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Android Google Handhelds Hardware Hacking The Courts Build

Google Serves a Cease-and-Desist On Android Modder 336

Posted by kdawson
from the doubleplus-ungoogly dept.
Several readers sent in word that Google has served a Cease and Desist order to Cyanogen, one of the most prolific Android modders: his CyanogenMod is enjoyed by 30,000 users. The move is puzzling. Gizmodo wonders what Google's game is, and Lauren Weinstein calls the move "not of the high 'Googley' caliber" that one would expect of the company.
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Google Serves a Cease and Desist On Android Modder

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  • Re:License missing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:42PM (#29540917) Journal
    Google is clearly within their rights to C&D over those applications. The curious question, though, is "why would they do so?". Cyanogen is distributed for phones that shipped with those apps anyway(so it isn't as though there is any huge pile of licensing revenue on the table here), and copyrights, unlike trademarks, don't have to be defended unless you want to.

    There must be some reason why Google would risk upsetting a group made up, more or less, of self-selected enthusiasts of Android and its continued development, in exchange for no obvious money. Is Google confident enough in the value of its apps that it sees those Google specific apps as a future distinguishing feature for Android phones, one that OEMs will pay good money for? Are potential telco partners pissed that Cyanogen is something eminently worth rooting your handset for?

    The existence of their legal right is uncontroversial; but I find their potential motives a bit baffling.
  • say what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by macbeth66 (204889) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:47PM (#29540963)

    "not of the high Googley' caliber"

    Does anyone really believe that Google is the "do no evil" company that it used to be, pre-IPO? It has become just as suspect as any big company. The bigger problem is that people don't even see Google for what it is. It is like MS all over again.

    OK. Just my $.02 worth, I guess

  • Re:License missing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Elros (735454) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:01PM (#29541109) Homepage

    In some cases, failure to sufficiently defend one's rights to some IP (intellectual property) results in the inability to defend it in the future. I.e. If Google gets in the habit of knowingly allowing re-distribution of their applications with out a license, they loose any right to enforce the copyright in the future.

  • by dwight_hubbard (239128) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:01PM (#29541113)

    Bottom line most developers are going to care less about why google is sending lawyers after their community than the fact that they may have to deal with that crap if they develop for Android. Since there are groups producing similar mods to Windows Mobile firmwre, this Cease and Desist has the potential to make the open source mod community around android less vibrant than the community around the Microsoft's closed source OS. Which is a real shame.

    If Google doesn't do some rapid damage control they're liable to find their development community moving over to other Open Source phone OSes that don't send lawyers after their development community.

  • Re:License missing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:26PM (#29541429)

    It's amazing how quickly Slashdotters will rush to defend Google over anything. I notice you've made many other comments in this story defending Google. If this was Microsoft, they'd be portrayed as the greedy corporation exploiting software licenses to shut down freedom. When it's Google, we're supposed to shut our eyes and cover our ears. "Case closed."

  • Re:Le Shocque! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:27PM (#29541441) Homepage Journal

    I think google needs to review its own corporate philosophy again. The "Ten things we know to be true" page apparently is just a sort-of loose guide line and not a hard list of rules:
    http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/tenthings.html/ [google.com]
    Rules 1, 4 & 6 especially appear to be mere lip-service for us puny consumers to follow, not really applicable to google. I also again reiterate my belief, as mistaken it may be, that in a lot of these cases its possible that the retained corporate lawyer stable is justifying its existence by exercising corporate rights that may actually not be in the best interest of the corp.

  • So close... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Qubit (100461) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:46PM (#29541669) Homepage Journal

    This is why I'm so excited for the N900. I'm sure the base install has some proprietary stuff, but...

    Bingo!

    I think that the n900 is going to have the same issue as we have with Android phones and the Pam Pre: There's proprietary software in the base install.

    If the only proprietary software on the device is games or some non-essential application, then that's not going to be a problem. Someone can just make a replacement image for the device with those non-free apps removed. But if bits of the OS or base applications like SMS, calendaring, email, etc... are under a proprietary license, that might be a big block to using the phone with only Free Software.

    I'm hopeful about the n900, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • Openness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Estragib (945821) <estragib@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:07PM (#29541915)

    its more open when developers have choices.

    All the user cares about is data.

    This just isn't true. I have to invest quite some time to familiarize myself with an application and set my preferences, expecting to be able to use it in the future. With closed software, I never know if can do just that. A closed application may change in a way that makes new versions unusable for me at any time. What's worse, closed source locks me in, forcing me to eat all the little nuisances they decide to inflict upon me.

    It might be a decision to abandon certain functionality (not supporting a certain file format any longer, or dropping a lesser used feature to concentrate on a more popular one), it might be a matter of trust (changes in license or privacy agreement; a BitTorrent client getting sold to a company connected to copyright holders or an email client to a company known for data mining), it might be a matter of price (formerly free applications going commercial), it might just be the ever-so-popular dumbing down of the user interface.

    My problem is that I can't just stop updating it now, because I depend on bug fixes. In the worst case I need security fixes to keep my system safe at all.

    With FOSS-software I would fork from the version that has the functionality I need, trust or can use efficiently, and just keep up with any holes as they appear. I can't do any of that with closed software, effectively barring me from using the app any longer and wasting the time I invested in the application in the first place.

    A prominent example of this is uTorrent. When they were sold, a lot of people, me included, would have liked to keep current functionality (it was fairly sufficient). To keep using the old version, though, is to keep any security holes that were discovered in the meantime wide open. I'm sure other people remember a lot of other examples.

    I even wondered about this when I started using uTorrent but decided, nah, that guy seems ok, I think I can risk it. I don't think I will make that mistake again. I like to be in control of my applications, not the other way around.

  • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic.gmail@com> on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:13PM (#29541991)

    Hmm. The earlier poster who mentioned whether this was a 'Googley' reaction reminded me suddenly. One of the very first million-selling songs (sheet music) was a song written by Billy Rose in the 1920's, called "Barney Google, with the Goo-goo-googly eyes" [wikipedia.org], inspired by the Barney Google comic strip. (I thought it was the other way round, but never mind.)

    This raises an interesting question - is Google's name in violation of the trademark of the Barney Google / Snuffy Smith comic strip, or the song?

    According to the afore-mentioned Wikipedia article, there is arguably an indirect connection (through the mathematical googol) between the two Googles - if nothing else it's an interesting case of a word's spelling tending to gravitate toward a common predictable form - or something.

    Hmmm.

  • Re:License missing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wrygrin (128912) <ken.manheimer@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:14PM (#29542011) Homepage

    i understand the bind that google/android is up against, and think it is terrible both in principle and in personal impact.

    in order to limit copy-access to android app executables, android depends on sequestering apps in phone storage. while most app producers don't care about limiting access to their executables (apk's), some commercial vendors do. (some common evidence of this is the way that most apps are available for copying by android backup programs like MyBackup Pro, but some aren't.) of course, root access defeats this sequestering - and, in fact, the biggest performance advantage on machines like my G1 is due to jiggering things, with symlinks, etc, so that app storage (as well as some resource cache storage) is physically on the SD card.

    the terrible bind is that, on phones like the G1, the phone-storage RAM (192 MB) is a critical resource shared across operational and storage functions, so that the phone works terribly if you have too many apps. and "too many", for a phone that's supposed to be very multi-purpose and extensible, is disturbingly few. it really is a fatal flaw - until i upgraded to cyanogen's mod, things like scrolling would fail to respond most of the time, returning to the home screen or starting an app could take on the order of minutes, etc. and this after i removed a lot of apps, including ones that were occasionally crucial. after upgrading to cyanogen the device works like an, um, dream. i can run everything i need, and more, and the phone is sliced-bread-caliber useful with quick, smooth responsiveness. happy dance!-) now they're bringing down the boot on my savior. darn.

    it seems obvious to me that google can't afford to allow undermining of their key provision for proprietary vendors who don't want their .apk's loose in the wild. it's a platform-policy agreement they made. it seems equally obvious to me that this is a damn shame - a profound architectural restriction solely for the purpose of a few overly restrictive vendors, who also happen to be some of the big vendors.

    (from many comments, elsewhere, about similar relief from upgrading to cyanogen, i see that my experience with the G1 is not unusual. going back to the standard android release is not an option, so figure i'll stick with my cyanogen install until my contract is up, sometime early next year, and by then there should be other android devices with a physical keyboard and without the cripplingly insufficient amount of RAM. i truly am sad that google is in this bind, and feel that the current arrangement for securing apk's is profoundly flawed, and finding a different approach deserves substantial effort.)

    ken

  • Re:Do no evil? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by manekineko2 (1052430) on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:30PM (#29542197)

    What's even more funny is that Microsoft, a company hardly synonymous with openness, has long tolerated ROM modders doing the exact same thing on Windows Mobile. Heck, it's far more extreme, as ROM modders on Windows Mobile have been building ROMs off of unreleased versions of WinMo 6.5.1 and including things like Microsoft Office for WinMo in its entirety, and Microsoft hasn't complained.

    Meanwhile, the self-annointed Do-No-Evil Google with its open Android system is releasing the lawyers.

    When both Apple and Microsoft are more open than you are, even only about a certain aspect of your product, that's not a good sign. It's sad, but Windows Mobile is really the most open mainstream mobile OS out there these days.

  • Re:License missing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by neo (4625) on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:33PM (#29542233)

    If I buy a Nike T-Shirt. It has a Nike logo on it. If I sell it to you, did I just commit trademark infringement? No? Why not?

    The difference is this. You buy Nike T-Shirts then print some slogan on them and then either sell them or give them away. What you've done is now made it appear the slogan is from Nike (or it's reasonable to assume people could be confused by it.)

    Yes, this is a problem, isn't it.

  • Re:License missing (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @07:10PM (#29545139)

    The curious question, though, is "why would they do so"
    Google want to control their platform. They don't mind if you develop software for their platform, but they still want to be in control of their platform. As usual these business moves always come back at their core to a need to control. Many corporate minded people suffer (some) openness as a way to get people to work for them (often for free) to help build up their platform, but they still want to be in control.

    Also its Wikipedia page has now been deleted - today.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyanogenMod [wikipedia.org] "This page has been deleted."

    Why because the Wikipedia isn't surely dependent on Google?. If Google and the Wikipedia are not careful, they are both going to get associated with the editing behaviour of the 1984 Ministry Of Truth.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ministry_of_truth [wikipedia.org]

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday September 26, 2009 @11:13AM (#29548501) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, you're absolutely right. I don't know what Google is like, but there are some tech companies where the lawyers are itchin' to sue everybody in sight and they get held back by more reasoned heads until some line is crossed. IP problems vs. operational problems could be such a line - given how engineer-heavy Google is, I can see a culture that would have decided that trust among engineers was lost with the decision to distribute a private beta of a client/server app. Since Google isn't want to sue everybody in sight, my speculation is that something like this was going on. Or maybe this will define a bright line in their descent into Evil - we'll see.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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