CyanogenMod, one of the best and most popular custom Android ROMs available, just got hit with a cease & desist letter from Google. Gasp. Apparently, Google is not happy that CyanogenMod is distributing closed source Android applications like Gmail, Android Market, YouTube, etc.

Could this be Google reacting to Android Market 1.6 being available on CyanogenMod? Or could this be Google acting 'evil' and showing their disapproval towards the rooting process and loading of custom ROM? This definitely makes for some great food for thought.

CyanogenMod explains that he's not breaking any copyright issues because he develops specifically for Google Experience devices (G1 & myTouch 3G), devices that already include said closed source applications. CyanogenMod is trying to initiate conversation with Google, so hopefully they both can come to an agreement.

But hey Google, CyanogenMod is too valuable to the Android community, he's one of the good guys. Trust us, let this one slide.

What do you guys think?

[via engadget]

 
There are 21 comments

Kay Brown says:

Come on Google leave him be, he makes good apps

Anonymous says:

I can't believe Google is pulling this crap. I can only hope that Google is smart enough to work something out with Cyanogen so he may continue to share his awesome developments. I would expect some restrictions, but they need to work with him and let him do his thing. Otherwise, where's the incentive for anyone else following in his footsteps to make programs better for Google?
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Kay Brown says:

Come on Google leave him be, he makes good apps

Anonymous says:

The closed apps are not being distributed per-se... the mod only works on phones that already have the apps. so nobody is getting these apps that already didn't have them. no difference than if you make a backup copy or download a backup copy of a program or mp3 you already own. the way i see it... i already paid for these apps when i bought my phone..... whats the difference between having them included in the rom [easy] or me somehow backing it up to re-enstall after i flash a new rom [pain in the ass]?

CyanogenMod explains that he's not breaking any copyright issues because he develops specifically for Google Experience devices (G1 & myTouch 3G), devices that already include said closed source applications.

Sorry, but that's not a valid argument. Apparently he doesn't understand how copyright works. By making copies of the applications he doesn't own the copyrights of or have a license to copy, he is violating Google's copyright.

If Google doesn't defend their copyright, they risk losing other cases (or receiving lesser judgements) where their copyright is violated because those defendants could cite CyanogenMod's work and say, "Well, obviously I shouldn't be forced to give them much (or anything) for this violation because they let their intellectual property be distributed freely."

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Nothing said here should be used as legal advice without checking with an actual lawyer.

Carig says:

i really hope this is the only reason, i've heard about this before and it makes sense if google is just trying to protect its copyrights because it could lose them if it doesn't.

if anything i think google should be supporting this kind of customization on its handsets so if they're smart they will try to work with cyanogen to allow him to publish roms free of copyright issues instead of stopping him from doing it all-together. I mean imagine a world where you can jailbreak your iphone and do anything with it but your android phone is stuck with official google supported roms.

android along with windows mobile is the tech nerds handset of choice and has a lot of popularity based on its openness so i think it would be a huge disappointment to android users if google went through with the "cease and desist"

Anonymous says:

any reason why he needs to distribute these apps? why not just copy them from the existing installation? does cyanogen have access to the next gen closed source apps from google? i don't think so.

Vermithrax says:

There is already an open project on XDA to replace all Google components with those that are open source. Is this what Google really wants? I would have thought they would like to benefit from Android developers... BFS is a good example...

phamous says:

Cyanogen is exactly the archetype of the innovative developer that google has promoted with their open source platform/s. He's doing wonders for the android community along with the other talented dev's at XDA. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!

Amidsin says:

I hope that it is just some a knee-jerk reaction from some Google lawyers and it will go away quickly. Otherwise it would be a big blow to the community of Android hackers and greatfull users of their work. Google would be make a disservice to itself from publicity perspective if they done stop it quickly.

Jeff says:

I couldn't agree more. Google really needs to let this one slide.

boulderjams says:

This is very frustrating to read. Cyanogen and other XDA modders have put in a lot of time and I know that we all appreciate their work. Gogle and the open headset alliance have allowed their operating system to be open-source. That does not mean that the proprietary work they do can be moved around freely. Being a developer myself, I understand the situation they have been put in. I really wish that google would just let this one slide and we can continue to use great roms like Cyanogen's. I guess we will have to wait and see.

casper says:

Not a smart move google. I thought you were different... guess not.

TerSoth says:

This is why WinMo is still the best out platform out there, well at least for me. Microsoft and htc both turn a blind eye to these sort of activities (windows mobile is more open than googles open source os...who would have thought). You don't see htc sending xda stop and desist notices when they port the latest version of tf3d, album viewer, keyboard, etc. This is one of the reasons winmo has such a hardcore fan base. Google needs to realize that the people that are doing this are part of their most enthusastic fan base.
Besides google has nothing to fear. Look at how much xda, ppcgeeks, etc have grown over the last year, and despite their tremendos growth I'd say that a very small % of the general public run custom roms or ported software...even if there are a million xds members running custom roms and hacked software that's still only 5% of the general public using these things (microsodt shipped 20 million units last year).
Google needs to let this go or they are looking at a bunch of bad press. And frankly the only thing out there keeping android going is the blogosphere...and if they piss them off well I don't see them continuing to promote android as heavily as they do.

Brahmson says:

The app market does not include some of these google applications (i.e. Gmail, Google Talk) so if they are not distributed with the modified rom the user will end up with a significantly inferior phone, practically defeating the reason for an alternate rom (and google can close the few remaining workaroud to get these apps).

So legal issues aside, it appears that Google is trying to control the market and the user experience in the very same way Apple does.

This opens the door for for Apple to go back to the FCC and say that they are not controlling the iPhone market more than Google does the Android app market. Google may have been penny wise and pound foolish. They thought they shot Cyanogen, buy may have shot themselves in the foot.

chris brown says:

Wow Cool keep on keeping on..

Brahmson says:

In practicality Google now controls the Android market. If you go down the list of apps they close-sourced you will see that the barrier to entry into the market is too high for an open community to penetrate. Core components like "Market", "Sync" and others are just few examples.

The question is not the licensing rights they may have but the overall control they exert on the market. On the face of it one might think that Apple has the legal right to control the iPhone market. Not that simple. Both Apple and Google can do so as long as the FCC does not decide that it has a chilling effect on the market. You can disagree with the FCC's right to interfere, but that's another matter (the use of regulated airwaves gives the regulator some unusual powers).

Google just gave Apple a big argument to defent their rejection of Google voice.

And if this community of Android fans brings this issue up, Google may realize that it is in their own best LEGAL interests to back off. Other valuable arguments do not impress lawyers. Lawyers only understand legal arguments and once this issue is brought up to their attention they have a fiduciary obligation to inform Google of the exposure with the FCC case.

Xero says:

@Brahmson

That isn't exactly true. Google is preventing you from using their own specific apps like Gmail and GTalk if you don't use them on the original rom. There are alternative apps for email and IM applications that google won't stop you from installing, and even if they don't allow said apps on marketplace, you can still install apps from other sources, unlike Apple, meaning Google doesn't control the entire user experience like Apple, nor does it want to .

And here I thought that Google was open...

First Apple, then Google?! I think Obama said it best when talking about Kanye, and this directly applies to the Android creators:
"[Google's] a jackass!"

They could've approached him and worked out a solution, but to kill users and developers is bad business. Cyanogen, I invite you to come over to the Maemo community. We're rooted out of the box, use standard Debian Linux, not "part of the Linux core", and we welcome you with open arms. Contact me at christexaport@sbcglobal.net or vistit Maemo.org or Maemo-Freak.com. We have a home for you.

Anonymous says:

Google acting evil....Love how they follow their mantra and modify their search algorithm to appease the chinese so they can work in that country....appalling.