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Google Adds Licensing Server DRM To Android Market

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the do-androids-dream-of-electric-rights dept.

Cellphones 184

eldavojohn writes "According to AfterDawn, Google has given app makers the option to use a license server as DRM to ensure the user has paid for an app before they can download it. Reportedly, the Market app will communicate with a Google license server using RSA encryption. It is important to note this is only available for non-free apps (built with SDK 1.5 and later), and it was instituted to provide a better solution to the old and widely criticized copy protection scheme that was susceptible to Android app piracy (like sideloading). For better or for worse, Android's Marketplace appears to now have an optional, phone-home form of DRM." Following news of the new licensing service, Hexage Ltd, makers of a popular Android game called Radiant, released the data they had collected on piracy of Radiant over a 10-month period beginning last October. A series of charts shows total users, paid users and the piracy rate, by region.

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"Do no evil" (-1, Troll)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33088912)

Do no evil*

* Unless there is a significant financial interest to be evil.

Re:"Do no evil" (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33088982)

it's up to the developer. I didn't even RTFA. "Google has given app makers the option". not "Google forces ..." (Option, Force). Different things. and if the dev really doesn't like it - then they can play the iphone's gestapo slot machine.

Re:"Do no evil" (1, Funny)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089020)

it has more to do with catering to legacy companies who think that they can somehow combat piracy. In reality, costs go down significantly over time for ongoing software development, so even if a small subset of the folks pirating slowly convert over time you're only going to continue to make more and more money.

Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains).

Paying for apps (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089132)

Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains).

Except there are several genres of application that free software developers have so far failed to deliver. I've listed several other as-yet-uncloned apps in this comment [slashdot.org] .

Re:Paying for apps (1, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089548)

almost everything on your list has DRM. However, lets take too it.

Netflix Watch Instantly
DRM and legal constraints enforced by Netflix. You know, silverlight? You can also thank MS for that one.

Adobe Photoshop, including those high-end features that distinguish it from GIMP mods such as GIMPshop
Adobe Flash CS3

Adobe products have equivalents on open source but not necessarily free software - I'd consider gimp equivalent for development, mostly. Don't sit and try to tell me professionals prefer photoshop over gimp or vice versa. It's an even split and up to personal preference.

TurboTax - you kidding me? there are free open source programs that do what turbotax does. Kmoney comes to mind.
Stone Edge Order Manager I don't know what this is. Sorry, skipping.
Sonic 3 & Knuckles
Diablo II
Starcraft
Street Fighter IV
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

These are all a: games which b: haven't been ported via opengl and c: depending on console, etc, have many forms of DRM with them. especially CODMW2. So you can play them, under wine, but you're really doing the same as running windows.

I wouldn't call that failing to deliver by anyone other than the companies who made the games. They'd have a bigger market if they made the games linux/free software compatible as that can equate to android as well as open source. All of these companies are very slowly moving towards free software friendly, but it's probably going to be a few more years.

I would also blame microsoft again for this, since DX11 and free software do not go together any more than silverlight or moonlight does.

Re:Paying for apps (0)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089978)

there are free open source programs that do what turbotax does. Kmoney comes to mind.

KMyMoney can replace Quicken, but TurboTax comes with a translation of the latest United States tax code and the tax codes of the several states into executable code. It's unlikely that free software maintained by hobbyists can keep up with annual amendments to multiple jurisdictions' tax laws.

Stone Edge Order Manager

I don't know what this is. Sorry, skipping.

I explained it in this post [slashdot.org] , and it has a web site [stoneedge.com] .

I wouldn't call [Linux's dearth of native games] failing to deliver by anyone other than the companies who made the games.

If most companies that make games fail to deliver, it is up to free software developers to deliver in their stead. No, NetHack and Dwarf Fortress aren't enough.

Re:Paying for apps (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090274)

Okay.
How about this.
Solidworks.
Autocad.
Pro/E
Sony Vegas
Adobe Premier

AND DRM DOES NOT STOP THE DEVELOPMENT OF A FOSS EQUIVALENT!
Unless you intend to just take others code without permission.

There is no FOSS cad system as good as those listed or equivalent.

Re:Paying for apps (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091164)

Do FOSS developers want one?
Because if not that pretty much explains it. If you want one I suggest you pay for one to be created. Get this into your little brain, FREE software developers do not owe you anything.

Re:"Do no evil" (1, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089222)

it has more to do with catering to legacy companies who think that they can somehow combat piracy. In reality, costs go down significantly over time for ongoing software development, so even if a small subset of the folks pirating slowly convert over time you're only going to continue to make more and more money.

[citation needed]

Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains).

Those people would be ideologues. If ideology is that important to them, they shouldn't be using Android anyway because it's not an open platform [projectgus.com] .

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

unix1 (1667411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090332)

they shouldn't be using Android anyway because it's not an open platform [projectgus.com] .

So, a couple of Chinese companies with obscure products have not released their sources and that makes Android as a whole "closed?" Android is open source [android.com] last time I checked. As in you can get the source, change it, compile it, get it to work with your own hardware, and redistribute it. In fact, those obscure companies and products are a testament to that.

The fact that some are trying to lock down their bootloaders, not disclose drivers, or trying to lock down root access, etc. does not make the underlying operating system closed in any way.

Re:"Do no evil" (3, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 4 years ago | (#33091520)

As in you can get the source, change it, compile it, get it to work with your own hardware, and redistribute it.

Or even improve [cyanogenmod.com] it.

Re:"Do no evil" (4, Insightful)

abigor (540274) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089280)

Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains).

I can't believe people still confuse free as in beer and free as in freedom, despite how many times people point out the difference on here.

Free software types are not opposed to for-pay software, at all. The two concepts are not related.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

SideshowBob (82333) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089940)

Free software types are not opposed to for-pay software, at all. The two concepts are not related.

I think it's pretty clear that many are, possibly most.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091206)

I think you're full of shit. I have paid for and will continue to spend my software dollars on FREE software as much as possible. Sure some kids want everything for free, they also pirate games, who cares.

Re:"Do no evil" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089950)

It's true people get the concepts confused, but it's not entirely surprising. Even putting aside the ambiguousness of the word "free".

What is not true is that the concepts are not at all related.

The fact is, it's really, really hard to monetize a product and keep a competitive advantage when you have to give away pretty much all the resources required to reproduce it (source code) on request. Most people wouldn't pay anything unless they felt compelled to. Most people don't like to be compelled to pay anything, but it doesn't make in any less necessary.

This makes them, to some degree, related.

It means you either have to beg (for donations) or hope your product becomes big enough that businesses will pay for support. Small developers are the ones who generally can't monetize and get hurt. DRM, say what you like, has probably been the best thing to happen to small time, indie developers who actually would like to feed their families off their hard work and innovation.

Don't get me wrong. I've released plenty of open source, free-in-every-sense-of-the-word projects over the years. But I value my right and ability to also release something and get paid for it.

In today's world, libre implies gratis (1)

Mandrel (765308) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090826)

Free software types are not opposed to for-pay software, at all. The two concepts are not related.

This distinction was somewhat valid when one had to order software on tapes and disks. But in an era when the cost of distribution is just about zero, it's very difficult to charge for copyleft software.

What are the options to earn income from software that's entirely copyleft?

  • Panhandling: But most won't pay if the only new thing they're getting is a warm feeling. It turns programmers into beggars and servants [wsj.com] .
  • Selling support: But many users don't need it, or can't afford it, and they need it less the higher the quality of the software.
  • Embedded Advertisng: Users find this very valuable.
  • Sell Documentation: Now we're introducing a proprietary component again, preventing open community involvement in its development.

Access to the source and build systems, and the ability to distribute modified versions, are the real strengths of open software. By removing the freedom-to-run requirement [railswheels.com] it becomes easier to charge for software that still gives users all the freedoms that motivated Richard Stallman to start GNU and the FSF.

Re:In today's world, libre implies gratis (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091220)

Sell binaries offer only sources as no cost. That will compel most to pay.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090874)

Except that this is not about proprietary software, it's about DRM. DRM lets a bastard take up a piece of otherwise free software and lock it up.

And the most important thing, for DRM to work at all, you must be unable to modify the operating system itself. This is the main problem here. I don't give a damn about your little closed source app, as long as it doesn't make it impossible for me to mess with the system.

Re:"Do no evil" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089300)

Uhmmm, EXCUSE ME?

Maybe I'm just not 'free software' enough, but I have no problem paying for applications that are WORTH IT.

The problem here stems from applications/operating systems that have pretty well been beaten to death (Office, WinXP) being sold for the same cost as a new piece of software. Much like with Cars, software generally deprecates over time as the forefront of software technology advances. That's not to say all software will eventually be worth a 0 dollar cost, but just like cars it will eventually reach a price that may not make it worth creating an equivalent piece of software for-profit.

Free software is to a large degree changing where that bar starts and ends. And the majority of people who enjoy piracy AREN'T part of the Free Software movement, they're part of the Free Rider movement, meaning they'd prefer to not have to work in order to get ANYTHING. For another example, see 'NEET'.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

voidptr (609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090080)

Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains).

If you want to disagree with paying for apps and agree with the concept of free software, you can use free software.

That doesn't give you the right to rip off developers who don't agree to put stuff under a free license and steal their work.

I agree with the concept of driving a Porsche around, but I'm not allowed to just drive one off the lot.

Re:"Do no evil" (2, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091236)

If you could copy one without any impact on Ze Germans who built the one at the lot, I would think you might be able too.

I would advise you to instead replicate cars people intend to be FREE in that manner, but it would not be anything like stealing a physical car.

Re:"Do no evil" (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090176)

"Also, a lot of people disagree with paying for apps as that goes against the purpose and concept of free software (and associated benefits/gains)."

No you are wrong. You are super wrong. You are full of it.
If you are talking about GNU/FSF/RMS meaning of the free software.

It goes against the purpose and concept of free software to us free software.
As betterunixthanunix points out GNU has no problem with charging for software at all.

So yes you can pay for free software all you want. To follow the purpose and concept of free software you would disagree with and refrain from using any software that you where not free to distribute and that did not give you the source or at least an offer of the source!

Not liking DRM is also okay.
But just taking the software is just being a rotten cheapskate that refuses to pay the developer what the developer thinks his product is worth. And you are violating his rights to license his software how he sees fit.
In other words your being a jerk when you pirate some $ 1.99 game for you cell phone and being anti free software at the same time.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090278)

In reality, costs go down significantly over time for ongoing software development...

I dunno if you were being serious or not, but I would like to point out something: DRM creates on-going costs for software. EA, for example, will continue paying lots of people money to handle the servers and the customer service needed for their Spore customers to play their game for as long as they decide to support it. That means that for every product they sell, as they years go by, the actual profit they made from that sale will continue to decline.

I'm amazed that content industries are actually trying to use this model. It's great for rental, it's lousy for one-time sales.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091254)

They will just discontinue support for the game rather soon. For a good example look at halo on the xbox, no more online multiplayer. Yet, many PC games from that era still have active multiplayer communities.

EA will not let you play spore forever, eventually they will say it is EOL and you can forget about playing it anymore.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091412)

They will just discontinue support for the game rather soon.

Sure. But they've still spent a lot more than they would have on supporting the game during its run. It doesn't matter how short of period they use, they're still eating into their own profits when they use a system like this.

Re:"Do no evil" (3, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089092)

You know its surprising how much significant financial interest there is in other pathways than the one Google has taken, yet you don't see them abusing it.

Don't get me wrong, everyone has the right and definately should be wary of what Google does being in the position Google is in. (Great power, Great responsibility, blah blah blah).

But giving developers the option to use a DRM server for their priced apps?

Where is the evil in that?

Re:"Do no evil" (4, Insightful)

LainTouko (926420) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089440)

The potential evil is one of deceit, it's in colluding with someone who claims to be 'selling' an application, which in reality is programmed to disobey the person deceived into thinking they own it if it can't find this DRM server.

Using DRM, by itself, is not an issue. It's this refusal to be clear that, by doing so, you've changed 'selling' into a strange form of rental (with incompletely specified conditions) which is the evil bit. If you participate in an activity which looks like selling, but doesn't actually give the 'buyer' the freedoms they get when they buy a useful object normally, that looks like complicity in fraud to me.

Lots of others may be doing it, but in morality this is no excuse.

Re:"Do no evil" (0)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089532)

Except that Google is not the one implementing this decision. Google could offer this service and no developer could use it - and everything would go on as usual.

This is entirely a developers choice - Google is simply giving them the option to implement DRM should they choose.

Re:"Do no evil" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33091188)

If/When developers opt to use this DRM server, will they be branded as Evil as in Apple?

I find it amusing watching the Google Fanboy's falling over themselves to defende the 'choice' to use DRM.

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091286)

As an android user and purchaser of apps I would hope they would mark DRMed apps in some way. I do not want to buy them, I do not care if they work I have a moral objection to the them period.

This is probably another one of those cases where I will be forced to buy less as the work of finding out what I would buy is more than the alternative of just going without or doing something else with my time.

Re:"Do no evil" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090858)

Any comments to the use of escrow keys, so that you CAN use software you've paid for if the company who maid it go away...? Then there is the ability to move an app from an old phone to a new phone, will it still be able to run?

Re:"Do no evil" (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090078)

Google's informal motto is "don't be evil", not "do no evil".

There's a subtle difference there in that the former still allows a little leeway as long as the balance is ultimately non-evil whereas the latter does not.

Looks like... (0, Troll)

clo1_2000 (1790952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33088916)

the jig is up.

Re:Looks like... (2, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089124)

For those that never wanted to pay for apps that the developers wanted to _sell_.

DRM isn't a requirement here. If two apps exist in an equally functional form and one has DRM while the other doesn't, I know what one I'm picking. If I don't like the DRM, I have a choice to not get DRM'd apps.

It's still consumer choice at this point. Google is just offering a way for developers to DRM their apps if they so choose to do so. If it ends up not being popular, the developers can choose to remove the DRM.

This is actually not a bad thing... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33088940)

If I had to choose between an app checking to see if the user purchased this from the Android store, or DRM schemes using various encryption techniques, remotely pushed keys, daemons that would disable Google accounts if they detected a phone was rooted, I'll take the simple API calls.

Paid apps are not available in many countries. (3, Insightful)

sbrubblesman (871975) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089024)

Maybe if paid apps for android market where available for everywhere, piracy rates would be much smaller. I'd rather google made paid apps available everywhere before they add DRM.

Building up Android (4, Insightful)

BassMan449 (1356143) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089028)

I don't fault Google for adding this in. They are trying to build up Android and one part of doing that is by developing a strong development ecosystem around it. The problem is if there is huge piracy numbers it's hard to get money behind developing an app for Android. By giving some businesses a little more comfort, they can help to encourage adoption of the platform as a viable development platform for a business.

Re:Building up Android (3, Insightful)

unix1 (1667411) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090068)

This is generally a bad idea:

1. Much of the justification for paid apps when both free and paid are available, is to get rid of the ads and tracking in the free versions (admob, etc. at dev's option). Now, you'll be tracked by Google (again, at developer's option) even for paid apps.

2. There are 2 modes: strict and server managed. Strict mode will always verify license every time you start an app. This is useless when no network connection is available - e.g. on airplane, and gives maximum tracking to Google. Server managed can cache the server response and use the cached response when there's no network connection available. This has 2 problems: (1) from users' perspective: you'll have to pre-open such apps that you'd want to use on a plane before taking off (or going off-roading, camping, hiking, etc.) - for example, you don't usually play a certain game (but you will on a plane), so cached response could have expired - better remember to pre-open and re-cache everything before taking off! Users shouldn't have to deal with this crap. And (2) from developers' perspective: the cached response is stored "obfuscated" locally. The "obfuscation" is an encrypted file with a 20-byte salt. The salt is stored inside the application. This is not secure by design and once broken, useless.

There are better ways, none of which involve a lot of extra tracking by Google. For example, even in this licensing scheme, since the salt stays the same per apk, why not just validate the license at install time, and "cache" the encrypted license forever for that specific apk? Another option - why not encrypt the apk itself, decrypt when run or JIT compiled binaries only. In general, why not implement a generic encrypted storage container that could be used by users, developers, and the OS to securely store any information? This could even be encrypted via an optional user-settable password to an encryption key. This is not rocket science, it's been done everywhere else.

Re:Building up Android (1)

stoanhart (876182) | about 4 years ago | (#33091554)

You're right, this is a good thing.

Why is Steam so good? Because developers feel secure in the DRM, but it's not obtrusive so users don't mind it.

Steam vs. Assassin's Creed 2 (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089078)

Requiring a phone to be online in order to run an app, especially if it otherwise has no need to communicate with the Internet, will hurt users of non-phone Android devices such as the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. I hope any developer that feels the need to do this will use the Steam-style "cached response from the last time the app was run if no connection to the Market is available", as the article puts it, rather than the Assassin's Creed 2-style "only allow[ing] the app to start if the server is available to verify the license."

Re:Steam vs. Assassin's Creed 2 (1)

TheGothicGuardian (1138155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089164)

Exactly. They also need to specify before purchase whether or not the specified app includes DRM, so the user can determine if the app is viable for all of their required uses.

Re:Steam vs. Assassin's Creed 2 (1)

Shoeler (180797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089178)

<quote>Requiring a phone to be online in order to run an app, especially if it otherwise has no need to communicate with the Internet, will hurt users of non-phone Android devices such as the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. I hope any developer that feels the need to do this will use the Steam-style "cached response from the last time the app was run if no connection to the Market is available", as the article puts it, rather than the Assassin's Creed 2-style "only allow[ing] the app to start if the server is available to verify the license."</quote>

You're misunderstanding what's in the API. All google has done is provide a facility for checking, should the app developer choose to. It's not required at boot time or any other time and proper checking by the app (think: try: is the network on; except: don't check for a license) will negate any issues that may arise from network problems.

Violent agreement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089342)

any developer that feels the need to do this

should the app developer choose to

Steam-style "cached response from the last time the app was run if no connection to the Market is available"

try: is the network on; except: don't check for a license

It sounds like you two are in violent agreement.

number of users critical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089084)

An apparent conclusion from these numbers is that the most important thing is to get a large number of users, since the larger number of users, the lower the piracy rate. :p

Good Riddance (1)

Zoidbot (1194453) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089090)

Good riddance to the freetards in life. Why should I pay more because THEY freeload.

I don't see the problem. (5, Insightful)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089100)

At the great risk to my karma, I guess I have to just pipe up and say that I don't see the problem here.

License-server based apps have been selling on various platforms for years. Decades. Android now supports this, adding a little attraction to developers to invest time and money making an application for use on Android. Given the lack of QA on a great many Android apps (can anyone offer an explanation how Facebook for Android is such pure garbage, all jokes about content aside?) I for one see this as a step in the right direction.

Android developers, you now have a piracy deterrent for your applications you would like monetary compensation for creating, and more importantly, maintaining. I fail to see how this is evil and how any of the wry 'do-no-evil-lol' quips are deserved.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089204)

License-server based apps have been selling on various platforms for years.

How well do license-server based apps work on laptops? And how well would they work on Android device without a cellular radio, something like an Archos 5?

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089634)

That's really up to the developer. If I were to use such a service, I'd allow a certain number of executions without validation before validation was required again. For example, if the validation comes back, I save that date to my app database, maybe encrypt it, and run the same check each time it's run. If I don't get a reply for N days (or N runs) then disable the app. It would most likely be easily hacked (cause I'd have to store the value somewhere...) but it would most likely cut out the couch pirates. It could also be like "shareware" with an N day limit on play.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089796)

How well do license-server based apps work on laptops? And how well would they work on Android device without a cellular radio, something like an Archos 5?

Sad to say, but Google doesn't care if your Android device isn't a phone. They don't care, they don't "With Google" you or anything. To Google, if it's not a phone, they're not interested.

As for the Archos 5, that thing is so locked down it's practically impossible to root it or customize it, so it's stuck with Android 1.6, which won't support this anyhow.

And OS-managed DRM is a good thing. It being in one place means rooting the phone means you can pirate apps again by stubbing out those APIs to use fake responses. Even if Google encrypts the binary, it has to be decrypted somehow, and you'll just be right where iOS piracy is. Yes, the executable inside the an iOS ipa is encrypted in spots (running it will crash the app) and the loader decrypts it based on your device key. The iOS piracy scripts basically run the app inside gdb and grab the memory image after it's been decrypted. Android apps probably won't be much different - unless Dalvik starts having special hooks where the code is encrypted in random spots and it automatically decrypts.

I'm surprised Android piracy is so high though - iOS has various pirate web sites, and of course on bittorrent and even an "alternative app store" where you can download and install pirated apps right on your device. I haven't heard of sites hosting pirated android apps exclusively, nor pirate app installers, etc. I've seen the torrents though, but those I expect.

The CPS-2 solution (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090136)

Even if Google encrypts the binary, it has to be decrypted somehow

Put cryptographic hardware in your CPU, and have it decrypt the binary inside the CPU at instruction cache miss time. The Capcom CPS-2 arcade board did something similar, coupling a crypto-processor and an MC68000 CPU.

Re:I don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33091440)

"As for the Archos 5, that thing is so locked down it's practically impossible to root it or customize it, so it's stuck with Android 1.6, which won't support this anyhow."

This licencing scheme is supported on all Android devices from 1.5 and up.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089250)

I don't see the problem, provided the app doesn't pop a license check every time it runs. Instead, it should cache the result against the phone's IMEI and some random obfuscation that would take some disassembly of the .apk to yank. When the app runs, if the IMEI is different, it automatically polls the license server and rebuilds the cached value. If it gets back that the user doesn't have that app purchased, it should either work in a demo mode, or point the user to the store to purchase it proper. If it never gets back a value because of no connection, who cares. If someone is astute to forge a cached hash with the IMEI, they are astute enough to hack all the API references out completely.

All and all, this is a good thing. This beats funky DRM schemes, and it doesn't put as much pressure on device makers to put more eFuses, signed bootloaders, and other anti-modder things in place to ward off piracy. As a modder, I think this method is the best way one could protect apps against piracy. It isn't perfect, but it is a hell of a lot better than forcing Android phone makers to make it harder and harder to mod, much less even root their phones.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089878)

I agree completely with yourself and the GP. I love my rooted Eris and this is a great way for app makers to try to get paid for their work.

It was coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089472)

What if artists/producers/companies doesn't want their cnntent freely ripped and distributed over the Internet?

I mean, if this DRM thing can't be solved within standards of HTML5/W3C, some people will wait for a very long time for standards based video over the web instead of Flash/Silverlight.

I am telling this slightly off topic video thing as Rob Glaser of Real Networks called Linux developers/users to come up with a DRM scheme. It was before this "Hulu" "iPlayer" things. Everyone laughed at him, used usual "real player is spyware" etc. karma whoring comments and now, everyone happily (!) boots into Windows to watch protected content.

Google, implements DRM on Linux now and it isn't against anyones ideological beliefs. If there is something to pick, it is that fact.

Re:I don't see the problem. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090252)

Well it's not a problem per se, but every bit of DRM that's built into Android chips away at it's status as the "free" alternative to Apple's iOS. We can argue about whether or not that's fair, but it seems to be why people care about news like this.

Re:I don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090460)

Not really. I would own an Android for one reason only. I hate fucking Apple.

I don't give a fuck if there is DRM on Android, the money is going to the developers who have made the choice of where, when, and how they will sell their app. Unlike apple that tells them where, when, and how to sell their app.

Nothing is more evil than Apple. Not even Microsoft. Apple fanbois just refuse to admit their company of choice is that evil. Actually, I think they are just to stupid to realize it.

OT: facebook app on iPhone (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090260)

(can anyone offer an explanation how Facebook for Android is such pure garbage, all jokes about content aside?)

Because the Facebook developers suck?

The iPhone Facebook app isn't much better. They finally got it stable, but that's after several versions and even then some people still have some crashing, and there are still plenty of missing features (I can filter the Newsfeed on the website to exclude those stupid facebook game posts people post every 5 seconds, but I can't seem to do the same on the phone? WTF??). If it wasn't for the narrow development approach apple takes, and that (I think) so many more iPhone users have Facebook installed than Android users** and were screaming at Facebook to get their act together, then it probably would have never gotten to the point it 's at now.

**PS: my hypothesis is that since Android users are more conscious about personal digital freedom, they are less likely to be Facebook users than iPhone users and there is less demand for the Android app than the iPhone app. It seems plausable but I have no proof to back this up. The point still stands that for a while the facebook app sucked very hard and I don't think it was primarily anything to do with any platform. Now it currently sucks a little.

Re:I don't see the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090658)

The fact that other people have been doing it for years doesn't make the entire concept any less flawed. It's a sound business decision for google, but DRM always ends up biting the paying customer.

Explaining Piracy Figures (4, Informative)

acid06 (917409) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089166)

You can see in the charts something like 98% piracy in South America.
This happens because... there's no way to buy applications if you're in South America. So, anyone with a paid application here *has* to pirate it.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089270)

Those charts are completely useless as it's impossible to buy Android software in many parts (most?) of Europe as well. Not that I'd want to buy any if everyone starts using this phone-home DRM.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089272)

It doesn't make it any less illegal.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089382)

If you have to infringe because the legitimate publisher doesn't want to take your money, then copyright is failing "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089912)

Why doesn't a publisher have a right to choose not to sell somewhere/to someone?

So it's OK to steal it, because you can't buy it? So what if the publisher sells it to one person in South America? It was available, so now it's not OK?

That argument doesn't seem to hold up.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (3, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090002)

I don't follow.

Of course a publisher has the right not to sell his software. I just don't see that he is harmed if the people he chose not to sell it to pirate a copy. He hasn't lost anything. He still has his copy. He can't claim a lost sale since if the pirate hadn't pirated then there still wouldn't have been a sale.

Why does he have the right to disadvantage everyone else?

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091258)

Why is your right to acquire something more important than his right to control his creation?

While someone's right to their own creation is pretty well established (after all, that's the purpose of copyright), where does the idea that people should have to either sell you something or let you take it come from?

It seems like just because something isn't physical (has no marginal cost), people argue that a creator's rights don't apply.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090014)

Have the owners reported their missing property?

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090036)

Anonymous Coward wrote:

Have the owners reported their missing property?

This happens every time a copyright owner files a DMCA takedown notice.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089922)

If you have to infringe because the legitimate publisher doesn't want to take your money, then copyright is failing "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

True, but for better or worse, copyright is a property right, too. The publisher has the right to refuse sale to anyone, largely speaking. This wouldn't obviate their other rights, however.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090074)

While I see where you're coming from and I entirely sympathize with countries not able to get things because of arbitrary corporate boundaries (I used to live in one such nation), copyright doesn't mean just because you made it everyone has a right to have it.

If I come up with a new ice-cream recipe, I have a right not to give it to you even if you will happily pay me for it. I also have a right to give it to my friends exclusively while denying you access. You do not have the right to steal it from me.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090208)

What does a phrase from the US Constitution have to do with selling copyrighted software in South America?

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090456)

No it isn't.

The two things are unrelated.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091130)

While I agree that somebody not selling a product to willing customers is stupid, you're just wrong.

Promoting the progress of science and the useful arts is about getting things made, not getting things exposed.

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091192)

In that case, a (distant) argument under a foreign counterpart to fair use law [copyright.gov] could be made. Please explain any substantial negative "effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work" in a region where authentic copies are not available. Or what does the corresponding statute in Brazil and Argentina say?

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089540)

Have you read the various treaties, or are you guessing?

Re:Explaining Piracy Figures (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090184)

It doesn't make it any less illegal.

But obviously more understandable.

South American pirates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089188)

Only 478 pirates in South America. I suspect these statistics are more about the quality of the game than the number of pirates in South America.

This one has got to be killing the Apple haters. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089198)

If this same thing was happening anywhere else (UniSoft? Battle.Net?) there would be outrage, but since it seems the majority of /. readers are pro-Android *and* Apple haters, then we're going to see an awful lot of, "there's nothing wrong" or "this is great" apologists.

Re:This one has got to be killing the Apple haters (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089936)

I think the essential element you're missing is that Andriod's DRM is only an option. Otherwise you'd be right.

DeeAreEm! DeeAreEm! DeeAreEm! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089240)

Yey, I did a DRM in my pants, Yay!

Call me paranoid (3, Interesting)

MikeyVB (787338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089258)

With recent news about certain Android apps sending private information to whomever created it, I have recently installed DroidWall to filter access (e.g. - Battery meter apps!? Puh-leez!) to my phone's data connection.

If some app expects me to allow a data connection just to prove I am not a thief, sorry, I won't be buying it! And yes, I do purchase apps that I consider worthy.

And what happens if someone is abroad? Would they have to pay $20 in roaming charges to play some bubble bobble game for an hour while waiting in some airport?

Re:Call me paranoid (2, Interesting)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089848)

I believe that this doesn't actually require the app to need the Internet permission. I believe it just requests the pay information from the Market app and the Market app uses the Internet, so you'd have to use droidwall to block market's internet access.

Re:Call me paranoid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089960)

Furthermore, the market app can cache the response after the initial request is made - when you install the app.

There's no reason to require an online connection while *using* the app.

Re:Call me paranoid (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090246)

I'm just amazed at the fact you have to install a firewall on your PHONE. What's next, Antivirus and spybot scanners for Driod?

Re:Call me paranoid (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091360)

it's worse than that - he has to install a firewall in his phone to stop things from calling OUT

#irc.trooltalk.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089476)

for *BSD becAuse Cycle; take a and I probably continues in a

What if I lose my phone? (0, Troll)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089480)

Do I have to buy all my apps over again like with an iPhone?

Re:What if I lose my phone? (-1, Troll)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089604)

Somebody with mod points mark this troll please.

Re:What if I lose my phone? (1)

pbhogan (976384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089610)

Only an idiot doesn't keep backups. Likewise, only an idiot doesn't sync his iPod/iPhone/iPad to a computer and blames Apple when he loses everything.

Re:What if I lose my phone? (1)

voidptr (609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090150)

Even if you don't keep backups, iTunes keeps a permanent history of your purchases and will let you download any App* you already paid for free if you try to buy it again, on any device tied to the account.

Re:What if I lose my phone? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090414)

Only an idiot doesn't keep backups. Likewise, only an idiot doesn't sync his iPod/iPhone/iPad to a computer and blames Apple when he loses everything.

iTunes lets you re-download apps. You can also buy apps on your iPhone and install and run them on your iPod.

The guy you were replying to is talking out of his ass.

Re:What if I lose my phone? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090042)

Yes.

Much like if you lose your phone you need to buy a new phone.

Re:What if I lose my phone? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090960)

Sync new phone with iTunes. All your old apps are copied to the phone. No need to buy them again.

Looking at piracy figures... (2, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33089748)

... now I see why we have always been at war with Oceania - they are apparently stealing all our apps.

It's pretty amazing the North America piracy figure is so much lower. I wonder if that's the result of a far larger user base in NA? Or are Europeans (where I thought the figure would be similar) just have a more pirate-prone culture?

It would also be interesting to see beyond this static view, how many users they saw going from pirated to paid. That I think is the key figure to understand if piracy is a problem or a marketing tool.

Regional differences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33089860)

A knee-jerk reaction would be "The piracy rate is greater in Asia because they have less of a problem with stealing".

A more accurate reaction would probably be: "There are less paying customers because it is more complicated to transfer money to a North American store when you're in Asia, so the remaining users tend to be pirates."

Universal Paid Apps (2, Insightful)

erik.martino (997000) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090110)

It is obvious that the piracy level is higher in regions where it is impossible to buy paid apps. For the sake of the application customers, application publishers and the Android ecosystem, please do something about it google. The ratio between paid versus free apps in the Android Market is extremely tilted towards free apps for this very reason. As long as there are countries where it is impossible to buy paid apps for Android there will be people who will pirate and crack the applications.

I'm going where it's safe! (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 3 years ago | (#33090124)

That's it! I'm going back to winmo, cause nothing like that ever happens on IT!

THEY STEAL OUR MILLIONS!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33090928)

When will the newcomers to digital distribution ever stop whining about piracy?

If only Google could actually get it *RIGHT*... (2, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091116)

There were (at least) two fundamental flaws with the original Android Market protection scheme, neither of which appears to have been rectified by this change (besides possibly to make matters worse for end users):

* As everyone has already noted, lots of people around the world with Android phones can't actually buy apps from Android Market, EVEN IF they have a Mastercard/Visa/AMEX card with dollar-denominated account. That's just plain fucked.

* You can't officially purchase and run protected Market apps if your phone is running an unblessed "Developer" kernel. Of course, there's not a single goddamn phone from HTC, Samsung, or Motorola with Google-blessed kernel that has BlueZ Bluetooth HID profile compiled into it, so it's impossible to build your own kernel with it enabled without being formally exiled from 99% of commercial Android apps. At least, unless you crack them. Any DRM scheme that forces legitimate users to crack apps they purchased in order to use them is fundamentally broken, especially when there are still gaping holes in Android phones that need a customer kernel to fix.

As for "developer's option" whether or not to cache, let's be honest... at least half the developers publishing commercial apps don't have the slightest clue in HELL how to implement a secure caching scheme, and they aren't going to purchase a proprietary one that demands more money up front than they're likely to earn from the app's sale. So, anybody care to guess what's going to happen? Most apps in Market are going to end up checking the server every goddamn time, because the alternatives are too hard/expensive for most Android publishers to deal with. IMHO, Google got THAT part EGREGIOUSLY wrong. They should have distributed the Android DRM module themselves, and made it free & easy for publishers to do cached checking, but left it difficult and minimally-documented how to bypass that caching and check the server every time.

I love Android. I really do. But it's so incredibly frustrating when Google turns around and fucks things up in ways that CAN'T be fixed by end users with access to Android's sourcecode... usually, mistakes that are almost incomprehensible given the amount of in-house talent and expertise Google has available to it. At times, Google actually manages to make even *Microsoft* look coherent and customer-focused.

Pacman for Android has a CRAP DRM! (1)

JackAxe (689361) | more than 3 years ago | (#33091218)

It requires an internet connection in order to launch. I can't play this game when I'm on an airplane, because of this bullshit. I'm only interested in playing this game in situations where I'm bored and have no internet access, so this really pisses me off. I look forward to the day I can crack it and because Namco chose to use such an obtrusive DRM, I will NO longer buy their games.
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