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DRM woes leave rooted Android devices without YouTube rentals

by Kristen Nicole

Google Android Market offers movie rentalsGoogle (GOOG) made an affair of its media-centric Android announcements at the I/O developer conference earlier this month, but already there’s trouble in paradise. After promoting the personal cloud with a YouTube rental service and a music cloud, it’s been discovered that Google is blocking its new movie rentals on rooted Android devices. DRM is to blame, according to Google’s terms. Attempting to play a movie on a rooted device will give you an “Error 49” message, reports Ars Technica, noting copyright protection requirements leave rooted devices unsupported for YouTube rentals.

The block seemingly goes against Google’s open OS stance, bringing up old memories of DRM battles on Apple (AAPL) devices running iTunes. With Google’s Android OS pushing the “open” strand as a competitive advantage over Apple devices, this DRM block is especially troubling. Blocking all rooted devices seems a bit harsh, considering the appeal Android’s open access provides to developers and savvy users. It seems consumers and OS operators are still fighting for control over devices and their services, leaving Google to balance a relationship with movie studios as well. They’ve been slow to jump on the YouTube rentals bandwagon, leaving Google to launch the service without the whole of Hollywood, only partial in its offerings and hardly a Netflix (NFLX) competitor.

Who controls your mobile device?

The ongoing battle over device control always has the attention of anti-DRM group Defective by Design, known for its protest to Apple to remove DRM from iTunes Music Store downloads, which Apple eventually did on its own. Now raising money to send Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) a bundle of cardboard bricks, Defective by Design is protesting the DRM methods used on the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo’s on the lookout for pirated content, seeking unfettered access to your device information and can “brick” your phone if they find reason. The case highlights the jurisdiction OS operators hope to extend into the mobile space, many times leaving consumers with less control over their devices.

As consumer demand grows around browser controls, Firefox Beta brings the Do Not Track capability to mobile browsing. Updated late last week, Firefox Beta for Android can help you avert targeted ads based on your browsing behavior. The new feature is listed under the privacy and security setting, and can be activated with just the tap of your finger. It’s a capability that’s becoming standard for PC browsers, thanks to rising privacy concerns from knowledgeable consumers. It’s another way mobile users can gain certain levels of control over their user experience without having to root their phones, addressing just one aspect of consumer concern over device control.