I am currently totally obsessed with opendownload.de.
Alexander Varin and Olaf Tank, the “director” and “lawyer” for Content Services Ltd respectively are fantastic con men. Their business model is so simple, with minimal costs: charging for downloading services for freeware.
The apps you can download include: Apple iTunes, Skype, Google Desktop, Open Office and a multitude of other free apps.
Their services for these free apps include rating the apps, listing descriptions about the apps, providing a (well-hidden) link to the actual app page (!), and a link enabling you to download them.
As explained on their home page is (translated into English):
As a registered user of opendownload.de gives you access to all programs, including reviews. We regularly publish new programs.
Their storage costs are minimal – a server in Reading, and anyone can buy that. They offer a service support centre, but what is the probability that if you have a problem with the app, a mail daemon recommends you visit the app’s website?
So, all they actually need to run their business is:
- A laptop
- A secretary to answer the calls
- Someone who knows a bit of developing and engineering to locate the apps, download them to Reading, create mail daemons and create the opendownload website
- A person who can write “your account is due” letters and strongly worded legal letters
Notice that this can all be potentially one person.
So, even if only one customer registers and sends them 96euros hidden fee for the services, they win!
They have obviously spotted a niche in the market: the ignorant German and Austrian customer who isn’t internet savvy.
Content Services has identified various services that the same customer would fall for: greeting cards, names and surnames searches and “are you adopted?”. Their business model is scalable!
What is crazy is that there has been a fair number of complaints, not only to the German Consumer council, but also police complaints and Open Office Germany has a notice on their home page stating that they are not affiliated with web sites who charge to download their product.
So why are these guys still operating?
I decided to email the’ piracy and marketing departments of the companies who create the apps asking whether this site contravenes their own distribution laws. For example, Skype clearly states:
You acknowledge and agree that You are not permitted to distribute the Skype Software for any commercial gain, including but not limited to any selling of related services or attempt to charge for the Skype Software
Another example is the piracy definition from Adobe:
A software pirate is an individual or entity that offers bootlegs, CDs, downloadable applications, or serial numbers free, for money, or for barter; provides educational products without authorization, or to nonqualifying individuals or entities.
My emphasis in the quote. The big brands might take my emails seriously and do something about it (even if it is jsut a strongly worded letter); the smaller names might just be happy for the distribution, even if they don’t get any money from it.
Next step: lodging a complaint with the German Consumer council.
NOTE: If you want to know what some people did, read the comments below… please note that these comments do not constitute legal advice.