ABSTRACT: Plagiarism refers to the act of using someone else’s intellectual property without giving the person credit. This article conducts a case study using the example of an amateur developer who engaged in intentional plagiarism. How was this scheme uncovered and why are such acts harmful towards everyone involved? Read on to find out.
A few months ago, a popular Bengali Newspaper reported that a wonder kid from Bengal, Arnab Modak created a Video Conferencing App called “Dristi”. Arnab claimed to be the sole developer. The inclusion of some demanding features by a single amateur developer raised quite a few questions.
Video conferencing with 100 people requires a powerful internet server. These are 4 or 5 times more expensive than normal household computers, and hard to maintain due to their size and complexity. Besides, servers are custom-built by companies, hence less likely to be found in an open market. How did a self-proclaimed amateur developer make such a demanding app without the server?
The developer stated that his app allowed users to host video conferences across multiple countries simultaneously. For that to work, the app must use servers in different countries to overcome ping issues and legal complications of operating internationally. These require a significant amount of resources and cannot be avoided without serious consequences. Here, one may consider the possibility of using the paradigm of Serverless Communication or using VPS (Virtual Private Server) but in this particular field, server-less communication is not easy to configure.
The best way to better understand an app is to analyze the code used. One in-depth look shows that multiple features of the app had been imported from another meeting app called “Jitsi Meet”-an open-source video conferencing software that provides an API, BackEnd, and a free serve. Since “Jitsi Meet” is open-source, it allows anybody with the required skill-set to modify and upgrade the software.
Just when the case looked like it couldn’t get any worse, an eerily similar app was found. Another developer, “WebileStudio”, had used the Open-Source Jitsi Meet API to develop another app named “VMeet”. “VMeet” wasn’t just uploaded to the Google Play Store, but also to other marketplaces like “EnvatoMarket”, where people can buy ready-made apps, their project file, and modify them according to their liking. This process is a lot easier than building everything from an open-source. Additionally, the source code of these apps is not open to anyone except the buyer. This means that anyone can buy the app from this website, customize it like his own, and upload it to their Play Store Developer Account.
On taking a closer look at the uploaded app on both stores, we eventually reached the comments section, where we found the following comments on Envato.
“What things we can change this when (we) use for our brand name?”
In response, the app seller said,
“You can change the app name, app icon, color as per your brand.”
On further inspections, it was found that the app name, color, and icon were the only parameters of “Dristi” that were different from “VMeet”. In other words, Arnab had no role in developing the App. He had just informed the company of his requirements, bought the finished application, and uploaded it to the Google Play Store.
We were able to find another instance that proved that the boy was quite aware of the cyber-fraud. In the Play Store review box of “Drishti”, A user asked, “One request. Add screen share and recording option.” to this, the boy responded with, “In some days you’ll get a screen share option.” Interestingly, in the comment box of “VMeet”, the original vendor had a very similar response. He said, “It will be available on the web…iOS version releasing next week.” This means that these purchased Softwares come with rolling updates, which are provided by the vendor company itself. So all Arnab did was buy the app files, publish them on the Google Play Store under his name and account, and enjoy the popularity and appreciation.
As with all malpractices, Arnab’s scheme was also uncovered, deconstructed, and spread. This story should serve as a lesson for anyone in the academic field whose work depends on their reputation.
Visual Similarities between the Two Apps. (Red was Dristi v1.0.2 and the Blue was VMeet 1.0.2)
About the Author
Daipayan is a student at Midnapore College. He’s pursuing Bachelor in Computer Applications and has a keen interest in Cybersecurity and Web Development. Besides his studies, Daipayan is a quizzer and a musician.