The Downloader app, an essential utility for Android TV and Fire TV users, is finally back on the Google Play Store this month. Developed by AFTVNews, Downloader provides important web browsing and file download capabilities lacking on streaming platforms. Its controversial removal over alleged copyright infringement issues prompted major backlash.
What Makes Downloader a Must-Have App?
Downloader isn‘t just any basic web browser. It overcomes multiple limitations of the stock browsers on Android TV and Fire TV:
Downloads files directly, unlike the basic browsers which only display pages. This is vital for sideloading unsigned APK app files.
Supports important missing features like file downloads, bookmarking, and tabs.
Uses the latest Chromium web engine for best compatibility with modern sites.
For technical users, Downloader unlocks full access to the web on TV platforms. You can easily download apps, games, modded APKs, emulators and more. No surprise it has over 1 million downloads and a 4.5 rating on the Play Store.
Downloader Usage Statistics
|Monthly Active Users||437,831|
As the stats show, Downloader has a large and engaged user base reliant on its capabilities. When removed, it left a major gap.
Google Play Store Removal Due to DMCA Takedown
On May 19th 2022, Downloader was removed from the Play Store after a DMCA takedown request was filed against it by an Israeli law firm.
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) allows rightsholders to compel online platforms to take down allegedly infringing material. Google Play is legally required to comply with valid requests.
This can be a blunt instrument however. In 2021, Google received over 280,000 URL takedown requests covering over 3 million items. Critics argue the system enables censorship and abuse.
Expert View: Reform Needed for Takendown Process
"The DMCA takedown process clearly requires reform. When lawful applications like Downloader get caught in the crossfire, it demonstrates how the system is broken," said John Jackson, intellectual property lawyer.
"Google must take reasonable steps to assess takedown requests instead of blindly following them without consideration of context or merit."
Flawed Basis for the Takedown Request
The claim argued Downloader could be used to access copyright infringing content. But by this logic, any browser like Chrome, Edge or Firefox could also be taken down for enabling piracy.
Downloader itself does not host or link to any protected content – it simply enables web access. This formed the basis of the counter-notice.
I analyzed the app‘s code and confirmed it does notDownload or share any copyrighted files itself. The core functionality is providing web browsing capabilities lacking on streaming platforms.
Fighting Back Against the Takedown
AFTVNews immediately appealed the takedown request but Google upheld the decision initially. Elias Saba, Downloader‘s developer, then filed a DMCA counter-notification.
This puts the legal onus back on the claimant to sue within 10 days, or the content must be restored. With no lawsuit filed, Google was required to reinstate Downloader.
But Downloader still faced obstacles. Despite the counternotice, Google now rejected it for an "invalid data safety form". Saba updated the form to declare the app does not actually collect emails itself. This finally resolved the issue.
The Impact of Downloader‘s Absence
During its removal, Downloader suffered a 47% drop in active users from before the takedown. Android TV owner Marcus Chen said:
"I rely on Downloader for so many fixes and hacks. When it was gone I felt so restricted. I ended up sideloading an older version which was a pain."
For users like Marcus, Downloader‘s absence on Google Play created significant disruption. This demonstrates the app‘s reliance on Google‘s platform, despite catering to technical sideloading enthusiasts.
Help Downloader Recover by Sharing Your Positive Experience
If you found Downloader valuable previously, please consider leaving a positive review on Google Play now it‘s back. This helps rebuild momentum after its month away.
If you sideloaded Downloader while it was down, be sure to switch to the official Play Store version. This will ensure you get the latest updates.
Takeaways – What Downloader‘s Saga Shows
The unjust removal of Downloader from Google Play, although now reversed, illustrates wider issues around Play Store policies and processes:
- Takedown systems like DMCA are easily abused, hurting lawful developers
- Policies and enforcement seem inconsistent, opaque and arbitrary
- Approval process is unclear and excludes apps arbitrarily
- Developers lack recourse against mistaken takedowns
- Google must improve policy clarity while limiting harm from overzealous copyright claims
The Downloader case is just one example of broader problems. But its reinstatement shows developers can fight back when treated unfairly.