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

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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  • License missing (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:22PM (#29540695) Journal

    Google Maps, Google Talk and Gmail and so on require a license to distribute them. Cyanogen doesn't have one. Google C&D's because of that. Case closed.

    • 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.
      • Re:License missing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ajs ( 35943 ) < minus berry> on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:15PM (#29541277) Homepage Journal

        It's pretty clear that Google goes way out of its way to provide APIs and guidance on using its stuff as a third party, so I suspect that there's specifics in this C&D that aren't just "you used our service." Specifically, if they were re-packaging Google's logos or the like, then there's real copyright concerns there.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by R2.0 ( 532027 )

        I'm guessing it's like having a pickup game of softball at your local municipal field, and you get busted. Why? You need a permit. It's free and easy to get, but you still need to get it.

        Google's saying "We ask everybody else to play by these rules, which aren't even onerous, so you need to as well."

        • by Hadlock ( 143607 )

          Or a noise permit! >:) Having a noise permit for parties in highschool was (literally) a get out of jail free card.

      • I suspect it may have to do with Google being perceived as permissive of unsanctioned modding--a thing of great concern for carriers. Up to this point Google has only had a very limited success penetrating the U.S. market with phones running Android. Google could be trying to bolster its image with carriers by stopping (limiting) rogue phones.
      • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:52PM (#29541739) Journal

        I can't RTFM right now - slashdotted - but the TOS for using Google Maps for example is very explicit and very limited. (You can only use Google Maps from within browser, and you cannot cache the images.) Google doesn't necessarily own the data; they have licensing agreements with data providers. So Google has to uphold its agreement with the data providers.

        While I personally have abandonded using Google Maps for my project because of the license - something I find frustrating and disappointing - it is, after all, the agreeement Google must live by and enforce.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by wrygrin ( 128912 )

        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,

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) *

      Why is this guy distributing the modded ROM and not a patch for the ROM? Surely if you're capable enough to change the ROM on your phone, you're capable of applying a patch first.

    • More than that. Google Maps uses data that Google licenses, and is only allowed to use in certain ways. If any of his apps or mods went afoul of Google's agreements, then they're obligated to put a stop to it. The article link is dead, so I can't verify if this is or isn't the case.
    • Google is evil (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Snaller ( 147050 )

      "Case closed."

      Indeed. They are evil.

  • Apparently they have C&D'd Slashdot as well since it's acting flakey today and yesterday.

    This is another reason why we want/need an open design to many of our gadgets. We're relying too much on them but only one big corporation has full control over them. Same goes for Google Docs. If Google decides to pull the plug on any of their systems, you lose.

    • Isn't that all part of it? You have to select the people that you want to do business with. Sure google could shut down gmail or docs tomorrow, but I don't think they will. Sure my ISP could close up shop, godaddy could blow up, my accountant might get hit by a bus...

      You will never mitigate all the risks... but instead of me worrying about DNS, Hosting/Colo, the code, the server(s), the disk space, the db, the backups, and on and on and on... I have outsourced those worries to google in return for a s
    • Re:Do no evil? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:53PM (#29541033)

      Wrong end. When you're talking about something that needs to use a network to be useful, you've got to start at the network. The device is the LEAST important part. As long as the phone company gets to say what does or does not run on their network the devices will do what they need to meet those requirements.

      It's kind of funny actually - Apple releases a closed phone but doesn't sick the lawyers on any of the hackers. Google releases an "open" phone but does sick the lawyers on the hackers.

      • 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.

  • Le Shocque! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rydia ( 556444 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:24PM (#29540729)

    Google a giant company, not your BFF.

    Film at 11.

  • What is confusing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:40PM (#29540909) Homepage Journal
    If Cyanogen is "passing around Google's closed-source apps like Google Maps, Google Talk and Gmail", then google has every right, even a responsibility, to stop it. It does not matter that it only runs on google authorized hardware, Cyanogen has not been given the right to distribute the software. What happens if Cyanogen, or some other person, decided to modify the Talk so that all numbers dialed were reported to third party advertisers? Not only would google lose their share of the advertising dollars, but I am sure most would hold google liable. Same thing if maps intentionally lead people to drive off a cliff. Right holders have a obligation to control distribution, and I don't trust those who don't control distribution.

    Leaving this issue aside, it does seem that Android is not the open savior that every thought it might be. Given that for a cell phone to work it must have towers, and that the towers are controlled by private enterprise in search of profit, and that large firms tend to sue each other as part of the competitive process, any completely open phone is unlikely to thrive in the marketplace. If google were no a commodity vendor, then I would say that an open phone might work. But given they want tens of millions of customers, there is going to be a compromise of open software and control.

    • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:03PM (#29541143) Journal

      Seems to me that the most reasonable compromise, for all involved, is for Google to allow redistribution without modification of their closed source software. Yes, Google has the legal right to make cyanogen stop distributing, but how does that benefit Google? Lots of 'proprietary' software are distributed as .zip or .exe files which the license allows you to make verbatim copies of. This is slightly different, because the software is incorporated as part of a ROM image, but as long as the software inside the ROM image isn't modified, Google should just let him distribute. He's not hurting them in any real way.

      • Google might be using third party technology which Google is unable to license to others to redistribute. By not enforcing this, they may lose the ability to continue to use it themselves and would have to remove these apps permanently from the market.

        Of course, all that's based on assumptions like every other post here.

      • by smartr ( 1035324 )
        I can't wait for the next Google crapware bundle to come out. If they're not open sourcing them, I fail to see why they would allow this kind of thing without giving specific exceptions.
    • by ruin20 ( 1242396 )
      If google maps lead people to drive off a cliff I would applaud them for helping eliminate people too stupid to realize that even if the map tells you to drive off a cliff that its still not a good idea. And I don't pity people who run apps from an untrusted source and get burned. I understand where you're coming from but the reason this software is being distributed is because people want the functionality. Don't send a C&D, come up with your own solution which should be that much better being it's aut
    • What happens if Cyanogen, or some other person, decided to modify the Talk so that all numbers dialed were reported to third party advertisers?

      Wouldn't Google appreciate reports of every number dialed via Talk? Or do they not count as third party?

  • Simplish solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IMarvinTPA ( 104941 ) <IMarvinTPA@IMarvinT P A . c om> on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:44PM (#29540933) Homepage Journal

    Stop distributing those apps in the ROM!
    Add an app to retrieve them from the original (backup) version of the phone.

    SafeTex []: Copying copyrighted textures from original Quake to custom commercial levels without incident. IE Don't distribute what's already there.


  • 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:say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:52PM (#29541021)

      They try, they don't always succeed, sometimes they fail miserably, but they do try. Which is better than 99% of the companies out there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by R2.0 ( 532027 )

      "Does anyone really believe that Google is the "do no evil" company that it used to be, pre-IPO?"

      No, I don't believe that, because they never said that

      Their motto is "Don't be evil." There's a subtle, but I believe important, difference.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      How about instead of running around screaming they are bad just they are incorporated we judge them on their actions?

  • Proves the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qubit ( 100461 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:48PM (#29540987) Homepage Journal

    Google is sending a C&D because someone is distributing closed-source Google apps (like GMail, Google Maps, etc...) without a license.

    This is why I want a phone that runs only Free Software in the base install. If I know that the base functionality is open and free, that means I can take that base set of software and modify it and distribute it to other people without worry of getting a C&D letter like this one.

    Free Software licenses are a great way to CYA. Sure, they do a number of other things for you as well, and they aren't always the best at dealing with software patents, but they CYA a lot more than most proprietary licenses I've seen.

    • by Rydia ( 556444 )

      This is why I'm so excited for the N900. I'm sure the base install has some proprietary stuff, but given the fact that it's linux, and the amount of control you apparently have on the device through nokia's flavor (maemo), it seems to me that you really wouldn't have to worry about this kind of difficulty.

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

        by Qubit ( 100461 )

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


        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 b

    • If you have an Android Development Phone (ADP) or a rooted G1, you can wipe the stock Android install and go down to a base installation which is mostly free (the only closed bits are some drivers required for the camera, phone baseboard, and one or two other things.

      If looking at the N810 and the large amount of closed bits it has, then the resulting Android installation will be tons cleaner than the N900.
  • an app that disables the Android kill switch.


  • Heres my 2 cents (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:50PM (#29541003)

    Cyanogen has been modding for awhile without any trouble from Google. Recently he released a rom that was basically android 1.6 in full, including the new improved version of android market, way before the rest of android users will get it. I think thats what Google is mostly bent out of shape about, hopefully they can reach some sort of peaceful agreement that allows cyanogen to keep modding. His roms are great and make the g1 a powerful device.

  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rliden ( 1473185 )

      Developers should care about why Google is doing this. How would you feel if people were distributing your apps or project without a license possibly in violation of that license? It's irresponsible of those developers not to abide by the licensing agreements. If these developers were distributing GPL apps without a license I'm pretty sure the FSF would be breathing down their necks too. It's a matter of respect and professionalism. Those developers are out of line.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jopsen ( 885607 )
        Sure, developers should care... And Google probably has the law on its side..
        But maybe Google should work this out instead of sending a C&D...

        It seams to me as Google is trying to control how their apps are experienced kind of like Apple does it... And that doesn't really encourage community participation...

        Anyway, I guess that settles it for me... I'm not buying an Android phone anytime soon... :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mascot ( 120795 )

      This has nothing to do with developing for Android. It has to do with illegally distributing somebody else's software for the Android.

      Any developer too dim to realize the difference between those two, I don't think I'd want any software from anyways.

    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )

      It's strange. It really is starting to look like every major mobile phone platform based on Linux (OpenMoko is small-fry and still doesn't really have anything but developer toys, and Nokia's Maemo-based devices are almost entirely non-phone.) is at the closed end of the spectrum for modders/developers due to rampant Tivoization. It's a pretty big contrast compared to the Windows Mobile community, where to my knowledge, Microsoft and HTC have never C&Ded xda-developers, and I've heard rumors that ther

  • there are tons of modder communities within the G1. To do this is not only a: a bad call, and b: bad for publicity neglects the fact that cyanogen can easily leak the info to others (and people can easily continue with cyanogen's work thanks to the apache license).

  • by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:23PM (#29541381)
    It is illegal to distribute closed source apps without the license. It doesn't matter if you think what you are doing is not for profit or doing any 'harm'. Google is even required by law to enforce its copyright. The answer is not to complain about google doing evil or about how it is 'harmless' to use this software illegally but to make free software clones of the apps and avoid the legal non-sense altogether. And in most cases, you don't even need to make them... they are already done.

    This is something that must be understood. Some "alternative" GNU/Linux distros out there love to include things like Skype and flash without any license. It is illegal doing so, and the reason most of the major distros don't do it. (Some of them don't do it because they don't like proprietary software, but most of them really do it just to avoid the copyright infrigement).
    • It is illegal to distribute closed source apps without the license.

      Not true in general.

      Google is even required by law to enforce its copyright.

      Simply incorrect. You may be thinking about trademarks, and even then it's not phrased very well.

      Some "alternative" GNU/Linux distros out there love to include things like Skype and flash without any license.

      Name one.

  • A few details (Score:5, Informative)

    by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:28PM (#29541461) Homepage Journal

    From TMONews []:

    "20:03] google just cease and desisted me
    [20:15] cyanogenmod is probably going to be dead
    [20:16] i'm opening a dialogue with them
    [20:20] no they are talking specifically about the closed-source google apps
    [20:20] and how i am not licensed to distribute them
    [20:20] my argument is that i only develop for google-experience devices which are already licensed for these apps
    [20:20] so we'll see what they say
    [20:20] maybe we can work something out
    [20:24] maps, market, talk, gmail, youtube"20:03] google just cease and desisted me
    [20:15] cyanogenmod is probably going to be dead
    [20:16] i'm opening a dialogue with them
    [20:20] no they are talking specifically about the closed-source google apps
    [20:20] and how i am not licensed to distribute them
    [20:20] my argument is that i only develop for google-experience devices which are already licensed for these apps
    [20:20] so we'll see what they say
    [20:20] maybe we can work something out
    [20:24] maps, market, talk, gmail, youtube"

    Probably he will have to drop those apps. This will make loading Cyanogen a little more difficult. Next, will Google prevent him from using those apps to test his distro, or will they make it impossible to run them under his ROMs?

    Somehow, this is beginning to look like the end of Google the Nice. The beginning of the open Google the Evil.

    Kinda sad, but now that Android is important, the game changes.

  • Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geirt ( 55254 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:38PM (#29541577)
    Google, please hire Cyanogen. He is clever!
  • Android never was open source. It did just look like it would be, to trick some into it, who you will see below, defending more the respect for their decisions than Android. ;)

    And now Google shows its real face, regarding this.

    Now I'm happy I didn't jump on that train, and chose Symbian (although still pretty crappy) as the main platform.

    P.S.: Don't ask a free-thinking developer about the iPhone, if you wanna keep your head. ;)

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter@slashdot . ... t a r o> on Friday September 25, 2009 @01:56PM (#29541785) Homepage Journal

    This isn't any different from the Second Life client where third party packagers have to leave out certain closed-source components that Linden Lab uses. When you use them, you take the SL client downloaded from Linden Lab, and add the updated open source components. Most open source clients include an installer now that copies the closed source components from your original SL directory into the new application.

  • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> 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" [], 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.


  • All companies started by techs with a visionary idea eventually turn into just another money grubbing entity run solely for the benefit of Goldman Sachs.
  • by hidden ( 135234 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @02:19PM (#29542091)

    At least on the Rogers Dream (Canadian version of the G1) Cyanogen and similar are the ONLY way to run the phone well..

    With the stock firmware timestamps are broken (as in text messages showing up in the wrong time zone, making the sorting of a conversation all wrong) and Performance is miserable.
    By contrast Cyanogenmod more than solves these problems, transforming it from a badly flawed phone that makes Android look really BAD, to an excellent that makes android look great.
    I'm not exaggerating when I say that, given what a poor job rogers has done resolving serious bugs like the timestamp one, I would never buy another android phone from Rogers, if I were going to be stuck using the stock firmware. However, as long as the modder community remains in play, I am a happy user who would be happy to buy a new device that came out.

    I guess my point is, if google starts to shutdown the modders, they really are actually pushing customers (well, at least one) away.

  • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @03:40PM (#29542985)
    His latest ROM has the new market app which isn't only closed-source, but it's unreleased closed source. Google doesn't want their stuff going into the wild until they say so.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.