17 Comments

Summary:

Google has blocked its Movies feature for rooted Android devices, and now Blockbuster’s application is following suit. While this content protection makes business sense to content creators, it’s sure to put Google on a collision course with Android device owners who want to customize their devices.

Even if you do figure out how to root, you can run into problems with some devices and apps.

One of the methods to completely customize an Android smartphone or tablet is becoming more of a road block this week. First, Google has blocked its new Movies feature for rooted Android devices and now the Blockbuster application is reportedly following suit, says the DroidLife enthusiast site. For Android device owners who have full rights and permissions to modify their handset, that means no streaming video from either Google Movies or Blockbuster.

The center of the video issue stems from Digital Rights Management (DRM), which video content owners generally require of any online distributor of such content. Unlike the music industry, which has mostly dropped DRM security from audio files, the video industry still maintains this protection. Through the use of DRM as part of the licensing agreements with Google, Blockbuster, Netflix or other distributors, content providers ensure that their videos aren’t easily stolen through digital copy and distribution methods. This same reasoning for the use of DRM applies to other digital media, too. It’s why you can’t easily buy a Kindle book from Amazon and simply pass the copy of it to multiple friends, for example.

While this content protection makes business sense to content creators, it’s sure to put Google on a collision course with Android device owners, some of whom are already upset that Google hasn’t released its source code for Android 3.0. Since its debut, Google has touted Android as an open-source effort, which allows handset makers, carriers, and even device owners to modify the system. Android’s core apps — Gmail and Maps, for example — are closed bits and subject to copyright, but much of the Android platform itself is open to change.

Having rooted a number of my own Android devices, I think this situation is terrible from an end-user standpoint. Root access could be used to work around video DRM protection, but it’s a safer assumption to believe that Android owners are gaining root access for other purposes. To install custom ROMs, one needs root access, for example. Changing the file system to a different, potentially more efficient format and bringing a performance boost is another. Removing the carrier-installed applications that are taking up space might require root access. And adding new features or even loading applications from sources other than the Android Market is another good example. Having root access is one of the differentiating benefits for some Android device owners, and is an underlying feature of Android’s open source nature.

Personally, I’ll choose root access over streaming video any day. The many benefits of root access far outweigh the ability to use Google Movies or Blockbuster’s application for my usage. But some may want both; the ability to customize their handset as they see fit and still be able to stream video content via purchase or rental. Are you rooting your Android device? For what purposes, if so, and what’s your take on the video DRM monster that’s starting to rear its ugly head?

  1. If I were going to pirate a movie it wouldn’t be done from my phone. The users that are using Root are the techy people that would more likely be using these services. I mean I have root / Admin privileges on all my computers this is kind of a pointless stipulation. They are just losing customers It’s a bad business move.

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    1. Justa Notherguy Thursday, May 26, 2011

      “If I were going to pirate a movie it wouldn’t be done from my phone.”

      …not even if, like many rooters, you get (essentially) free tethering?

      Not to suggest I like DRM, but I certainly can’t blame content providers for covering their royalty-enabled butts. Anyway, how long before xda releases a bypass?

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  2. Jonathan Cohen Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Let’s be accurate here – “Android video from Google video store or Blockbuster apps? Not if you’re rooted”.

    The headline makes it sound like ALL mobile video is blocked, which isn’t the case.

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    1. Jonathan, that’s a good point. To reduce confusion, I tweaked the headline. Thx!

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  3. My device is rooted because I prefer to choose my own ROM with the feature sets that I choose. I could care less about stealing movies through my phone, but I would be interested in having the ability to watch them. If the movie industry doesn’t want my business then that’s their loss.

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  4. Sigh.
    When are these corporate morons going to learn that copy protection only hurts the consumer? Nothing you can do will stop it and the more you fight it the worse it will get.

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  5. DRM just pisses people off and gives then more reason to pirate movies… Screw u google, so much for being the open platform. Not releasing the honeycomb source and now this. Even if u jailbreak your iPhone you can still watch and rent videos from iTunes.

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  6. Hi,
    Rooting my device was the first thing I did after buying it.
    I rooted my n1 to load custom roms like CM, and use applications like clock sync or juice defender (absolutely a must have) and other valuable apps.
    I never stole applications with my phone nor movies or other content.
    I did in my life and soon realized that if we all stole content the creators would not be compensated, and thus would not be able to keep producing such amazing content.

    I think it is a matter of maturity for both sides.
    I wish content could be accessed easily by all and was compensated adequately by users.
    Good luck to us all! :-)

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  7. Rupert Goldie Thursday, May 26, 2011

    I rooted my phone because that was the _only_ way to update it from 1.5 as my carrier has not provided any updates. More and more apps are no longer supporting 1.5 so it’s becoming inconvenient to stay so far behind (plus newer versions have much better usability).

    Mobile devices are a pretty crap way to watch video and I wouldn’t bother buying videos to watch on my phone.

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  8. Old news for the Blockbuster App. It’s been blocking movies on rooted phones since it was launched.

    I just use the weekly Blockbuster Express code that comes out on Mondays, rent a movie, rip it, and put the .MP4 on my server. I always have 5-6 movies on my phone and tablet at any time, so I don’t have a lack of entertainment. I also have PlayOn and Sling.

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  9. For all I know, we are seeing the transformation of Google on all fronts. Market conditions, flow of capital and power are changing Google and this is only the begining.

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  10. The Android fanboy echo chamber is a small subset of the entire Android market. This is a non-issue for the vast majority of Android users who don’t even know what rooting is.

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