PayPal freezes developer account over copyright infringement

App developers that may be in breach of copyright infringement laws should steer clear of PayPal as a means of transferring funds.

Torrent search engine Strike briefly added an option for users to donate via PayPal, only to find that the e-commerce site had frozen thousands of pounds worth of funds.

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PayPal is under pressure from copyright holders to restrict the revenue streams of websites and applications that trade in illegal material, such as pirated content, and has acted in response to complaints from copyright holders previously. Andrew Sampson, software developer at Strike, added his personal PayPal account to the app for only a brief period, but within a month received an email from PayPal saying his account has been “permanently limited.”

Although, Sampson recognises that Strike facilitates the sharing of unlicensed content, he claims that the majority of the $2,500 in his now-frozen account came from legitimate avenues.

“It seems someone at the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) realized I took donations using PayPal from some of my other LEGAL open source projects (like https://github.com/Codeusa/Borderless-Gaming) and was able to get the email of my account,” he explained to Torrent Freak. “That money was earned through legitimate freelance work and was going to be used specifically for my rent/car payment so it kind of sucks.”

Protecting copyrighted material has become one of the biggest challenges of the Internet era, with website takedowns proving largely useless. Sampson also accepts bitcoin donations, but these are far less user friendly, and accepts that the intervention of PayPal has made him reconsider whether the app will continue.

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“I’ve allowed someone else to manage the site for the time being. It will operate as it normally does but I need a bit to clear my head and don’t want anything to do with it as it’s become quite stressful,” he said. “I think the MPAA is playing low ball tactics against a developer who just wanted a better search engine. I don’t condone piracy, but I sure as hell understand why it happens.”