September 02, 2011

CBS Borg Force Google to Disintegrate Android "Tricorder" App

OK, this isn't the end of the galaxy, the quadrant, or even the world. But it sure is another example of how totally inane intellectual property demands have become. Make sure you're sitting down before reading onward for this one.

Since early in the public availability of Google's Android OS, there's been an Android user app under continuing development called Tricorder -- delightful, free, and utterly harmless.

The Tricorder app displays, with optional beeps and boops to gladden the heart of any Trekkie or Trekker (don't drag me into that comparative naming issue, please!), a variety of Android phone sensor data and some external info, such as current solar conditions and the like.

Tricorder's very limited display layout is a bit reminiscent of the colors and curves of Enterprise display screens from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but only in the most general of ways. Great fun for Trek fans, though.

Now, after all this time, comes word that CBS ordered Google to pull the app from the Android Market, causing the author to defensively obliterate his associated Google Code hosted project.

CBS claims infringement on the "LCARS graphical user interface" from the show.

To call this moronic would be an understatement similar to calling the Borg a "minor nuisance" to The Federation.

The Android Tricorder app "infringes" on Star Trek to the same degree that a homemade model of the Empire State Building created from LEGO building blocks would infringe on the property rights of Malkin Holdings (owners of the actual building).

It's almost (but not quite!) possible to feel sorry for the poor slob at CBS or their law firm whose job it must be to go searching around the Net for anything even vaguely Trek-like on which to sic the DMCA. Using heavy boots to stomp on Tribbles is probably this person's idea of a good time.

Many, many Stardates ago, I spent a chunk of my life in Hollywood working within the Star Trek universe, and I had the opportunity to interact with various of the original creators and principals. Even way back then, there was certainly an interest in protecting against direct copying of key Trek intellectual property, but I believe that the concept of calling out the lawyers to shut down a remotely affiliated free Tricorder simulation would have been laughed right off the sound stage.

And of course, you can still find the Tricorder app (latest version 5.12, I believe) with a wee bit of searching -- at least perhaps until Congress passes PROTECT IP and starts to enforce its censorship will on the entire Internet. Kinda makes the Borg's "assimilation" scheme seem almost lightweight by comparison.

In 1976, in the classic skit The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise from the first season of Saturday Night Live, the late John Belushi's character of Captain Kirk explained that, "We have tried to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. And except for one television network, we have found intelligent life everywhere in the galaxy."

At the time, he was speaking of NBC. Those words written by Michael O'Donoghue could be applied in reference to CBS with an order of magnitude more emphasis today.

When it comes to copyright laws and intellectual property in the Internet universe of the present, it's Star Peck, Wreck, and Dreck -- not Trek.

CBS and its kin, like the Borg, tell us that "resistance is futile."

We shall see.


Posted by Lauren at September 2, 2011 08:15 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein