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Android SDK is now proprietary, Replicant to the rescue

I just noticed that the Android SDK is now non-free software. If you go to

https://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html#download

and click on one of the files, you are presented with lengthy “Terms and Conditions” which for example say:

In order to use the SDK, you must first agree to this License Agreement. You may not use the SDK if you do not accept this License Agreement.

This sentence alone already violates freedom 0, the freedom to use the program for any purpose without restrictions.

Today, the truly Free Software version of Android called Replicant came to the rescue and released a free (as in free speech) version of the SDK.

Apparently, Google made this step to prevent fragmentation of the ecosystem. What are they going to do next? This situation is far from perfect for software freedom. Developing Android Apps in freedom is only possible as soon as the Replicant developers catch up. Looks like Android stops being a Free Software friendly platform.

So let’s all help that this trend is stopped and Android remains Free. Signing up on the android discussion list is a good first step to asses the situation and plan further action.

Update: It has been pointed out by some people that the SDK Terms and Conditions are older than previously assumed. Google only requires explicit agreement now and shows the terms before download. That wasn’t the case earlier.

Update2: Replicant developer Paul Kocialkowski wrote a blog post as well and explained in more detail what the problem with the SDK is.

36 comments to Android SDK is now proprietary, Replicant to the rescue

  • GeorgeV

    Don’t you have to agree with a license when you’re using GPL software or something? I mean you’re still agreeing with a license, then, no?

    Also, I don’t mind Google making Android a bit more “closed” in order to make a more unified platform. I think that’s completely necessary to make life easier for users and developers.

    Yes, freedom is important, but in the same time you also need a large ecosystem to distribute your innovations to a lot of people. Otherwise, if a tree falls in the forest, did anyone hear it? My point is that look at what happened to the Linux “ecosystem”. It’s not really an ecosystem, as there are tons of different distributions and they all have like 0.01% market share. Ubuntu will only become more mainstream if it becomes more closed, too – and it will. It’s the only way.

    We do have a history record of a pretty good balance between “open” and “closed”, while also creating an enormous ecosystem. It’s desktop Windows. If Google can get Android to be as unified/closed (whatever you want to call it) as Windows, but being slightly more open, and remaining largely open source, that would be a pretty good outcome in my book.

    If you want a completely free OS (and with invariably no market share) you can use the Ubuntu OS for phones, or Replicant or Sailfish, whatever. Those will probably remain on the extreme edge of “freedom”, but will never get more than 1% market share.

  • Simon

    @GeorgeV: You don’t have to agree to the GPL. The GPL has a provision which states:

    “You are not required to accept this License in order to receive or run a copy of the Program. Ancillary propagation of a covered work occurring solely as a consequence of using peer-to-peer transmission to receive a copy likewise does not require acceptance. However, nothing other than this License grants you permission to propagate or modify any covered work. These actions infringe copyright if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or propagating a covered work, you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so.”

  • Timo Juhani Lindfors

    GeorgeV, see paragraph 9 of GPLv3:

    “You are not required to accept this License in order to
    receive or run a copy of the Program.”

  • Brian Kemp

    No, George V, you don’t have to agree to the GPL, and it says as much in the license text.

    “Open” and “Closed” are orthogonal to the concept of Freedom 0 – that a user can use the program for any purpose. Sure, Google can do as they please – but the Free Software Community liked Android (AOSP, really) for the fact that it’s Free Software. I have two phones – one uses Replicant, and one uses CyanogenMod.

    Is it a good idea, normally, to use the SDK to put the new version of Android on a new device? No, but people were doing it. Google sees this as bad.

    I see it as necessary. Sure, there’s AOSP, but what if that stops? I don’t know enough technically for the differences between what the SDK offers and what AOSP offers. After all, you stated yourself that you believe closed systems win…why wouldn’t Google, if they agreed with you, stop publishing AOSP?

  • Dave Page

    Indeed Simon – some GPL-licensed software (including WinSCP) has required you to “accept” the GPL in order to use it, but this is a bug and I’ve reported several instances as such.

  • Torsten: Could you please contact me? Thanks.

  • Yoda

    The android SDK was *never* free software (per the copyfree standard definition) as it used GPLed code.
    It may have been *open source* per the Open Source Definition published by the OSI.

    • Yoda

      Looking closely Replicant is *not* Free Software per the copyfree standard definition as it includes non-free software components. I believe it is Open Source though.

  • Sam

    All the more reason to start backing Ubuntu for phones IMO.

  • cfthbl

    Look, Google don’t give a f*ck about Open Software – they are using the idea of openness to exploit the nerd community for all it’s worth, and to get there surveillance tools as close to everyone as possible via mobile phones to make PROFIT.

  • Darryl

    If you want to ‘run’ android you are free to do so. If you want to use the SDK to produce an executable, you are bound by the terms of the license. Pragmatically I fail to see how this is a big difference from the GPL. You wouldn’t use the SDK unless you intended to modify/derive/distribute, no?

  • Android always was a proprietary OS, with all the associated built-in malware, spyware, binary drivers and firmwares etc.

    Sure SDK is no better.

  • Karim Yaghmour

    It would be great if you could elaborate on the “now” part of the title. Here’s what a diff shows on my side:
    diff aosp-2.3.4/frameworks/base/docs/html/sdk/terms.jd aosp-4.2-pristine/frameworks/base/docs/html/sdk/terms.jd
    207c207
    <

    >
    \ No newline at end of file

    IOW, this hasn’t changed in a very long time.

  • rox0r

    > My point is that look at what happened to the Linux “ecosystem”. It’s not really an ecosystem, as there are tons of different distributions and they all have like 0.01% market share.

    Obviously you don’t have a clue as to what powers the Internet. Remove every Linux server from existence and go and try to use the Internet.

  • [...] post publicado em um dos blogs mantidos pela turma da FSFE analisa aqueles novos termos de licenciamento que noticiamos em novembro e que proíbem [...]

  • John McKinney

    Doesn’t this statement imply acceptance? “Therefore, by modifying or propagating a covered work, you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so.” In essence, forcing you to accept the license…

  • Robert

    The terms only apply to the sdk binary, not the source code.

  • @George if unifying the platform will prohibit people from freely sharing their changes (forking) then it is BAD. Very bad.

    This freedom Google attempts (for now, only at the binaries?) to remove is the base of open-source.

    Because these changes, these little changes, are what keep the Linux kernel up-to-date and secure.

  • [...] post publicado em um dos blogs mantidos pela turma da FSFE analisa aqueles novos termos de licenciamento que noticiamos em novembro e que proíbem [...]

  • @George also, you’re mixing the term “kernel” with “distribution”.

    A kernel empowers a device. But a computer needs more than a raw kernel to be usable: it needs a complete OS.

    That’s were distros come in: different people begins to make bundles of Linux and more tools to solve their problems, their necessities.

    And here’s the beauty: you have lots of different choices, each one appropiate for something. (in contrast to propietary OSes were you only have one choice)

    Ubuntu, for example, is best suited for general use.
    Many geeks don’t like Ubuntu. BUT if they see a cool feature from Ubuntu, they’ll incorporate it on their distro; it’s the OSS magic!

    But they are all powered by a common kernel: Linux.

    PD: I know this is an old thread, but for the record.

  • [...] post publicado em um dos blogs mantidos pela turma da FSFE analisa aqueles novos termos de licenciamento que noticiamos em novembro e que proíbem [...]

  • [...] site is creation a rounds around a web. The blog post, created by Torsten Grote, claims that ‘the Android SDK is now proprietary‘, since upon download, we have to determine to terms and conditions that are clearly not [...]

  • First, let me point out Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols’ take on this tempest in a teapot:

    http://www.zdnet.com/no-google-is-not-making-the-android-sdk-proprietary-whats-the-fuss-about-7000009406/

    Second, regarding “Google only requires explicit agreement now and shows the terms before download. That wasn’t the case earlier.” You used to have to agree to the terms and conditions to download the SDK binaries. They dropped that requirement a couple of years ago and brought it back relatively recently. However, that is simply to download the pre-compiled binaries. You are welcome to compile whatever portions of the SDK tools you want from source, bound only by the relevant open source licenses (mostly Apache License 2.0). Presumably, that is what Replicant did, and if they can do it, one imagines that others can as well.

  • [...] 欧洲自由软件基金会的 Torsten Grote 发表文章称,Android SDK 不是自由软件。因为它在新条款中加入了“你可能不能复制(备份目的除外)、修改、改编、重新发行、反编译、逆向工程、反汇编,或创造 SDK 或任何 SDK 部分的衍生作品”等文字。Gooogle 此举显然是为了防止 Android 生态系统进一步碎片化。Android 的自由软件分支 Replicant 则发布了一个没有上述条款的 Replicant SDK 4.0。 [...]

  • [...] about it on IRC, FSFE member Torsten Grote decided to write an article to raise public awareness: Android SDK is now proprietary, Replicant to the rescue. In the next few hours, that news was being relayed by some online IT media and it sometimes [...]

  • Irma Prunesquallor

    Please pay attention to what Robert said, above. It is very important!

  • [...] Fsfe Acerca del Autor Manuel López Michelone [...]

  • [...] l’essere open source per intero, al netto delle polemiche sui termini di licenza del Software Development Kit. Di iOS sono open source solo alcuni [...]

  • It’s *not* proprietary. See “2012-01-06 Update: I’ve checked the license of the individual software components shipped with the Android SDK and it turns out that all of them are covered by a free software license. What’s the point of that overall proprietary license then?”

    http://code.paulk.fr/article0008/what-s-up-with-the-android-sdk

    The contentious terms have literally no effect if you obey the free licences of the components. But they give Google the right to sue if a large third party breaks the license terms of a free component provided by a small developer, in circumstances where the developer could not afford the fight

  • [...] Kelly: Android is now technically no longer free software (must accept TOS to download therefore not free as in speech) – via Torsten Grote [...]

  • [...] del SDK o cualquier parte del SDK cuyos términos sean non-Free-software-friendly”, señaló un integrante de la Free Software Foundation Europa, Torsten [...]

  • [...] 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 [...]

  • [...] 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 [...]

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