“Open” Android’s Closed Box Office

by Dave Michels

Interesting situation developed this week. Android Central reported that Google’s Android App for movie rentals won’t work on rooted phones. This decision by Google, “due to requirements related to copyright protection,” was not received well by the Android community. :

“Nice move, Google.  That makes me want to buy more of your products and use more of your services, so I can be treated like a criminal just because I’m smart enough to get rid of CityID, or want a safe version of Android on my phone.” 

Techdirt thinks its absolutely the wrong thing to do:

Of course, this is silly. All of that content is already available from unauthorized sites. Purposely punishing those who want to buy but who use more open devices is pretty counterproductive.

I don’t have a rooted phone, but I certainly get it. I had planned to root my phone so that I could do wireless tethering, but T-Mobile now includes that feature so I haven’t felt the need. However, for the record, rooting a phone is a violation of terms of service. If you violate rules, it is reasonable to expect some consequences (yes, I’m a parent).

It is probably pretty straightforward, Google implies it was a copyright issue, so it was either this or not provide the service/content at all to the vast majority of users. Weather or not Google is right or wrong here is only a distraction. The real point of interest here is Google has a capability to break apps on rooted phones (AKA root detection). Can this apply to any app?

Rooting phones is not new, nor limited to Android. In Apple-speak, the term is jailbreaking. There is an ongoing battle to curtail this activity – an arms race of sorts. At first, restrictions were just in the OS itself, then came hardware locks as well (T-Mobile G2). But the basic idea is once the phone is rooted, it is rooted. Now we have app level restrictions. What’s the world coming to? The Android hackers just see it as a challenge, Android Central continues:

Of course, the Android community will find a way around this.  I already have some ideas, and I’m sure others will, too.  But we shouldn’t have to.  And once we do, I’ll download one (and only one) movie from the Market for the satisfaction of defeating this stupid move by Google, then be sure to never use the service again.

The arms ware continues and each iteration doesn’t seem to last very long.