Discuss: The legality and morality of running Android apps on Windows 10 Mobile


Today’s developments has opened up the wide vista of using Android apps on Windows 10 Mobile, but it does raise questions many of us prefer not to think about.

The apps most in demand on Windows Phone are from developers who have explicitly refused to support the OS, and who would therefore be upset that their wishes were thwarted.

So, are we breaking the law by running Snapchat for Android on our handsets?

Let me start by saying I am not a lawyer, and certainly not yours.

In short however, it is clear that distributing the software of a developer against their wishes is at best copyright infringement and at worst theft, depending on local laws.

Platform shifting ie moving software you downloaded on a Android phone to a Windows Phone is a copyright grey area.

Very few people would for example argue that you can not run Windows software on Linux WINE or in a virtual machine on a Apple Mac.

However downloading software that has not been distributed by the developer e.g. from some Chinese APK repository very clearly copyright infringement.

There is some fair use exceptions for journalism e.g. we can use of copyrighted material as proof or substantiation in news reporting or analysis or as illustration in news reporting or analysis, but of course this will not protect most of our readers.

Much of these arguments have already been explored in the classic game emulator scene, which is of course massive, but it is of note that in most cases judgements have gone in favour of the original copyright owners.

The moral argument is of course much more debatable.

Simply running a free app on a platform not approved by the developer does them no damage, expands their audience for free, may generate them extra income and save them the effort of officially supporting those users.

Morally this is a lot less questionable than using ad-block on websites for example.

Taking software which would normally cost money and running them for free on your phone, be it windows or android, is clearly causing damage to the developer, and I feel is clearly morally wrong.

Simple thwarting the wishes of a developer (e.g. one that hate Windows Phone and wants to deny them an app) may actually be morally right, if there is a bigger moral interest in having more competition in the smartphone market.

It is of note that we very often do things which are morally right but legally wrong e.g. at present it is illegal to rip your CDs to MP3s in UK, but I doubt this is stopping many users.  In many countries being homosexual is legally wrong, but the persecution of such people is considered morally wrong by most people.

Where do our readers stand on the moral and legal arguments? Vote in our poll and let us know your thoughts below.

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