In Depth

Dubsmash app: what is it and why's it so successful?

Viral app Dubsmash lets users blend videos with songs, but experts question its legality

A lip-synching app that allows smartphone users to recreate movie scenes and create dubbed music videos has been downloaded more than ten million times. So what is the reason for Dubsmash's huge viral success?

What is Dubsmash?

Dubsmash is a video messaging app for Android and Apple phones that lets users add soundtracks to videos recorded on their phones – often matching a clip of themselves performing a song or film scene with audio from the original.

Users can upload sounds themselves or select from a list of audio clips uploaded by others. These include excerpts from popular TV shows or cult movies including Blackadder, Austin Powers, South Park, Superbad, and Saturday Night Live. There are also clips from popular chart hits, musicals, and even operas.

After selecting an audio clip, users record their own video to play with the sound they have chosen and can then share the clip they have created via Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram or in a text message.

Where did Dubsmash come from?

The app was created by a small team of German developers – Jonas Druppel, Roland Grenke and Daniel Taschik – and launched in November last year. It has since been downloaded by more than ten million people.

Why is it so popular?

Part of the app's appeal is its simplicity. A large number of Dubsmash's hundreds of thousands of videos on Instagram have been posted by children, the BBC reports.

Who is using Dubsmash?

Numerous celebrities have been joining in the Dubsmash craze. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton posted a clip from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal this week, showing off his impersonation of Chris Tucker in Rush Hour 2. Australian actor Hugh Jackman has been taking off Alan Rickman in Die Hard, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and Demi Moore have also been getting in on the action. Other fans include models Kate Upton and Karlie Kloss, Girls star Lena Dunham, Modern Family actress Sarah Hyland and singer Peter Andre. Rihanna was among the first of the Dubsmash trend setters, even debuting snippets of her new single BBHMM on the app and commanding fans to download it in order to hear extracts from the song. According to the Times of India, Dubsmash fever is also gripping Indian celebrities with actors happily mouthing iconic Bollywood dialogues and songs.

Is using Dubsmash legal?

Dubsmash's legality is a tricky issue. According to intellectual property lawyers Wilde Beuger Solmecke, it may be legal to send copyrighted audio clips in private messages to friends, but posting such videos to public forums such as Facebook or Instagram is almost certainly illegal. "Contrary to popular belief, it is not sufficient to deny copyright infringement when posting to Facebook because a video has been made accessible only to a handful of friends. If a user has a lot of friends, then the post can not be assumed to be private within the meaning of the law."

Could I be prosecuted for using copyright clips?

Technically yes. Even though prosecution may be unlikely, lawyer Christian Solmecke advises that if you really want to distribute a video you have made, you should really only use sounds that are not protected by copyright, such as animal noises or audio you have created yourself. "Otherwise: no matter how funny the videos are, they should be shared exclusively by private messenger or email and not spread any further online".

Should I upgrade to Dubsmash 2?

 In a word, no. Although Android owners may be tempted to upgrade to Dubsmash 2, the app has nothing to do with Dubsmash but is rather a malware app that hides itself on phones and then pushes users to porn sites.

Once installed, Dubsmash 2 masquerades as a user's settings feature, with an logo that closely mimics the real Android settings icon. The only difference is that the app is called Settings IS rather than just Settings. 

After it is launched, the app emulates the Dubsmash app's landing page as it launches its malware program. While some malware apps can erase files, steal user information or cause hardware failure, Dubsmash 2 simply pushes users to porn websites. However, the fact that a large percentage of Dubsmash's audience is below the age of 16 makes the malware app particularly malicious.

As soon as it is up and running, Dubsmash 2's icon deletes itself and runs in the background without the user's knowledge.

Dubsmash 2 has now been deleted from the Google Play store, but it can still be downloaded online. PC Magazine advises that "the best way to avoid Android malware is to only download apps from the Google Play store, but that doesn't mean the service is ironclad."

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