Students’ Top 25 App taken down after ‘Damn Daniel’ lawyers threaten legal action

March 15, 2016 — by Olivia Lu and Daphne Liu

Three underclassmen create a popular app, but it wasn't meant to last

Freshmen Daniel Bessonov and Patrick Li usually develop apps for fun, but they never expected any of their apps to reach the Top 25 Games in the App Store, much less result in a possible lawsuit.

The app came about when they and sophomore Aayush Gupta were sitting in the library on Feb. 26, bouncing ideas off of each other for a new app. At the time, the “Damn Daniel” video featuring high school student Daniel Lara was taking the web by storm. Lara had become a mini-celebrity, and Li and Bessonov saw an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. The two boys decided to make their own “Damn Daniel” button.

Bessonov and Li coded the app within a few hours, with the hopes of creating something similar to famous apps they’ve seen before. The result was the “Damn Daniel Button,” which, whenever tapped, spoke in the voice of Lara’s friend Josh Holz, famous for his high-pitched “Damn Daniel” phrase.

 

The app included the ability to switch the sound from “Damn Daniel” to “Damn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans,” as well as a counter to keep track of the number of times the button was pressed. Each time the button was pressed, the user racked up points.

According to Bessonov, these points corresponded with colors of “Vans,” according to how many times someone clicked the button. The so-called medals of achievement ranged from yellow Vans, obtained at 50 clicks, to white Vans, obtained at 10 thousand plus clicks. The app’s top 100 players all had over 35,000 clicks.

A few days after they uploaded the app, however, Bessonov and Li were contacted by Holz and Lara’s lawyers. Because their app had used the original audio from the video uploaded by Holz, the lawyers told them that they were using sounds that were copyrighted.

“The lawyers contacted us before the app had been on the Top Charts and tried get us to take it down,” Bessonov said. “They told us they still [had] legal basis to sue us because they trademarked the actual phrase. We took it down just to be safe, but I doubt they would have sued us.”

On March 1, they received a shoutout from freshman Elan Caviani’s Instagram user @juke with over 926k followers, and from there their success skyrocketed.

“We got over 2,000 downloads overnight,” Li said. “[At our peak, we had] 15,000 to 20,000 downloads. At one point we were on the Top Charts, the Top 25 games in the App Store and Top 60 overall.”

Even with the email from the lawyers still in mind Li and Bessonov decided not to take the app down unless it started losing interest.

Gupta, who helped with the legal issues said, if the app had continued to gain popularity, he would advise to let the lawyers sue. To him, reaching the top charts would be worth the risk. Eventually, however, the buzz surrounding the app died down, and the boys took it off the App Store on March 6.

Despite their short-lived success, the boys are happy with their work: They created an app that was popular beyond their wildest dreams.

“I doubt [their lawyers] knew we were high school kids,” Bessonov said. “ We knew those two kids were kids too and we didn’t think they actually had lawyers and didn’t expect to get in trouble. We definitely had no regrets creating the app, and I hope we can create something this popular again.”

 

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