Back in 2004, when LimeWire was the file-sharing client of choice for millions of users, FrostWire appeared as the new kid on the block.
The application began life as a LimeWire fork but underwent several changes over the years. In 2016, it added support for torrents and, five years later, it completely dropped its Gnutella base in favor of BitTorrent.
Today, FrostWire is a well-established torrent client that’s available across the most popular platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. While it’s not the most used torrent client, it has built an impressive userbase of 10 million installs and nearly a quarter million reviews in the Google Play Store alone.
The application is content-neutral and nothing is stored in the client. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s immune to complaints from rightsholders. These are relatively rare but when they arrive they can do a lot of damage, as was illustrated recently.
Play Store Takes Down FrostWire
At the end of November last year, Google informed the FrostWire team that its app had been suspended from Google Play due to alleged copyright infringement. While the software doesn’t host or feature infringing content, the Indian Music Industry (IMI) reached a different conclusion.
IMI represents the interests of local music companies and record labels, including familiar names such as Universal Music India, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music India. According to the takedown notice, FrostWire infringed the rights of the song “Genda Phool,” released by Indian rapper Badshah.
The YouTube clip of the track went viral around the globe, which was good news for the artists and the label, Sony Music India. This naturally meant that some people were trying to pirate it, which triggered IMI to send takedown notices.
IMI’s actions make sense as far as they apply to sites that host or link to pirated copies of the track. However, FrostWire sees itself as a content-neutral app, more akin to a web browser.
After Google suspended the app on November 27, FrostWire developer Angel Leon swiftly sent a reinstatement request along the following lines;
“It’s important to clarify that our app functions as a BitTorrent client, providing a platform for users to share and download legal content.
We unequivocally condemn copyright infringement. Our platform is designed to respect and uphold the rights of content creators while promoting open and legal digital sharing. We believe that the recent copyright claim against our application stems from a misunderstanding of its purpose and functionality.”
If developers file a counternotice, rightsholders have 10 days to respond with a formal legal complaint. In the event non arrive, the app should in theory be restored. According to FrostWire’s developer, that didn’t happen here.
“Then we didn’t hear back from anyone until December 28th, when the app changed status from ‘Suspended’ to ‘Removed’, and we had to follow a process of reinstatement that was absolutely retarded,” Leon says.
Google flagged several issues that weren’t linked to copyright infringement but required multiple code updates. This included changes to old installers that no longer affected newer versions.
Reinstated After More than a Month
After submitting multiple new updates, Google eventually gave the green light to add the app back into the Play Store.
The question remains whether IMI’s takedown notice was indeed a misunderstanding, or if the music group has a real problem with the software. We approached the group for a comment and further context but have yet to hear back.
For now, FrostWire is happy to move on and has just released an update which celebrates its rise from the ashes.
“This update is particularly special as it comes just after FrostWire’s reinstatement on the Google Play Store. It’s not just an update; it’s a celebration of persistence, innovation, and community spirit.”
Troubled Past, Uncertain Future
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that FrostWire has been booted from the Play Store. A similar incident happened several years ago. At the time, Google initially refused to reinstate the app, which was a major setback.
Most of FrostWire’s users are on Android and in a dramatic move, the torrent client decided to call it quits. The decision was eventually reversed after Google changed course and reinstated the app.
This time, FrostWire didn’t make any drastic decisions, but the removal still had a significant impact on its operation.
While all is good for now, there’s no certainty that the app will remain safe. Another rightsholder could come along and ask for it to be removed, which will start the same process all over again.
Ideally, FrostWire would like to see repercussions for inaccurate takedowns, as every time this happens, the app loses some users.
“Both times this happened, we lost a lot of our active userbase, lost subscribers, and revenue, and as you can imagine it can happen again. All it takes is an accusation from anybody and they don’t have any repercussions for doing so,” Leon tells us.
While this is a grim outlook, FrostWire seems to have a fighting spirit these days. In a recent blog post, it likens itself to an “Ice Phoenix”.
“As we celebrate this rebirth, imagine an ‘Ice Phoenix’ rising majestically from a frosty terrain. This mythical creature, with its crystalline feathers and a shimmering aura, soars upwards amidst swirling snowflakes.
“This Ice Phoenix is not just a fantasy; it embodies the spirit of FrostWire – ever resilient, ever evolving.”
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.