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Cyanogen Custom Android Builds Will Live On, Sans Google Apps

Illustration for article titled Cyanogen Custom Android Builds Will Live On, Sans Google Apps

When Google started hurling lawyerisms at the maker of the souped-up, stripped-down Cyanogen custom Android ROMs, the outlook was pretty grim. Luckily for Android hackers, Cyanogen and Google have reached an agreeable, albeit still stupid, compromise.

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The issue Google takes with CyanogenMod isn't that it fundamentally changes Android—they're generally open to that, seeing as it's an open source project and all—but that the custom ROMs contain binaries of Google proprietary applications, like Maps, Talk and Gmail. Of course, this is a technicality, because the devices Cyanogen writes his customs ROMs for all ship with these apps in the first place. That's why Google's cease and desist spree seemed so silly, but also why it'll be so easy to legally circumvent. From Cyanogen:

Since I don't work with any of these closed source applications directly, what I intend to do is simply ship the next version of CyanogenMod as a "bare bones" ROM. You'll be able to make calls, MMS, take photos, etc. In order to get our beloved Google sync and applications back, you'll need to make a backup first. I'm working on an application that will do this for you.

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I mean, I'm glad this won't amount to more than a small bump in the road for Cyanogen, but what exactly did Google accomplish here, aside from some hilariously bad PR?

UPDATE: A lot of folks in the comments are emphasizing that Google has good reason to uphold their copyright, if not just for precedent. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense, though, is why, given that they're so willing to communicate and cooperate with Cyanogen now, Google didn't just open a discussion in the first place, instead of sending him Cease and Desist letters. That was the bad PR. Discuss! [Cyanogen via Lifehacker]

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DISCUSSION

The reason why Google has to act on this while Microsoft is free to ignore WinMo hackers is because what Cyanogen is doing is an otherwise legal and encouraged piece of Android's business model.

Android is open source and anyone is free to alter and redistribute it, but you can't redistribute Google's apps without signing a contract with them. When xda-developers alters WinMo roms, they're just hackers, when Cyanogen alters Android, he's a legitimate redistributer who is pirating the highest profile applications on the platform.

I agree, it's stupid, and I use and love CyanogenMod every day and I wish Google would just give him legal permission to redistribute the apps for free since he's not earning a profit on it, but I totally understand why Google had to act.