Cyanogen Gets C&D From Google


I was reluctant to make this post. Not because I have allegiances or loyalties, but because it is a touchy legal situation that I have only heard about… I don’t have first hand details. Before I write an article like this, where I really WANT to voice my opinion, I want to have my facts straight. There is nothing worse than going off on a huge rant only to find out that the very facts on which your arguments are based on… are flawed.

For the reasons outlined above, this is the objective, summarized version:

At this moment in time, Cyanogen is the #1 Android OS Modder on the planet. For people that “root” their phone, he is the hero that brings them the awesome stuff to install. If you’re wondering what the reasons are to root your phone, half of the reasons are so you can install stuff this guy builds (for free) for the community. He recently started a website to showcase his mods and help people install them with FAQ, videos, ROM updates, etc… It is at


The website is down…

Last night I got a tip from a reader, asking me urgently to please visit a petition thread on XDA-Devs about Cyanogen. The thread is directly associated with an article by Taylor Wimberly of AndroidAndMe that says Cyanogen received a Cease & Desist letter from Google, telling him he must stop distributing his custom ROMs because they include distribution of closed source apps like Android Market, GTalk, Gmail, YouTube and others.

I’m assuming Google has every right to do this and if they push, Cyanogen will legally be forced to obey their commands. But the real issue is… why is Google doing this? They have SO much more to lose than gain. You know that whole “Android is open” feeling the world has as we look down upon iPhoners? This could be the first step to eroding that mutual trust Google has built with the Android Community.

But let me stop here – I said I would withhold my opinion until more solid details were released. I can’t say I’m eager to get the details because to be honest, it doesn’t look good. I’m hoping Google’s legal team kind of slinks back and decides to shy away from the issue. Of course this is about much more than Google. This is about all of the members of the Open Handset Alliance. This is about the core values and foundation of Android.

I hardly want to look.


By the way, the petition on XDA-Devs asked “Should Google leave Cyanogen alone?” and the results:

  • Yes (97.58% with 1,091 votes)
  • No (1.61% with 18 votes)
  • Wait and see (.81% with 9 votes)

That last option wasn’t added until VERY late in the thread and you’re dealing with devs so there is an obvious bias. But aren’t these devs a big part of what make Android awesome? Just sayin…

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. Sham on you Google for having these apps close source
    and for C&D Cyanogen

  2. I don’t quite understand why Google would care. If he’s not claiming to have written the closed source apps, and he’s not profiting from them, what’s the harm? The only thing that would even sorta make sense would be if they were concerned about something malicious being done within the mods…i don’t know…grasping for reasons why…

  3. Regarding Google opensourcing the Market app – not talking about the other apps, but this one in particular, which is I think is the most important one:

    At first I had the same initial reaction you had: why Google is not making it free/open source? This would help even more Android devices to be released, and apps to be widespread, which is good for Android and that’s what Google wants.

    But after thinking and talking with other people I now understand the reason. They want to have a way to guarantee to developers that their app will run correctly on “Android”.

    Let’s say some company makes their own version of Android and ship a device with it. This is possible – or maybe even encouraged – since most of the Android system is open source.
    But they change it slightly. They added new apis, or modified or removed some.

    And now some apps that were developed with the official Android SDK, don’t work with this version!

    This is very bad:
    1/ for the user: for some reason he/she doesn’t understand, lots of apps don’t work
    2/ for the developer: people think the app is buggy, which is not the case
    3/ for Google: people think “Android is crap, lots of apps crash all the time”

    And so a way to prevent that is that Google will only license the Market app to vendors to be shipped with devices that passed the “Android certification”.

    I think it is for the best.
    But it also means that it is illegal for Cyanogen to ship this app with his mods – regrettable but a necessity!

    Of course you can always have “alternative” app stores, and there are some available already!

  4. This is bull$#* ….!!!!
    This guy works hard (and for free )
    To provide us with Roms that are the best out there
    and now this is Google. Is following
    Apples foot steps bull$#*…. but hopefully
    They layoff…..

  5. That is so dissapoining :/
    What happened to Is it overloaded?

  6. <>

    @anonymous_coward: This is exactly what Apple is saying. And we don’t want Android to be like iPhone OS, do we?

  7. “This could be the first step to eroding that mutual trust Google has built with the Android Community.”

    That ship has sailed. How many tethering apps are on the market? has a few, but Google seem quite ready to bend over for the big networks.

  8. Figures. I finally broken down and rooted my G1 earlier this week and put the latest Cyanogen stable ROM on it and fell in love… now I think I may just flash it back to the stock ROM. I don’t want to put another modded ROM on it either because who knows how long it will be before the big G goes after other modders too.

    I really like Android but it’s a little disappointing to see Google doing this. I hope they can work something out with the modding community to allow people like Cyanogen to keep doing the excellent work they do.

  9. well no big deal really, there are other meathods of getting those apps on your phone, just an extra step in the install process now, however this is still complete bullshit because, first cyanogen only makes roms for google licensed phones, we have already paid tmobile, who in turned paid google for the license to use the software, now they want cyanogen to pay for what has already been paid for by someone else. Its like how you need to pay taxes when buying a used car even though sales tax has already been paid when it was bought new.

  10. Maybe, just maybe.
    Google were telling Cyanogen- Don’t work for free, work for me.(g)

    and maybe I should drop the idea to get an andriod phone.

  11. I kinda hope that Google is just doing this so they can hammer out an official agreement of some sort. Right now, Cyanogen ist just using the apps without permission. Let’s just see… maybe they’ll let him use them with a proper contract/license or whatever. :)

  12. I hope that at least some compromise can be reached. Cyanogen’s mods are the fastest ones i’ve run on my G1 so far, and i really appreciate the stability and lack of bugs over jesusfreke’s. If the only points of contention are his release of closed source apps (gtalk, youtube, etc), then google should at least make those closed source apps compatible with his roms and readily available in the market. The point of an open-source OS is to drive community involvement, make people care about the product and contribute to its improvement, not to alienate developers. The polls have spoken.


  14. I kinda agree with the article – this all does undermine the most valuable principle of Android. But on the other hand CG does make fical benefits out of redistributing Google code, so how is that fair? I actually would love a build with no apps whatsoever, so that I could install only things I need.

  15. Sorry, I meant “fiscal benefits”

  16. It sounds like just the closed source apps are at issue, not his distribution of Android, so I think Goolge’s reaction was reasonable albeit disappointing. Goolge just needs to offer all thier apps on the web, including the market and then modders like Cyanogen can distribute freely without any violation of law, then everyone get’s what they want.

    To me this seems to be an indication of Google having to take a position they probably would prefer not to specifically because it’s a legal issue. They must protect their IP, I think it’s even a legal requirement.

    I applaud Rob on his restraint, this is something I will be following closely because these are issues that are important to me. It’s thing’s like this that explain why I don’t have a phone made by Apple, Rim, or Microsoft.

  17. This is BULLSHAT…and I was just thinking about trying his ROMs.

    As for Google I’m not sure I understand how the apps are NOT open source. I might be mistaken and I will check sometime today but the source code for those apps are available from the Android website.

    Now on the other hand I can understand if they aren’t and Google wants some of their apps to be closed. Thats fine but they are playing with some serious fire surrounding their image. For instance if say the community rose up and developed open source versions of say the Gmail app would the bitch about the push protocol? If they do then they are no better than MS.

    And they better especially be careful with what I’m seeing about Moblin from Intel. Its not just a netbook OS but a full desktop AND smartphone OS as well. And there are no proprietary pieces to that. Dell is already planning to ship Moblin Ubuntu remix netbooks. As soon as I saw that it was geared toward phones I started thinking about the ease of development for that vs Android. Now with this type of stuff out of Google I know I’m not the only one thinking Moblin might be worth backing and trying to help push into the smartphone market. It already accomplishes the goal of one OS across 3 form factors/devices.

  18. Maybe I’m just ignorant on matters like these, but I can download/use all those apps (GTalk, Gmail, YouTube) for free. How can they stop someone from distributing something that is free and available on the web?

    I’m a loyal Android user, but if they become like Apple, then I’ll take my money else where. There are alternatives. I hope that Google realizes how this makes them look and how this goes against the spirit of the open source community.

    Alternatively, maybe Cyanogen should just remove google apps from their ROM and distribute it with alternatives. This is gonna be the start of a Android Distro fork. Sad that Google is doing this. They are bitting that hand that codes them…

  19. All the Cyanogen is redistributing the google closed source binaries. Well hell all the developers are doing that. Does this mean that the developers now can’t mod the open source code because it may not work with the google closed source binaries? lets look at this

    They, Not Only Cyanogen, have been modding the Android since its release. They have always redistribution the closed source binaries with there builds. They have there mods test to make sure they work and if it didn’t they fixed it.

    Here is the interesting part the only people using the mods are the ones in the forums who understand the risk of what it may do to their phone as in apps not working or even bricking it. it is not your average Joe who goes into T-Mobile and buys the off the shelve phone.

    So what is googles concern about end user experience on modded phones? The only ones who are using it are the experience people who understand what they are doing, in most cases.

  20. I have to agree with anonymous_coward. The most important for Android’s Development and Overspreading is the idea that every build should be more or less compatible with each other. Let’s not forget the main downfall or the Linux OS. There tooooooo much distributions and it’s really hard to develop for everyone. Sure there are some things that have to be respected, but beeing an opensource platform, Android is in danger of falling into this pit…and i’m guessin that Google has done a lot of thinking about this topic. let’s just see the result…

  21. Dammit Google, don’t do this…
    It’s no where else but downhill if this matter continues to be an issue.

  22. @bandi87 & anonymous_coward –
    Um, what the hell are you talking about?
    First – Of the major Android releases in North America, exactly 2 phones have an unmodified, stock version of Android (Main branch if you will)…everything else has been modded by the hardware manufacturer. HTC Sense, MotoBlur, Rogers Steamingpileofcrap, or whatever they call their UI…It’s all something different from Android out of the box. So the responsibility for compatibility is *squarely* with the Dev team for the handset maker…
    Which sort of brings me to my point – If Cyanogen, or Motorola, or Rogers, or Sprint, or even Verizon if they ever get over themselves long enough to get an android phone, doesn’t distribute the google apps in question…how will they know if there are functionality issues? Good devs make sure their $hi+ works right. Really good devs make sure that they are compatible with future framework developments. Excellent Devs do both of those things and then check API modifications back into the code tree. Like Cy did with BFS.
    So it comes to this – Google is legally within it’s rights to C&D Cyanogen, but it still makes no sense as to why they would.

  23. After reading more about the situation, I think that it may not be as bad as it seems. Cyanogen and other modders can keep making awesome updates to the OS/kernel but they just can’t distribute “Google” apps like YouTube, Gmail, etc. I agree it’s a limiting move but if that’s the only problem then a possible solution would be to backup those apps and manually re-install them when you put a new ROM on your phone.

  24. Dam, cyanogens mods are the only ones I know how to install on my phone with out bricking it… what am I going to do with out him? I think google shood jus leave him alone and let him keep doin his thing which we all enjoy very much

  25. you guys are letting your emotions get the best of you. consider this matter logically. google is NOT becoming “just like apple” as many of you melodramatic fools have stated. it is as anonymous coward pointed out in 3 perfectly organized bullets, a complete open market will reflect poorly on the user, the developer, and google.

    now, the way google went about this (C&D-ing cyan) is quite bold and probably not the best approach. as martin and daniel said, i do believe that google just want to reach a compromise: so that if/when they allow cyanogen to continue his shenanigans, they are able to regulate the app market that he includes with his mods.

    so lets all calm down, go sign the petition, and see how it plays out. i think cyanogen is in a position which is a lot better than most of you kiddos think.

  26. I don’t want android to end up like linux mostly ignored by those outside the computer community for decades. I love the open ideal android is based upon, but if it is to really succeed in the market place it must make compromises to appeal to mainstream society. In this case it appears to me they have sacrificed some openness for control and the assurance of stability. I know many of us want a completely open os, but that would doom android from an economic standpoint and like it or not it is economic incentives that will cause android to bloom or wither. Even with this C&D android is still very open and is a huge victory in the open source movement. And honestly who thinks this is acctually going to stop people including cyanogen from publishing roms? This just moves it back in to the shadows where it’s always occured.

  27. We fear Google acting like Apple and so our gut reaction is to hate this reaction from Google. However, I think it is their right to control their closed-source apps. I also think that it is VITAL that software like the Android Market be open-sourced. It is a key component of the framework that can make Android successful. If they prevent mods from including it then it will ultimately stifle support.

  28. Just a thought, but if he were to change his distrobution method into a patcher instead of the entire ROM, I think he could avoud the whole distributing of closed source programs.

  29. The app market does not include some of these google applications (i.e. Gmail, Google Talk) so if they are not distributed with the modified rom the user will end up with a significantly inferior phone, practically defeating the reason for an alternate rom (and google can close the few remaining workaroud to get these apps).

    So legal issues aside, it appears that Google is trying to control the market and the user experience in the very same way Apple does.

    This opens the door for for Apple to go back to the FCC and say that they are not controlling the iPhone market more than Google does the Android app market. Google may have been penny wise and pound foolish. They thought they shot Cyanogen, buy may have shot themselves in the foot.

  30. Honestly the only fools here are the ones that think this has something to do with fragmentation of Android. First of all Android can’t become like Linux because IT IS LINUX!!! Its another Linux distros just like any other one with its own desktop manager written in Java.

    Second the goal of Google was to give OEM’s an OS that they could CUSTOMIZE. So they opened the door for fragmentation before the thing ever launched and I don’t believe they care. They know as well as most Linux users that the position of Linux on the desktop has LITTLE to do with the number of distros out there. If that were the case it wouldn’t be used in super computers, embedded devices, TV’s, servers or yes even in Android. Stop proliferating FUD.

    Last this whole thing is about the Google Experience deals they want to strike with the OEM’s. I totally understand what they want to do with that. But again I say they must be careful of how this sits with the devs. Because while some of you may think it doesn’t matter to consumers so it doesn’t matter at all….Android or any other platform goes no where without the devs. And many devs will see this and start to question intents. Many probably liked the idea that you could have a community build of Android like Cyanogen. Now I understand they want to protect their apps but if they are going to be central parts of the OS and they won’t allow use of things like protocols to let devs build FOSS equivalents then their FOSS standing will be tarnished as they pose the same dev problems that you get with MS.

    Again…anyone not seeing the parallel between this and the business practices of MS and Apple is a fool and should never go into business. No one is saying they are wrong. They are businesses and need to make profit. But that doesn’t mean everyone is going to want to play along with their game. And the community that Google sought to build around Android consists of many people that aren’t interested in playing.

  31. This is absolutely pitiful…the first sign of anything possibly bad and look, everyone is already tearing google apart and they haven’t even done anything about it yet
    We all knew that this would happen so y are u freaking out
    If it was apple he’d be sued and destroyed and sent to hell
    Don’t you people ruin it for android just by talking down about something you don’t even know about yet…you see this is the main reason android is not on top right now because of bitchy people…

  32. @Phil – Hear, Hear, Sir. Well spoken.

    @pieter – For the second time in thsi thread, I’m forced to ask…What the hell are you talking about? Let’s take a look at A-C’s points, shall we?

    1. Short of a $25 dev fee, the Android Market is completely open today, at least it is in the way that matters to your point. And really, as long as NobleFart is on the market end-user experience is an invalid argument
    2. anonymous coward’s second point is that Dev’s shouldn’t have to produce for multiple versions of the framework…or that if they don’t and an app doesn’t work it’s google fault…or that cheese is tasty. Frak, I’ve got no idea what the hell he’s saying.
    3. Here’s where he gets sort of close to a cogent point…except not really, because Cyanogen *isn’t changing the market API in any way*. So, yeah…um, once again, fail. Because a varied distribution would indeed be a violation of Google’s copyright, and one they should enforce. Cy’s violation is technical at best, harms Google not at all, and it doesn’t make any sense for them to do this…
    4. BONUS POINT! Bullets work better when the formatting is readable.

  33. don’t do this to us google. i brag about how great my g1 is non stop. i’m obsessed with android. please don’t ruin it.

  34. The link MakaniMike linked above points to Google’s official response to Cyanogen. It’s lousy, unwanted, and not directly referencing Cyanogen’s case, but that’s it.

    Custom roms that build everything you’ve become accustomed to in your google phones are dead in the water.

  35. FREE!!! means free….

    If you dont charge for the app and its readily availiable dont cry cause someone is using it.

    We can all agree that some freeware has closed source code in it. But devs dont bitch because its being distributed.
    The whole thing is Google flexing their “” cause they have all this new players (sony, motorola, samsung….)
    Its time to say F U little man we dont need your development any more we are big and your work to make our platform popular is not needed any more…. and by the way stop doing any more improvements cause you may cost us some contracts ( Verizon, Sprint, AT&T…LOCK DOWN)

    I cant say that I did not expect this sooner or later… After all they avoided releasing the much of the platform under the ASL (Apache Software License)..The kernel GPL was the bait and lets face it we all took it. Now what!!!

  36. All of u bashing google for these 5 closed apps need to go get another phone because u are not welcome here
    You are cowards that deserve to be under the complete control and scrutiny of apple and all the other communist companies.
    Android will again rise from this and all you complaining will eat your words
    With a bunch of cry babies like this android will get no where so just go get another phone already bc we don’t need complainers
    Why and the hell is this so damn important when we could be focusing on making amdroid the best
    I more and more hate the android community bc of their stupidity and ignorance

  37. For everyone who wants to support a TRULY open source project there is always OPENMOKO. It’s Linux too. :)

  38. There needs to be a way to change only parts of the os, without flashing rom.

  39. Shame on you, Google!

  40. I will be scratching the “with Google” from the battery cover on my G1 and replacing it with “with Cyanogen”. Maybe if someone like Yahoo! were to fund our beloved developer (Cyanogen) and include the option for Yahoo! Applications in the CyanogenMod well that wouldn’t surprize me.

  41. Openmoko is garbage. Their opensource ideological purity is forcing them to deliver a substandard phone that is far too expensive. and with now Carrier support the open moko will always be behind in technology. Android is still the most promising “OpenSource” mobile platform avaialable right now. But if Google keeps screwing around, Nokia could bring the next symbian to market and completely destroy android.

  42. Google… least provide a solution befor breaking my heart. Thought ill never recommend the iphone because of this. Word of mouth is a bitch when it comes to wronged devs/consumers.


  44. Hmmm might have to reconsider Android now…this stinks another Appleoply.

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