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Fair Go: Rogue apps causing nightmare for online sleep-help radio station

Google “Sleep Radio” and you’ll probably wind up in Te Aroha.

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Pirated versions of John Watson’s popular stream keep cropping up on Google Play, he told Fair Go. Source: Fair Go

That’s where John Watson runs a home studio streaming hour after hour of ambient music sent to him by well-wishers, all designed to send you off to sleep and keep you there. 

John’s been losing sleep, though. Rogue apps that pirate his stream and slap ads over the content keep cropping up on Google Play, where people can download and install them.

“It really annoys me like crazy that they're making money out of what my wife and I do.”

John says he has used Google’s complaints process on five occasions. 

But before Fair Go got involved, only once had Google taken down a rogue app. On the other occasions, John says the tech giant either failed to reply or put it back on him to deal with the offending apps.

“If I could block them I'd block them," says John, who adds that because of the way his site is set up, if he pulls the plug on the rogue streams he would also cut off his listeners from around the world.

“A woman who suffered from depression in Florida sent us a wonderful email saying how much we'd helped her and she was sleeping at night. That's the reward.”

The rogues also profit from ads placed via Google from local advertisers, which just adds insult to injury as far as John’s concerned.

Fair Go has seen ads for TradeMe, Massey University, OneRoof, eatEell.co.nz, ZM radio, Harvey Norman, MoleMap and other New Zealand businesses and organisations.

After Fair Go contacted each of them, the advertisers said it wasn’t their intention to appear on rogue apps. As a result, they reviewed their ad placements with Google and asked it to block the rogue apps Fair Go had identified.

Fair Go tried to contact the rogue app developers directly but we never heard back. All the apps have since vanished. We just don’t know why.

Google insists it has policies prohibiting copyright infringement and impersonation and will take complaints from content makers and rights holders seriously.

John says Google needs to do better. After all, Google also profits from the ads placed through its services, while he’s not in it for the money. 

He just wants to put this whole thing to bed.