Android and openness is something we talk about all the time, but the recent developments in the industry point towards inherent flaws with this very premise. Be it from bloggers, political institutions or corporations, Android is seemingly not open enough. The “War on Openness” is ironically becoming an open war, where many players are increasing their stakes and scope to try and land a bigger hold - or at the very least, restrict Google’s - on what is the world’s...
HTC, XDA, and Everything in Between
As many of you know by now, last couple of weeks have been quite intense in terms of what is happening in this little underground world of ours. Just as a means of providing you with a brief tl;dr summary, essentially one of our own devs, who goes by the name of XDA Recognized Contributor and Developer jmztaylor was sent a take down request by HTC of North America. The issue/explanation for this request was two-fold. Part A involved the fact that our dev had his own personal website under the address htcruu.com. Now, Unless you have direct, explicit permission from someone with authority to grant it, you should never use a trade name for your own purposes, even if you are not using them with commercial intent. Part B came a little later, but with a much harsher and almost feared request by many on our site. Jmztaylor was being ordered to take down the RUUs present on his site, as well as any custom ROMs he may be hosting. This, of course, triggered the rage of many in our community whose voices were heard across the tech world.
Now that the background has been taken care of, let us move onto more recent events. Late last week, HTC posted a little explanation in their dev blog. A letter from LEIGH MOMII was posted, which essentially explained how the letter was only meant to tackle the issues with the website’s name and HTC’s logo being used without permission. Furthermore, Ms. Momii explained how they would never do something like trying to shut down custom ROMs for any of their devices. This letter drew much skepticism from across the board, and one can easily spot it in the comments left by people in the article’s comments section. For those of you getting ready to grab pitchforks and torches thinking that this is a nightmare come true, you may want to hold off until the entire situation dies down a bit, and here is why. HTC is no stranger to shelling out take down requests whenever they think their IP is being put in jeopardy. Many of you will likely remember the case of XDA retired developer conflipper and his website www.shipped-roms.com. This site came under heavy legal fire, courtesy of HTC, for sharing virtually every RUU ever released (and not released) with the general public. Most of us were rather enraged about the whole scenario since his site was a unique source where people could look into to obtain RUU’s that were no longer available from either the carriers or even from HTC themselves.
After the involvement from many lawyers and tons of back and forth, the issue was resolved and the site was allowed to stay so as long as it was not sharing “private” or “unreleased” RUUs. Whether HTC agreed to this due to the extremely bad PR being generated or because of their “support to the custom ROM community” is something that we are not really privy to. However, if history has shown us anything regarding sending suits against developers, is that more often than not, thing don’t end well for the attacking party. It would be interesting, to say the least, to see if the statement about their support was coming from a “lesson learned” rather than because of actual support and care.
Having said this, jmztaylor did say that this statement from HTC is contradictory to the letter and subsequent communications by HTC where it is explicitly stated that the RUUs and custom ROMs must come down due to concerns about distribution of IP. So, who would you believe? Someone who has done similar things in the past, or a dev who is freely sharing his work and resources without really trying to annoy or be a nuisance to anyone? Needless to say, this was a rhetorical question. At this point in time, HTC is desperately trying to save face with the community. Developers once loyal to the brand are jumping ship front, right, and center because of the “games” played by the Taiwanese manufacturer (pseudo unlocked bootloaders, lack of kernel sources, etc) and HTC seems to be looking in a different direction or simply ignoring the situation altogether.
Luckily, just like it was the case with conflipper, the issue was peacefully resolved, and jmztaylor’s site is back up and running. HTC explained the entire case to the dev and also went on to elaborate that the reason why action was taken against the files was that they were (mistakenly) told that the RUUs and ROMs were being sold due to a Paypal link on the dev’s site. All the files are being shared as usual, with the exception of leaked RUUs, which HTC does not want to see floating around, mainly due to liability. Having said all this, we have a little something that is directed towards HTC. Something that we feel they should pay close attention to…
If you were really looking forward to working with the community and trying to support it, let me give you a few pointers. First and foremost, drop the bully attitude. Yes, you are the manufacturer, and we know and respect that. However, trying to assert dominance by roaring is simply not going to work with us. Our devs work on your manufactured products because you still have a dash of friendliness with us. However, and make no mistake, devs know each other, and word of mouth is one of the most devastating things in terms of making or breaking your image in a given market. Keep chasing and hunting people down, and it is likely that you won’t have many more devs to worry about.
Secondly, you need to open your eyes and understand that we are not here to steal your proprietary IP. We simply want to make our phones more functional, and ensure that our hard paid hardware gets to live a little longer than 6 months. Point in case, I personally own an EVO 3D running Sense 4.1 with bits and pieces of 4.5. However, due to your internal policies, I am currently unable to use its 3D camera or 4G because you are unable to provide the necessary code to get them going. (Well, 4G does work on a few AOSP Roms, but certainly not 3D, and DEFINITELY not on Sense ROMs). After many months, you decided to release the sources for the Amaze 4G camera. It is obviously possible since you did it, why not do it on a more timely manner? Life has shown me a few things in the professional world, but one of the most important ones is this: You can always sell a box once, but if you cannot/will not support it, you will not sell another one. Plain and simple.
Last but not least, next time you think that someone is using your stuff without permission, just consider your options. Instead of going in full force with lawyers and take down requests, how about trying to talk to the person? This ENTIRE thing could have been prevented if someone from your PR dept would have gotten in touch with jmztaylor and would have talked about a change of name and a different logo due to the reasons you state. Why do you need to prove that you are a bigger entity with deeper pockets than a regular hobbyist who is doing nothing more than sharing stuff on the Internet? Next time your lawyers decide that you have to do something, please take a step back and look at the possible consequences. We don’t want to cut ties with you, but you are certainly making strides for that to happen.
Just something to think about.
Thank you for reading.
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