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Response from the FSF and a possible alternative legal recourse

Discussion in 'Android Forum' started by Darkseider, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    Well as I stated in another thread I contacted the FSF to see if by locking down the Droid X if Motorola could possibly be violating the GPL v2 since there was some GPL related scripts tied to Android. The response I received today was that this falls under "tivoization" and is perfectly legal under the GPL v2 even though it is a loophole. Further research into the issue has shed some new light on the issue.

    There was a case handled by the EFF in 2009 regarding a Texas Instruments TI-83 calculator and the circumstances are VERY similar to the ones we are facing with the Droid X and future devices. A bried synopsis of can be found here:

    EFF: TI calculator hackers didn't violate DMCA | Deep Tech - CNET News

    I have contacted Jennifer Granick of the EFF to see if this particular section of the DMCA also applies to this situation. I encourage anyone interested in seeing a resolution to please contact Jennifer Granick at jennifer@eff.org and write her a letter requesting this to be looked into.
  2. nphil
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    nphil New Member

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    So basically, there isn't much the FSF can do since what Motorola is doing is perfectly legal.

    I can sympathize with how you feel, and I worry about the ramifications of this decision on future Android based smartphones. But as long as us "hackers" are a very small (albeit vocal) minority, there isn't much we can do about it.

    From Motorola's public statements, it seems like all their future handsets are going to be secured this way.

    Is it unfair? Yes, Motorola was practically dying before they embraced Android (and released the unlocked Droid), and now that they have reached a comfortable position, it's time to lock down stuff and cater to the general population - whose only concern is having a smartphone that can make calls, browse the web and install apps.

    We can kick and scream, or just get an alternate handset. I'm pretty sure HTC will be announcing a whole new range of phones soon (dual core snapdragon /intel moorestown based perhaps?).
  3. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    The FSF can't do anything unless the Linux kernel goes GPL v3. With that said the EFF MAY be able to do something under the DMCA section 117. I encourage anyone that would like to see a change made contact Jennifer Granick and ask that she take a look into this and if there is any possible recourse through the DMCA.
  4. nphil
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    nphil New Member

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    From what I understand reading about the TI case, it wasn't illegal for the individuals to hack the calculator and load custom ROMs on it. With the same analogy, it isn't illegal for someone to hack the Droid X's bootloader and enable custom ROMs either. Nowhere does it say that the company has to facilitate ez mode hacking, they're free to secure their hardware aren't they?
  5. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    They may not HAVE to facilitate it but they also CANNOT block it. From the article:


    But none of that violated the DMCA's anticircumvention provision, which states, "No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work" protected under the copyright act, Granick said.

    For one thing, the calculators' operating systems already were available in unencrypted form on the calculator itself, easily retrieved by connecting it with a computer. For another, TI made the operating systems available for download on its Web site, she said. *emphasis mine.

    Android is unencrypted AND openly available as well as published by Google through the AOSP. Therefore the same should apply by allowing a custom build of the unencrypted openly available operating system already running on the device to be installed on it.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  6. USCChem
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    USCChem New Member

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    Okay, maybe I'm not following the logic... this is what I understand:
    -Hackers figured out how to install their own OSes on the TI-83.
    -TI files a lawsuit alleging that they violated the DMCA.
    -Court rules in favor of the hackers on the basis that TI made no attempt to block custom OSes on the device, and in fact even provided alternative OSes themselves.

    But I don't see how this says that Motorola legally cannot block custom OSes from being installed. From what I understand, it only says that if you figure out how to do it, it isn't a DMCA violation.

    I mean, it sucks and all, but I'm pretty sure what Motorola is doing is perfectly legal. In fact, if I can draw anything from this, it would be that Motorola *would* be able to take legal action against you for hacking the DroidX because they, unlike TI, intentionally encrypted their bootloader in order to prevent you from doing so, and they, unlike TI, did *not* provide you with custom OSes. Now, I'm sure Motorola wouldn't bother* pursuing legal action, I'm just pointing out that, unless I misunderstood or overlooked something, this ruling isn't really relevant to these circumstances and actually works better as a "backfire" on you.

    *Although, in the event that the encrypted bootloader is cracked and there is also a legal case being taken against Motorola, they would probably file a countersuit. And they would probably win. So you may want to be sure you have a solid case before legally provoking them.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  7. mkraffert
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    mkraffert New Member

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    It seems to me that based on this last paragraph, Apple would have a case against all the iPhone jailbreakers. Jobs is such a control freak if he could go after them he would. Since he hasn't there must be something we're missing. Jobs wouldn't let the chance for a pointless lawsuit go by unfiled. Not if he thought there was ANY chance of winning it.

    Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk
  8. USCChem
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    USCChem New Member

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    On second thought, I guess the stuff TI had on its operating systems are basically the same as Motorola's, so Motorola wouldn't have a case (if that precedent were followed). But still, this doesn't say that TI was not permitted to required a digital signing key, only that they couldn't take legal action against someone for reverse-engineering the key.

    And I don't see why they would bother getting into legal action with iPhone jailbreakers unless you're just basing that on the "Apple is the root of all that is evil and nefarious" mentality some people seem to have. I was also under the impression that jailbreaking was rooting an iPhone, which I believe is related to, but not the same as flashing a custom OS to it.

    Anyway, back on topic, I'm also pretty sure the Android licensing and stuff is irrelevant here, since it all comes down to Motorola's bootloader, which isn't really part of Android.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  9. LexusBrian400
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    LexusBrian400 New Member

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    People hack calculators? WTF
  10. anuraj1
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    anuraj1 New Member

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    dude, people even hack lcd watches.
  11. livingXsacrifice
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    livingXsacrifice New Member

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    I don't know about much regluations and stuff but isn't the bottom line that when you buy the phone it is yours? Why does a company feel they still have control over the device you bought? If you break into YOUR phone and mess with the open os on YOUR phone why should they care if you want to take the chance to mess YOUR phone up or make it better. Why should anyone worry about ramifications of a company suing you? I don't understand this logic. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.
  12. livingXsacrifice
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    livingXsacrifice New Member

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    Maybe he was a hacker at one time and remembers the old days? IDK
  13. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    That's exactly the precedent I am looking into with the EFF. Motorola doesn't have to NOT sign or encrypt the bootloader but in the same sentence because the OS that is running on it is freely available puts them in some murky waters. Haven't heard anything back from the EFF yet except the initial response saying that they have received my email and are looking into it. If anything noteworthy comes out of it I will be sure to update everyone.
  14. mcsinfl
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    mcsinfl New Member

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    FWIW, although I'm' for openness and have a rooted/custom rom droid, consider this side of the story and the possible ramifications to Motorola

    Motorola instead leaves the bootloader open, someone, maybe a Verizon employee, loads a custom rom with hidden, built in data capturing that they sell to an unsuspecting purchaser. the purchaser uses the phone not knowing that someone else has full access to the phone and everything the person does with the phone. Does motorola have legal liability for not taking every precaution to prevent unauthorized tampering with the phone? I don't know, but my guess is there is more to Motorola's reasoning than just keeping hackers out. And the analogy to the calculator...does this calculator capture personal data and have the ability to send data wirelessly? If not, I suspect you've got 2 different animals, regardless of the similarities.
  15. jntdroid
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    jntdroid Super Moderator Premium Member

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    This is going to be such a gray area that if this ever made it to any sort of court, the winner would be the side with the best representation, not the side that's "right".
  16. mcsinfl
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    mcsinfl New Member

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    best representation and the most money.

    also consider the possible military useage of these phones, just read another thread pointing to this article:
    Smartphones could be latest battle accessory - Yahoo! News
    i think military would want big-time encryption, and google/android/motorola are already working with the military on developing something if you believe the article...another argument they have for secure platforms.
  17. Darkseider
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    Darkseider New Member

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    Encrypting the wireless traffic yeah but the bootloader, no. Sorry I have a problem with paying for something and then not owning it. Your scenario however unlikely is plausible. That being said who is to say that there isn't something like that going on right now using motoblur and moto profiling and scanning messages for targetted ads and promotions? Again there is no way of knowing. Point is if I could do with it as I please I can ensure that ONLY what I want is on the phone. Custom ROM, custom AOSP kernel and whatever apps to follow. Not the ones that some corporation deems "approved".
  18. mcsinfl
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    mcsinfl New Member

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    trust me DS, I agree, just playing devils advocate
  19. jntdroid
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    jntdroid Super Moderator Premium Member

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    ditto! 10...
  20. takeshi
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    takeshi New Member

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    People hack everything. A calculator like the TI-83 doesn't seem like it should be surprising to me (unless you're not familiar with it).