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Open Android Alliance Aims To Resurrect Modding

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ve heard about Google’s formal complaint of the Android modding scene. The problem is that mod creators – with Cyanogen being the fall guy – were redistributing Google’s Android applications which were intended to be close sourced with non-transferable licenses. In Google’s official follow-up they explained that while they supported the mod scene, Google Apps couldn’t be package with these custom OS creations.

oaa

Enter the Open Android Alliance. Their goal is to create Open Source alternatives for every single proprietary Google Android Application, making it possible for software engineers like Steve Kondik (Cyanogen) to distribute his ROM as a device-ready solution. Here are the components they are currently working on (code.google.com):

  • Contacts sync framework
  • Setup Wizard
  • App Store Replacement
  • IM Client
  • E-Mail Client
  • Navigation Application
  • YouTube Application
  • Calendar App
  • GPL

While Cyanogen has offered to lend his code to the project he is in NO WAY affiliated with the group (extra emphasis needed to illustrate the *Disconnect*). According to The Register, it started with the help of Jared Rusch, a 19-year old college student from Canada:

“We’re trying to make the Android it should have been in the first place, completely free, open source [so that] anyone can use whatever, because we’re not keeping applications to ourselves,” … “We believe Android is a good platform to build upon and who knows, maybe we can make something better than it originally was.”

But in keep in mind what the group states on their Google Code page:

Above all, remember, we are NOT “Anti-Google”. We are “Pro-Android”. Please act accordingly when posting on this project.

That is the sentiment I hope a lot of you will support. The group says an alpha version of the software will be available from 2 weeks to 2 months from now, but I think that is an incredibly optimistic goal given the scope of the project. Especially since the whole plan may be based on a legal impossibility.

Above and beyond the distribution of Google Apps, being discussed now is proprietary device drivers that are necessary to make these phones operate. If (like the apps) these device drivers can’t be redistributed or a workaround can’t be reached, it threatens to further stifle progress.

droid-detour

Unfortunately, this whole issue has been magnified by public outrage that lacks any patience or objectivity. And not the good, “we’re looking into this more closely” kind of magnification. No… the “it is sunny, I’ve got a magnifying glass and SWEET – AN ANT!” kind of magnified. Google wants to do the right thing. Cyanogen and other modders want to continue modding. Right now there are some critical issues with reconciling the issues but all parties are doing their best to reach a conclusion, work around or solution.

I couldn’t have said it any better than Cyanogen in his article titled “The Current State” where he calmly explains the issues at hand. In fact, we invited Cyanogen to do Phandroid Podcast 9 which will be published shortly but he declined, citing that there was no need to kick up dust when his blog post says everything he wanted. To be honest, I completely agree. So take a deep breath, check out his article, understand that non-violent patience is a virtue and stay tuned for Podcast 9.

And best of luck to the guys from the Open Android Alliance.




  • Jerry

    I think Google should just keeps their hands off… Not even Microsoft ever complained about the hacking of their winmo products??

    No .. because in the grand scheme of things .. it keeps that undergound cult of modders going .. who are customers who will always buy winmo phones and who will probably increase the number of customers..

    Did you guys seet HTC complain about the HTC products that they put into sense?? … HTC has knows XDA is the reason that they are popular

  • Rob

    @Jerry:
    The reason why MS doesn’t complain about the modders is because it’s a hacker community, not illegally distributing the software, as Cyanogen did (he didn’t intend to break the rules, but technically he did). Secondly, MS has deemed the modders to be small enough numbers to not need to press their IP claims; if they were much larger, you can bet the folks in Redmond would open up with both barrels.

    This isn’t a case of right vs. wrong, but of both sides trying to do the right thing and running into a problem that hadn’t been seen before.

    And HTC probably isn’t complaining for the same reasons as I mentioned about MS above. As the community grows, so too may the chances that you’ll see HTC slap down someone if they go too far, intentionally or otherwise.

  • some1

    There is a lot of work rewriting those apps
    People will realise actually how much work Google is protecting from unauthorised copying once they start to duplicate the effort.
    People will lose the desire to code alternatives once Cyanogen comes up with a backup script for apps, so I’m slightly dubious that OAA will get off the ground.
    As for OAA coding device drivers, welcome to crashville, population you.

  • Herman

    Jerry I assume English isn’t your first language, because I can’t make much sense of your post.

    I have very little faith in a small group of developers who claim to create Android as it should be. The odds of some buggy mutant Android coming out of this are just to big if there’s no decent funding.

    Honestly, if you think a bunch of random volunteers can do better than Google’s skilled development team and designers, not to mention the millions of dollars invested, you are insane.

  • http://willfe.com/ Willfe

    A “legal impossibility?”

    Google publishes APIs for quite a few of their services, and provides access to users’ data — think IMAP for Gmail, and official API bindings (in languages like Python, C, etc.) for Contacts and Google Docs.

    If developers want to build competing (or “mimicking”) open-source alternatives to the apps Google developed for Android, they can do so freely without interference. If Google decides it doesn’t want “unblessed” Android apps frobbing their APIs, all they can do is shut off those APIs. They can’t stop the actual development process though.

    @Jerry: Apples & oranges. Also note Google isn’t hassling anyone about custom ROMs. They’re just keen to stop redistribution the apps they haven’t released as open source. Amusingly, Microsoft *could* drop the hammer on Winmo ROM cookers since Winmo isn’t open source, certainly isn’t free, and requires a license for “legal” use on a device. Google cannot do the same — Android itself is an open-source platform with a very free (libre) license. Let me know which Winmo apps you’ve got source to that Microsoft will cheerfully let you redistribute on cooked Winmo ROMs. :)

  • FisherP

    @Herman: should that be “too big”, not “to big”.

  • Jason

    Great News for Android. I am actually glad that Google acted like an A$$, and made developers realize that its no Angel like they believed it was, and they are better off taking things in their own hand.
    If a single dev at Cyanogen can produce better optimized code than Google Android team, imagine what the Alliance can achieve. Big corps are dumping grounds for rotting creativity and inefficiency, and Google is no exception. The stock Android stinks, and thanks to Cyanogen for turning it into something useful. By p1ssing devs-off, Google tried to bite that hand that feeds it. App store is the only thing that I needed Google for. Now with the alternative App store, Google can kiss all developers good buy, and run with their stinking code base, while the real men drive open Android to new heights. Good to know ya Google….

  • doom

    I still love google, but this is one of the only decisions ive seen that goes against end consumer satisfaction. I can see where google has to appease shareholders by making and protecting their profits, but it seems like a better compromise could have been reached. Being a shareholder of google, I cant blame them too harshly for protecting their assets, but this did piss me off. We will see where it goes. Google may not be the immaculate corporate being, but its the closes thing we have.

  • cwalker29

    Dont be mad a jerry for how he feel! @Herman stop hating on these devs.. get your azz out there and mod something other then your mouth!!! These guy took something google did and made it fun and better. My g1 is ten times better since i rooted it. And when i had a winmo phone i never ran into these problems. So jerry boy has a point… just because google now gay have legal rights, dont make it right. We paid for the damn phone already so we should be able to keep the apps when flashing. It just my thoughts Herman so don’t shoot me down! Lol angry man!

  • doom

    Jason. Cyanogen didnt create a better code than google. Cyanogen took the code that was already created and adapted it slightly to fit custom needs. Thats a lot more simple than creating. Not to discount Cyanogen’s great work and skills, but its apples and oranges here. If i remodel the inside of a house you cant credit me for being a better architect than the designer.

  • Victor

    Didn’t Google say they intend to make no money on Android. As for the Apps, why don’t they put their Gmail, Youtube and Maps as paid Apps on Market. Then Cyanogen won’t need to include them. But what about Device Drivers, Sync Apps and others. I believe they aren’t Open Source either. So any modder will get in trouble either way. SO IS ANDROID REALLY OPEN SOURCED ?
    I think the answer to my question is NO ! So Good Luck to you guys at Open Android Alliance. I see Linux’s history repeat itself with Android. If you are accepting any donations, i’ll be glad to donate.

  • Yeath

    I really don’t see the OAA going anywhere. 2 weeks to 2 months for an alpha release of 9 applications? I think that goes far beyond optimism. That is ridiculous. I agree that these developers are going to soon realize the huge amount of work involved in all those applications that have been taken for granted.
    Google paid engineers to develop these applications. No matter how good his intentions, a 19-year old college student simply is not a replacement for a team of dedicated professional engineers. While the OAA will be trying to catch up to applications which already exist, Google will continue to enhance these applications. Cyanogen and others will have a work around to let you mod your droid without needing to redistribute the Google applications. At that time, the OAA movement will die.

  • Charrion

    Doom, I think you do discount Cyanogen’s work and skill a little too much by lumping him in the same group as mod “cookers” who do little more than file off the serial numbers and add a cosmetic refinement here and there.

    Cyanogen’s work integrating BFS into the kernel alone is quite a major achievement and, IMO, will be responsible for a big jump in performance. Apparently Google thought so to, because they had no problem taking his example and integrating his changes into the 1.6 repository.

    I know Cyanogen is not responsible for creating BFS, and he gives credit where credit is due for that creation. But integration into Android is not just a matter of dropping the code into the kernel and presto, it’s done.

    He has also done a lot of Q/A for 1.6 just by making it available to the XDA community and enlisting an army of beta testers.

    And all of this for nothing more than the occasional donation from his fans.

  • Jason

    @doom.

    Agreed he didn’t create it from scratch, but have you actually run a modded G1 ? If not, please do, and then come back and be a Goog apologist. Google also didn’t crate Android. They bought the company, and after merger, the Android progress is moving too slow. That’s why there was a need for modding in the first place. Why Google’s stock Android has such a bad performance ?

  • zombie pastry

    if you take a few steps back from the situation (maybe a lot of steps) this could have been a move by google to evolve android into more of what the OHA idealized.
    bear with me here.
    by making the community reverse engineer proprietary google apps, they are, in a sense, taking money out of their own pockets by basically taking their names off them. why use Google Android when Cyanogen Android works better with ‘off brand’ apps? G. Android is still what ships with new phones and can act as a default setting, but this is forcing the COMMUNITY to build more off a smaller base, taking less code for granted and taking the branding off the phone. Maybe this is google saying ‘we don’t want android to be google android’
    obviously this is wholly dependent on the community producing high quality replacement apps and i think theres going to have to be a whole lot of trial and error, a whole lot of community love and a whole lot of people like cyanogen who are willing to put the hours in and collaborate and, when necessary, gracefully take one for the team.
    i might be a blind optimist here, but i like the way this is going whether google is artfully playing chess or childishly playing monopoly.

  • David

    This alliance is a waste of time and effort. If you’re dumb enough to pawn off the few proprietary Google-designed Android applications in your “mod”, you deserve the wrath that follows. If you care enough about Android to improve it, spend your time and effort building from the already great foundation, not ripping the foundation apart in an effort to reach some completely sterile ideal that no carrier will even look at.

  • Rob

    @Victor:

    Clearly you haven’t taken a business class. Just because Google says they plan to make no money (meaning profit) doesn’t mean they can’t make money (meaning operating costs). What they likely meant is that they don’t plan to see a profit from Android.

    You have to remember that Google is a company, not a charity and they have a payroll and expenses to meet (oftentimes, for that matter, so do charities).

    Best of luck to the OAA, but Google’s in the right on this one, and they had every right to do what they did.

  • Josh

    App Store replacement is a brilliant idea. It may actually create a first open source project which can fund itself. A 25% commission of all paid Apps can create enough revenue stream to fund the development of Open Android.

  • Victor

    @Rob
    Yes I didn’t take a business class, but at least I provided an alternative where google makes money and modders can live peacefully. Google can charge for the branded Apps, either from manufacturers or end-users. So either way they get money.
    BTW modded phones are what like 1% of market of Android. Don’t tell me Google is going broke here…

  • skurtis

    @David.

    You want developers to build upon Google’s Android and later Google can deny anybody it doesn’t agree with, an access to Android Market. I don’t care about Gmail and YouTube, but let Google Open Source the Android Market and Sync App and we can talk.

  • Rob

    @Victor:
    And that’s still wrong, because with Gmail and the various apps being free already on the web, it gives less justification for Google to sell pay versions of them in their marketplace. That’s part of business strategy, and Google would be shooting themselves in the foot if they did that.

    And no, while it’s a 1% for now, that could change in the future. There’s also the fact that if Google didn’t swat down Cyanogen, then they can’t do a thing about Chinese modders who may opt to then illegally sell them – you have to set a legal precedence in order to be able to back it up.

    You can mark it whichever way you want, but in the end, Google is right to do what they did. It’s also great that they offered an olive branch to make up for it, which they didn’t need to do, either.

  • ITGuy

    Google crying about copyright laws? Bwahahaha – hey google clean up your own f**king house first – Youtube with its millions of stolen movies and videos. Oh you also want to steal authors books and publish them too? Google scrapping stories off newspaper websites and publishing them as if it’s theirs? Google SHUT UP you theives. Google is built entirely on IP theft.

    Cyanogen should tell Google F_CK YOU and do what he wants.

  • Mel

    Google: Everyone will hate you soon.

  • Craig Gunderson

    It occurs to me that the only reason this debacle reared its head is nobody has released a non-Google Experience Android phone yet. We don’t even really know what a vanilla Android installation looks like. Will we even miss the Google parts when that day comes?

  • Pieter

    @mel
    read/think before you comment.
    to better rephrase your statement:
    *Google: All the ignorant will hate you soon.

  • Mel

    @Pieter
    You’re implying all the great Android developers are ignorant !!!
    I should just phrase it to:
    Google: Everyone will hate you and your apologists soon…

  • toots

    Come on! goodle gives us something for free and in return we refuse to play ball? The modders want their cake and to eat it. Google can’t do all this work for nothing. If you make any money at all from modding, whether it be selling the mod, advertising on a site, or blogging or donations, then consider using and cutting a deal for the google apps, otherwise your just standing on the shoulders of giants with their code for android, and not giving them the credit for it.

  • toots

    Come on! google gives us something for free and in return we refuse to play ball? The modders want their cake and to eat it. Google can’t do all this work for nothing. If you make any money at all from modding, whether it be selling the mod, advertising on a site, or blogging or donations, then consider using and cutting a deal for the google apps, otherwise your just standing on the shoulders of giants with their code for android, and not giving them the credit for it.

  • cire253

    Getting my iphone in a week, goodbye android and hello iphone. I loved the G1 experience that the mod’s presented, but google really turned their backs on the consumers that made the G1 and Android what it is. It was a fun run

  • Jason

    @toots

    Good platforms are dime-a-dozen in IT world. Its the best few which survive. If not for early adopters and open-source flag-bearers’ word-of-mouth, Android wouldn’t have a chance against iPhone and Palm. Try using a stock Android on its dev phone and then tell me the greatness of Android. Its the modding, either by HTC, Motorola, or Cyanogen which makes it barely compete with Apple and Palm. Its the developers who got attracted by the Open Nature of Android and viral marketed it in the beginning. Now that Android got popular, Google has balls to send C&D to probably the best Android developer on this Planet.

    Remember in Mobile world: you live by the developers and you die by the developers

  • Pieter

    @mel

    dont alter my words. all the “great” android developers dont hate google. sure, there are a select few out there with great talents in developing, but without a sense of reality: the haters. i assure you, most of the “greats” that have even an inch common sense can see why google had to do this. sure it makes life more difficult for them, but thats why oaa has formed. for those android devs with enough common sense to continue, and not “hate [google]“

  • Phil

    I’m curious now as to why people think its going to be difficult to rewrite these Google apps. The whole point of Android was that you could build apps that override just about any and every application part of the OS. Its no different than those that have written “home screen” apps. The only difference here is that you can’t see the code for a starting point.
    -
    Its not rocket science to write an email or IM app. There are established libraries to pull from in some instances here. The bigger problem is really getting a clean UI. But I imagine at least a couple of these apps may come out better than the Google versions. I know I was looking into playing with my own IM app when I discovered I couldn’t get the GTalk code and the complete IM code a couple of days before this all blew up. If you think its going to just be a big buggy mess then honestly why would we expect to have ANY good apps in the market? Its the same thing. I just don’t see wheres theres much room to doubt them. Maybe they won’t hit their timeframe but I don’t doubt their ability to get it done.
    -
    The only place I see legal holdups would be push Gmail and the market. I don’t believe those API’s are published but I haven’t looked. And to be honest those are the two they should at least not care about giving away. It only helps them have more gmail users and more throughput on the market.

  • JonB

    Look – it’s water under the bridge. But the anger – well, that was from the shock and the heavy handed way that Google, the corporation, approached it. Individual devs from the Android project have reached out after. But for the rest of us now, on to working out how to break out from the proprietary stuff and all the while we will view Google the corporate entity, with a certain wariness.

    With regards to Android’s greatness, it is itself derived from the shoulders of other giants – Sun’s Java framework and the Linux kernel among others. As for replacing the proprietary apps, it will take time – but the Android devs are providing a helping hand with guidance on where the Android architecture will go, so the breakouts won’t be left high and dry as Android matures.

    As many have pointed out, Google hasn’t spent a lot of time tuning or tweaking the Android platform – that’s been left to the modders – and that is probably as galling that Google hasn’t even acknowledged that some 30,000 downloads have been used to make a G1 more usable. And when Google and the handset vendors have moved on to new hardware and it’s no longer profitable to keep up software maintenance, it will be the modders that will keep the handsets patched and up to date. Did you get any guarantee with your phone software license that updates would be forthcoming for the next n years?

  • KraZe_EyE

    So is there a clear answer for the device driver uasge???
    If we can’t even boot up the device w/o closed source drivers how does google expect us to create MODs at all?
    There needs to be a clear statements of intentions from Google so we know how they stand on the issue.
    And I’d have to agree that a couple of volunteers isn’t going to churn out all those apps; they will either be unstable or lack the functionality of the originals. But more power to you, hell I’d donate for a stable alternative to Google apps just to stick it to them.

    Still I’m going to buy my Hero on the 11th and wait and see how this whole “war” with Google settles out. I’d say both sides are right about different things; Google the legal parts and the community about the usage parts.
    Cant we all just get along???

  • JonB

    The device drivers are more likely under the control of the handset vendors such as HTC. The drivers will also most likely be specific to the device, since the ARM SoC (system on a chip) implementations are customized by the hardware vendor – so in theory, the vendor should not be too worried as the proprietary device drivers will generally not work on any other device – hence the reason you can brick your phone by putting a ROM not targeted for your phone. In any case, I think HTC have released the kernel source code for the Dream and Magic, and hopefully the Hero soon – I haven’t looked if they have their proprietary drivers in the source. They also have a download for some proprietary ADP1 binaries. The only problem will be when a vendor only provides the driver binary – as it means it could limit you moving to a newer kernel.

  • AGx-07_162

    Sometimes I think the way Google saw the term “open source” is more of an Anti-Apple in the way (from what I have heard) they filter what apps are and arent allowed on their iPhone.

    And I agree completely with Jerry.

  • twrock

    Obviously Cyanogen (and other ROM modders like him) is brilliant, does great work, and adds huge value to Android devices. Nothing said by me is intended to denigrate that in the lest. But….

    People need to remember that he is starting with a “finished” product. He isn’t creating a new Android OS; he’s modifying the existing one. It really is ignorant of people to imply that Cyanogen is making a better OS than anything the OHA/Google could come up with. He’s starting with the existing product, the result of someone else’s efforts. If there wasn’t something there for him to mod, you wouldn’t be getting this great, “new” ROM. Notice the the name is Cyanogenmod, not CyanogenOS.

    I’m not a Google apologist. They are way to big and powerful not to show at least some concern about their involvement in any project. However, from everything I have read and seen, they really have been acting fairly and appropriately. (Although I still maintain that they could have spoken to Cyanogen directly without a C&D and then issued an open letter to the dev community explaining things and asking politely for people to stop the illegal practices, after which they could have taken off the gloves and really threatened people who wouldn’t play fairly.)

    I’m all for the guys who want to replace all the proprietary stuff in the standard builds with OSS. I’m all for it in my desktop software, and it’d be great to have a fully opensourced mobile OS too. The problem with device drivers is a sticky issue. It is on the desktop as well. Here’s where Google and the rest of the OHA could show an incredible amount of good will toward all by pressuring the hardware component manufacturers to release their drivers as OSS. (I’d like Dell to do that for laptop/desktop machines too.) But if that doesn’t happen, I don’t think it should stop people from trying to do it themselves. More power to the Open Android Alliance!

  • doom

    @Jason

    You are ridiculous for even having to ask if I, or anyone on here for that matter, has used a Cyanogen ROM. Obviously it’s not just you that is so technically savvy that you use a customized ROM in your G1 device.

    You should apologize just for being naive.

  • doom

    *have

  • Alvin

    I agree with Rob. Google has the right to allow/disallow 3rd party to distribute their products. I mean, there are lots of other closed source android apps in the market that can’t be freely distributed. But just because it is Google people scream that they are being a jerk, etc. Why do they have to be treated differently from other android developers? After all, they have open sourced the Android OS and make it freely available.

    I really respect Cyanogen on how he views the matters. Kudos to him. He has a workaround already which allows the Google apps to be transferred from original rom to his rom. So, CyanogenMod will still continue on.

  • will

    What i don’t understand, and maybe i’m being stupid, is that google positively encourage users to download their sync/mail for other smartphone platforms because what google needs to generate revenue are users, so why are they being so precious about android?

    if someone can explain this to me i’ll be mucho appreciato

  • Jason

    @doom
    I didn’t intend to question your tech savvy or for that matter anyone else’s. Agreed I was blunt in my response. But can you still honestly say that after using Cyanogen’s ROM, you see his effort as just some minor polishing of Android, or some major coding effort. If you still hold to your views, then yes sorry I’ll view you as a Google apologist.
    Its easy to discount one person or small company’s efforts compared to big corp. But just look at at Linux, Facebook, Tesla, I can keep giving examples…, and you’ll see what these small teams can achieve. Google made a big mistake with this move, and once they loose Tech community love, they can keep all their precious apps and nobody will give a hoot about it.

  • BJ

    Someone above gave an analogy that Cyanogen ROM is like re-modeling a house whereas Google is the architect. I disagree. Its more challenging to re-model a badly designed house to make it more functional and beautiful. Its far easier to start from scratch than to fix a mess.

  • Suri

    While reading about this issue at another website, someone raised an interesting hypothesis. What if Google wanted to create a storm over it, just to mobilize Open Source community to start getting more active for Open Android ? Google can’t do it openly due to OHA obligations. I doubt this theory though, as it may backfire and do more harm to Google’s other products, including Chrome OS plans. But this incidence has definitely created a black spot for Google which will hard, if not impossible, to wash off.

  • Topher

    Let’s offer solutions people. For instance:

    *I want to mod android but I cannot redistribute Google apps.
    *Your phone is a “Google experience” phone.
    *Google needs to offer these apps as paid apps that show up as “already purchased” since you DID already pay for them with the cost of the phone.
    *If you do not have a Google phone, you can still pay (a reasonable fee) to download their apps or, once the OAA releases a stable package, you can opt to use theirs for free.
    *The only hitch I can forsee is the device driver issue. If they are indeed proprietary to Google, maybe…just maybe they can make them redistributable as they are necessary for custom ROMs. This is beneficial to Google in that they can openly piggyback the work of modders into their official releases rather than drive the whole dev community underground.

    Problem fixed…everyone is happy. Modders mod, Google makes money, and the end user has a choice.

    Just my .02

  • Rick

    I think the single most important thing for Open Android is to come out with a nicely designed Android Market App. Google cleverly closed sourced the Market App. There are many countries which can’t access Merket App on their Android phone even for free Apps. Once there is an alternative market, the floodgates will open for Open Android and Google will loose its leverage.

  • Rick

    It seems this saga is not over yet. From Cyanogen’s Twitter feed today “This is about proprietary device drivers and not Google at this point. These drivers are not redistributable.”

    So it seems its gonna be impossible to legally mod Android for a while. I always doubted Android’s openness. This is just a confirmation.

  • Brian

    For those commenters discounting the work of Cyanogen: Boy you either don’t use it, or are not savvy enough to appreciate. My stock G1 was a piece of crap. Force closing so many times a day. After I put Cyanogen’s ROM, boy it was a pleasure to use. The performance improved almost 100%.
    Also from what I read it wasn’t due to OHA, but Google acted on its own to threaten the Cyanogen. Heck even Microsoft has not done this to modders. I suspect more than anything else, Google is getting jealous and embarrassed than it can’t produce a quality software like these modders. Google: apologize to Steve Kondik and don’t be evil…

  • will

    I have to agree with brian, the cyanogen rom is noticeably superior to the stock

  • twrock

    @Rick
    Yes the device drivers are a troublesome complication. But if I’m not mistaken, unlike an app, a device driver’s purpose is only to make the hardware work with the OS. The driver only benefits you if you already have the actual device. Seems then that there is no potential harm to the hardware manufacturers to have those drivers redistributed, and thus no motivation to do anything about it if it is happening.

    I guess one precedent I see is that there are sites on the web dedicated to supplying you with missing device drivers for some piece of hardware you picked up along the way but no longer have the driver disk for. I don’t think anyone gets any C&D for such “distribution of proprietary code” because there is no “value” in the driver unless you have the device.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I hope not. Of course it would be ideal to get the hardware people to release open drivers or to have their consent to distribute them (not much chance of that; they have no motivation to take the risk of saying “sure”; easier to just ignore it) or else write new drivers and release them as OSS (lots of work).