I have not written an opinion piece in a long while, mostly because I usually cover my opinions when we have a “Rayge Against the Machine” segment on AGTN. But this morning, I find myself dusting off the old opinion button here at AG, because of the fact that those of us, (pretty much everyone reading this blog), who have rooted devices will not be able to rent movies on the shiny new offering from Google in the Android Web Market. If you have not heard as of yet, Google has released the following statement in response to people trying to play movies on rooted devices:
You’ll receive this “Error 49″ message if you attempt to play a movie on a rooted device. Rooted devices are currently unsupported due to requirements related to copyright protection.
At first, I was totally understanding of this this block that Google has placed. At the end of the day, Google is a company out to make money, and they have partners that they have to both appease and protect, so that the model can be supported for the long term. But then, I started reviewing my I/O notes, because something was niggling in the back of my head. That something was the fact that I could swear that I heard a Google executive say from the stage that a device they were hawking was going to be fully-rootable. Which got a cavalcade of applause, including my own.
Sure enough, it happened, the statement was made. Now, granted, it was made during the Chrome OS keynote, but it is there. One of the major reasons that many of us are Android users, and tech savvy geeks are flocking to Android is because you can have full access to your device, allowing interesting development and tinkering. To hear now that a major new service that was a big part of the Android keynote during I/O is not going to be available to rooted users? Well, that makes me pretty unhappy, and frankly, I think Google has screwed the pooch here.
How can you extol the virtues of a platform that is semi-open to it’s users and to potential customers as a selling point, then turn around and punish them for doing exactly that? We live in the age of piracy now, not information. Yes, I am aware that piracy is rampant, yes I am aware that movie companies are losing money and yes I am aware that Android devices allow these things to happen. My problem is with the fact that Google itself has pointed to rooting as one of the big advantages of their devices, which it still is in many respects, but now has closed a door in the face of the users that jumped at the chance that was given them.
My problem here is that Google has not curbed piracy in the least bit, but has actually contributed to the problem. Piracy is a simple notion. People want the content, application or functionality. Many times, they simply cannot afford it. Solution? Go download and crack it. Google has now taken away the ability to legally rent movies from the Market. Solution? Go download the movie using newsgroups and throw it on your device. Which is happening, I guarantee it. Instead of the movie industry realizing that they have got to change their tack about how to approach the piracy issue, they simply throw the handcuffs on all the companies who are trying to provide new conduits to their product.
By forcing Google (and this is my assumption here, I can not make any other sense of this decision) to close the theater doors to rooted devices, the movie industry has shot themselves in the foot, yet again. Have they seen the numbers that Apple is generating with their movie and songs sales? Astronomical. Have they seen that Android now dominates the market? I think they have, which scares them because they do not understand the notion of root status on a device.
Hey, if you are going to take the time on a rooted device to try and rip a mobile copy of a movie, I think you have a lot of time on your hands. To be honest, I have not heard of even one person that I know in the community doing this. I am not sure if they think that we are all sitting behind computer in our mad labs trying to steal movies like Salt or Kick-Ass.
Google, I blame you for not making a stronger case to your partners about the realities of this issue. Shame on you. Do no evil. I learned that from going to church, but have heard you extol that virtue time and time again. In this case, I am not sure if you have not screwed the pooch for that statement.
Executives in the movie industry, you are stupid. Flat out. You lack imagination which is shown in your horrible re-hash of movies and anything that lacks true creativity. Do we really need another American Pie movie? You are still under the assumption that the way you make money is to force people to a movie theater. You still think the way to control piracy is to throw handcuffs on. You will never stop piracy, but you sure can curb it by offering different avenues for purchase of your product, and keeping the price reasonable. You will make much more money in the longtail of selling than you are losing in piracy right now. Give pirates a choice of spending $.99 – $3.99 on their devices to rent a title, and you are going to see a drop. It will never be gone, it is just not in human nature.
And the funny part? There will be a workaround soon. There will be some sort of cloaking that the community is going to figure out, and this whole thing is going to be some stupid farce anyhow. A cloak that will be possible because of our open, rooted devices.