How would you like to be 17 years old and make $6,000 off of an app, only for you to then take it down? Now you know how 17-year-old developer Caleb Benn feels right about now, reports Ars Technica.
Last month, Benn developed a desktop client for Instagram, “Uploader for Instagram.” The Los Angeles high school student charged $5 for the Mac desktop app that allowed Instagram users to upload their pictures from their desktops instead of just their phones. Unfortunately, the app eventually caught Instagram’s attention.
On March 28, Instagram sent Benn a letter, saying his app violated the photo sharing service’s terms of service. Benn had until March 30 to “fix things,” but even after the deadline passed, Instagram did not take further action.
Benn received another email from Instagram after the deadline, prompting the teenager to take down his app once and for all.
“I pulled the app at midnight,” the young developer told Ars Technica. “It was a tough thing to do, but I just couldn’t risk being blacklisted from using anything Facebook/Instagram nor a lawsuit for that matter. Especially when I’m so close to enrolling in college.”
Benn said the $6,000 he made from Uploader for Instagram will go towards his college fund, with the teenager already accepted to the University of California Berkeley. Benn was motivated to create the app after he realized there are people who would want to upload their pictures from their desktops rather than just through the Instagram smartphone app.
The developer is no stranger to taking down apps, as he also made a few thousand dollars from an app guide for Temple Run that he was forced to shut down.
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Corynne McSherry, Benn was probably within his legal right to make and charge people for the desktop Instagram app, but it’s still a gray area.
“Whether or not an API is copyrightable expression as opposed to a method of operation, is by no means a settled question,” said McSherry.