed, and Yan Zhenhua is allowed to continue to sell apps and even persists in selling apps that Apple has received copyright notifications about — such as Ultimate Assassin 2, an EdisonGame title that allegedly is the stolen work of Erman Haskan, a Flash developer with a title of the same name.

Apple is slow to react to such claims of plagiarism, but this is becoming a reprehensible lack of action on the company’s part, especially given the level of control Apple exercises on the App Store on a daily basis. Yan Zhenhua and the related developer labels are actively stealing games, repackaging them and selling them under multiple names to iOS device users, and the developer isn’t even required to provide contact information in the iTunes App Store to take responsibility for what is sold there.

These games should be removed immediately, and Yan Zhenhua, EdisonGame and Domi Games should be banned outright from the App Store. The simple, unequivocal fact is that Apple is actively profiting from theft, and it remains the only player in this scenario in a position to really do anything about it.

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