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The Android SDK Is No Longer Free Software 535

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-fragmentation-at-all-costs dept.
New submitter tian2992 writes "The new terms for the Android SDK now include phrases such as 'you may not: (a) copy (except for backup purposes), modify, adapt, redistribute, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, or create derivative works of the SDK or any part of the SDK' among other non-Free-software-friendly terms, as noted by FSF Europe's Torsten Grote. Replicant, a free fork of Android, announced the release of Replicant SDK 4.0 based on the latest sources of the Android SDK without the new terms."
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The Android SDK Is No Longer Free Software

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  • by under_score (65824) <mishkin-slashdot&berteig,com> on Friday January 04, 2013 @09:57AM (#42474483) Homepage

    Google has long been willing to compromise on their "do no evil" mantra and is probably under huge pressure from successful incumbent phone device manufacturers to create barriers to entry in the market. This is common with any market where goods or services start to become commoditized.

  • Re:Ubuntu Mobile ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:34AM (#42474873) Homepage Journal

    There's very little point in Google closing Android, but the biggest reason for them not to is that it would create significant motivation for a group to fork the last open version. That fork would at the very least cause confusion that would hurt Android in the near term, and might even overshadow Google's version and become the standard, resulting in a loss of Google control.

    On that note, the chances of Ubuntu Mobile suddenly becoming popular on the back of this, or on the back of some hypothetical closing of Android 4.3, is about zero. People upset about Android being hurt are likely people who want Android open. Their first thought would be "How can we regain our freedoms in Android", not "Oh well, let's just give up and switch to something else that's untested and unproven and doesn't work the way we're used to."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:37AM (#42474927)

    [...] Except to the extent required by applicable third party licenses, you may not: [...] (b)load any part of the SDK onto a mobile handset or any other hardware device except a personal computer, combine any part of the SDK with other software, or distribute any software or device incorporating a part of the SDK.

    Hmm, seems like they are targeting on-device development with apps like AIDE [google.com].

  • Re:Ubuntu Mobile ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:40AM (#42474957)

    Some people do, some don't.

    I for instance only buy unlocked bootloader devices with FREE operating systems. This is why I currently have a Galaxy Nexus.

  • Re:Ubuntu Mobile ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:47AM (#42475027)

    It impacts people who care about principle the software they use is based upon.

    Freedom is not (just) a matter of principle. The reason that people take your freedom away from you is because they want, later at their option, to be able to take other things from you that would naturally be yours. Microsoft locks people into proprietary licenses because they know that, after a few years of using the OS they buy from them you will need a new computer and a new system, either because your old one broke or because an associate wants to do the same things as you do already. Normally, if you were allowed your natural right to copy things you own, you would just be able to copy the old one and that would work fine. By taking away that freedom, Microsoft is able to take away your money from you again later for nothing more than you could easily have done yourself if they didn't interfere with your copying.

    Google's aim here is to make life difficult for competitors such as Amazon and the Chinese Android clone makers (not that these will care). This allows them to interfere with the free market for their own benefit. For programmers reading Slashdot, that means that, instead of being four or more potential developers of mobile software you can work for, Amazon, Google, Apple and the Chinese, there may well only be two: Apple and Google. With the possible exception of Jolla and Ubuntu, there is almost nobody else in the market who could consider competing. For people buying mobile phones would mean that, instead of having widespread choice from different vendors, everything would go through Google or Apple.

    This is one of the key reasons why licenses such as the AGPLv3 as well as free software foundations which can provide a neutral holder for coyprights are so important. Look at how FreeBSD development has been absorbed by Apple even though it was supposedly "Open Source". Without strong copyleft licenses the only choice will be which set of chains you wear. Once you are wearing those chains the only choice will be to give the mobile vendors what they want to take.

    This work on Replicant is crucial and hopefully companies like Amazon which could gain from it will understand that and come out and support the project. Anyone who can contribute Android code should be working for the goals of Replicant wherever possible. Also you want to make sure that your code goes in to a neutral party under the AGPLv3 to make sure that you yourself will be able to get the benefit from it later.

    BTW, isn't it funny the way all the "don't be evil" trolls suddenly shut up when we have an actual example of Google doing something not nice?

  • by The1stImmortal (1990110) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:50AM (#42475079)
    First: IANAL

    What scares me about this license change is that Google is attempting to prevent, apparently in perpetuity, those agreeing to the license terms from doing anything involving fragmentation of Android (web links? Mentioning on Slashdot comments?), or from promoting a software development kit "derived from the SDK" - that presumably includes older, legitimate forks.

    I didn't even realise that it was legal (or at least, enforceable) to prevent someone from doing something completely unrelated to the licensed material at issue in a one-sided license agreement. Like preventing people from doing things that "may cause or result in the fragmentation of android". That would be like the license requirement requiring users not to hop on one leg for the rest of their lives as a result of agreeing.

    Hopefully the definition of "SDK" in the first section of the license [1.1: "The Android Software Development Kit (referred to in this License Agreement as the "SDK" and specifically including the Android system files, packaged APIs, and Google APIs add-ons)..."] is specific enough to not apply to derived works of the Apache-licensed source of the SDK in AOSP's repo's.
  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Friday January 04, 2013 @10:56AM (#42475147) Journal

    No, it depends on others' definition of evil.

    Which is why the whole premise is fundamentally flawed.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Friday January 04, 2013 @11:44AM (#42475673)

    No, this was quite a lottle bit evil. As were all the various anticompetitive practices they've been into recently. Many of those have even been directly trying to bring down open source competition, like deliberately polluting OpenStreetMap's data.

  • Re:come on! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Old97 (1341297) on Friday January 04, 2013 @11:46AM (#42475709)
    Things done "in the Church's name" are not things "done by the Church". People misuse religion and other belief systems all the time. How about politicians who do things "in the name of the people" when they are really just serving a few buddies? Same thing. Stalin killed in the "name of the people" and to "advance socialism". Do you believe he was sincere? Is socialism really about mass murder? (Hint: no.) BTW, which "Church" are they talking about? There are many. None of the Christian churches or all of them together directed the deaths of millions of people. Sure some thousands were burned at the stake or tortured during various inquisitions and pograms, but those were really for the benefit of various secular rulers. I can't think of any other religions guilty of millions of deaths either.
  • Re:Ubuntu Mobile ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Friday January 04, 2013 @11:47AM (#42475719) Journal

    Microsoft locks people into proprietary licenses because they know that, after a few years of using the OS they buy from them you will need a new computer and a new system, either because your old one broke or because an associate wants to do the same things as you do already. Normally, if you were allowed your natural right to copy things you own, you would just be able to copy the old one and that would work fine.

    You are allowed to transfer your license as long as you wipe it from the old machine first. That doesn't mean an old OS will actually work usably on new computers, though. In fact, the odds are against it even being able to boot if the OS is more than a few years old.

    This is one of the key reasons why licenses such as the AGPLv3 as well as free software foundations which can provide a neutral holder for coyprights are so important.

    AGPLv3 (Affero GPL v3) is an abomination. It requires that if I make changes to your software and use them on any public-facing website, I have to make my private changes available. So now you know my database schema and other information that by any legitimate security standards should be kept private. Because it violates the spirit of the GPL by forcing you to accept a license for mere use, rather than for distribution, the AGPL is the only software license that is so completely unfree that I will not use it under any circumstances whatsoever. I consider it to be worse than commercial licenses in this regard, because at least they don't pretend to be free.

  • by Miamicanes (730264) on Friday January 04, 2013 @02:49PM (#42478293)

    > Why? Since when do app developers typically need to "modify, adapt, redistribute, decompile,
    > reverse engineer, disassemble, or create derivative works of the SDK"?

    To fix annoying bugs that have been around for eternity, and Google seems to have no interest in fixing? Like, you know, the nice one that occasionally induces Eclipse to transpose the cursor and semicolon at the end of a line of code, so you'll type semicolon, hit return, then end up swearing violently because the goddamn IDE (acting at the behest of ADT, since Android Isn't Java(tm), and as far as Eclipse is concerned, it's dealing with a C++ preprocessor) decided to enter the semicolon, then reposition the cursor to be RIGHT BEFORE IT immediately afterward.

    Or the way, once or twice a year, Eclipse just goes senile and forgets how to build Android projects, and the only way to fix it is to create a brand new project and reimport everything into it by hand?

    Or those times when Eclipse refuses to compile an Android file because it thinks there's a bug that isn't there, and the squiggly-line bug won't go away unless you select the source code, cut it into the clipboard, save the emptied-out file, paste the source back into the file, and save it again?

    These are all bugs that have plagued ADT since the beginning, spawned hundreds of entries over at StackOverflow... and whose developer cries have largely fallen upon deaf ears over in Mountain View, for reasons nobody can really discern or explain.

  • Re:come on! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday January 04, 2013 @03:25PM (#42478681)

    Thanks for an unexpectedly civil response, a rarity on slashdot and the internet in general in a day when it is hip to be acerbic.

    I would also have you consider whether it is fair to blame "the church" for things that self-proclaimed "christians" do. There is a lot of ambiguity over the terms "the church" and "christian", and it goes without saying that as admittedly sinful people, christians too can commit wrongs. "The church" gets a lot of flack as this long-standing monolith of vice, when it has undergone a lot of splits, dissolutions, and reformations over the years; I myself am a "baptist" and would not subscribe to what is generally meant by "the church" (Roman catholocism). I have also committed my share of wrongs, but dont think it would be fair to ascribe them to "baptists" when most baptists would acknowledge them as wrongs.

    Just food for thought.

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