Google has blocked access to its newly launched Android Movies rental service on all rooted Android devices, in a bid to clamp down on piracy.
Users of rooted Android tablets running Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) – currently the only version to support the service – found themselves greeted by the following error message: “Failed to fetch license for movie title”, when trying to rent a movie from the just-opened Android Movies section on Android Market.
Google stated on its official support page: “You'll receive this "Error 49" message if you attempt to play a movie on a rooted device.
“Rooted devices are currently unsupported due to requirements related to copyright protection.”
The move deals a massive blow to Android’s so-called ‘open’ nature, as the search giant increasingly finds itself in the predicament of trying to keep its partners happy at the risk of curtailing certain freedoms enjoyed by hardcore fans of the platform.
Rooting, for those unaware, is a process that enables users to gain privileged access – otherwise knows as ‘root access’ – within Android’s Linux subsystem. It's very much like jailbreaking on the iPhone, often with the intention to install unauthorised apps and pre-stable releases of Android.
The method, although risky and liable to invalidate your warranty, is not illegal. Google has on the whole been more lenient towards rooting compared to Apple’s more stringent stance on jailbreaking. Though that may be about to change soon, as Android’s mainstream reach continues outgrow its appeal to a relatively smaller market of rooting enthusiasts.
That said, the block might not be permanent, if the ‘currently unsupported’ bit of Google’s statement is a hint at anything. It makes us hopeful that this could well be a temporary measure until Big G has figured out a way to accommodate rooting without inviting widespread piracy.
Android Movies is currently available in the US on Honeycomb-only devices. However, expect it to be rolled out to Europe and the rest of the world soon when Google sorts out rights issues with partnering studios and releases Android Ice Cream Sandwich for smartphones later this year.