Google recently announced YouTube's video-on-demand service would be coming to Android phones, but what they didn't say back then was that if your Android phone has been rooted, you won't be allowed to used the service.
"Rooting" your Android phone basically means that you get full access to everything on the phone, as if you were the root, or super, user. This means you can replace the entire operating system if you wish, and basically removes all software and firmware restrictions on the phone. Unlike "jailbroken" iPhones, Google usually do not punish users for getting the most out of their phone, and many Google apps happily work on rooted phones.
Many but not all.
Google's new YouTube video rental app will give rooted phone users a vague "Error 49", and searching Google's support documents reveal that this is the error you get when you try to play a movie on a rooted phone. Google cites "copyright protection" as the reason for this block.
Critics have attacked Google for having this new policy, on a platform that is supposed to be "open". UK's Guardian reporter Cory Doctorow even compares this latest restrictions to a book publisher telling readers "which rooms you could read in, or what light bulbs you were allowed to use, or whether you could rebind the book or take it abroad with you".
But chances are, Google's new hardline approach to DRM has its roots, if you pardon the pun, in the demands placed on it by the content holders that is supplying the movies for YouTube's new rental service. The same studios that have forever been paranoid about Internet piracy and the Internet in general, most likely feared that, somehow, for whatever reason, people would find a way "steal" rented movies on YouTube if they were streaming these movies on a rooted phone.
While one cannot rule out such a possibility, the fact that pirated movies are already so readily available online, and in greater quality than what YouTube rentals will offer, suggest that a rooted Android phone running the YouTube rental app is unlikely to ever become a source for pirated content.
And Android phones have just become another device in which studios have placed restrictions on access to legitimate content, restrictions that may just drive people towards piracy.
Do you think that by blocking legal video rentals on rooted Android phones, Google and copyright holders are actually going to make the piracy situation worse, not better? Post your opinion in this news article's comments section, or in this forum thread: