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Android DRM Security Entertainment

Netflix Says No To Unlocked Android Smartphones (androidpolice.com) 255

An anonymous reader writes: Last week Netflix app started showing up as "incompatible" on the Play Store for rooted and unlocked Android devices. However, the app itself continued to work fine, leading some to think it could have been an accident. However, Netflix has now confirmed to blog AndroidPolice that blocking modified devices from downloading the app was intentional. This is the full statement: "With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store."
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Netflix Says No To Unlocked Android Smartphones

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  • So pirate? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by borcharc ( 56372 ) * on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:20AM (#54418709)

    Netflix works because it is easier than piracy. Ejecting the very small number of rooted android users won't stop people ripping Netflix content when you can still watch the movies on a computer...

    • Re:So pirate? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:39AM (#54418891)
      While I imagine there will be a bunch of Netflix hate here, I'd assume this is at least partly to conform to licensing standards insisted on by content creators. Obviously Netflix is becoming a major content creator, so they have self-interest here too, but the less "locked down" their service, the harder it will likely be for them to get 3rd-party licensed content.
      • by Orphis ( 1356561 )

        Exactly, from experience, the tech company doesn't always have a say in the technology they use if they want to have access to content from large distributors.

      • If they actually had any third-party content nowadays, your argument would make perfect sense.

      • Re:So pirate? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @12:05PM (#54419631) Journal
        Everyone here knows that this is the beginning of having no control over your device at all. As time goes on, ONLY certified devices will be able to use popular services. Ads will become completely unblockable. Having root will eventually arouse as much suspicion as owning lockpicks.
    • Re:So pirate? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:44AM (#54418939) Journal

      Ejecting the very small number of rooted android users won't stop people ripping Netflix content when you can still watch the movies on a computer...

      There's a lot to be said that they probably don't care about the very small number of users who have rooted their phones; it will negatively affect a small number of users, but the impact to their bottom line is almost certainly lower than if they had to license (or develop) a different DRM system that would accommodate rooted phones.

      • Re:So pirate? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by green1 ( 322787 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:54AM (#54419009)

        There's always the other option.
        DON'T DEVELOP A DRM SYSTEM AT ALL!

        There are many advantages to this approach:
        1) you don't piss off your rooted users (even if a small number)
        2) it's much cheaper to implement
        3) it has EXACTLY the same effect on piracy as a full blown billion dollar DRM scheme.

        • Re:So pirate? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:02AM (#54419117)

          The problem here is that the companies they license content from won't allow them to simply not use DRM. Netflix could go this route, and then they wouldn't have any 3rd-party content at all.

          Personally, I have two thoughts about this:

          1) Who watches TV shows on their *phone*??? Honestly, I can't even imagine.

          2) Why does the phone need to be non-rooted? I use Netflix just fine on my Linux system, by using Google Chrome (it's the only thing I use that browser for in fact). I don't have to have a corporate-controlled OS, only a corporate-controlled DRMed browser for that one purpose. So why can't Netflix do things that way on phones for those weirdos who want to watch Netflix on a phone?

          • Re:So pirate? (Score:5, Informative)

            by darkain ( 749283 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:13AM (#54419237) Homepage

            Android isn't just phones, it is also set top TV boxes now. Many of those devices come pre-rooted, making the entire market for those devices totally fucked in terms of Netflix now.

            • And tablets. Both of my roommates watch videos on their tablets. However, Netflix isn't blocking all Android devices. Only those that are rooted. Set-top TV boxes would not fall into that category.
            • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

              Android isn't just phones, it is also set top TV boxes now. Many of those devices come pre-rooted, making the entire market for those devices totally fucked in terms of Netflix now.

              You mean the market of Android devices with all those piracy apps?
              I wonder how many of those people are interested in being paying Netflix subscribers to begin with.

          • Who watches TV shows on their *phone*?

            A lot of phones and tablets have HDMI ports (or, at least, dongles that provide an HDMI port), so you can plug them into a projector or big TV easily.

          • 1) Who watches TV shows on their *phone*??? Honestly, I can't even imagine.

            Well, anyone who uses a Chromecast, or wants to watch something while waiting for a flight, or laundry or anything else that requires not being home and sitting in one place for a while. Not to mention the throng of parents who use it to shut their kids up when they're in public.

          • 1) Who watches TV shows on their *phone*??? Honestly, I can't even imagine.

            Kids, when the parents want them to shut up for 3 minutes at a restaurant so they can place their order with the waitress without constantly having to yell at Billy to stop pulling Susie's hair.

            2) Why does the phone need to be non-rooted? I use Netflix just fine on my Linux system, by using Google Chrome (it's the only thing I use that browser for in fact). I don't have to have a corporate-controlled OS, only a corporate-controlled

            • Kids, when the parents want them to shut up for 3 minutes at a restaurant so they can place their order with the waitress without constantly having to yell at Billy to stop pulling Susie's hair.

              Funny, when I was young, it only took a stern look or word from my Dad or Mom...and I knew to shut it.

              Amazing what earlier ass whoopings did to instill a bit of discipline into me....and wasn't needed later in life, even at a very young age.

              I guess parents just no longer have control of their offspring anymore, or

          • by log0n ( 18224 )

            Chromecast much? Chromecast and other HDMI dongles are essentially useless if you can't control from your phone.

          • 1) Who watches TV shows on their *phone*??? Honestly, I can't even imagine.

            Plenty really - in London I spend atleast 90 minutes per day on public transport. Doing some TV watching is a very good way of distracting from the unpleasantness of the experience...

          • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

            1) Who watches TV shows on their *phone*??? Honestly, I can't even imagine.

            How about people eating lunch in a breakroom at work?

        • Re:So pirate? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:24AM (#54419325) Journal
          What's in it for them? We didn't get away from DRM on music because the big four woke up one day and realised that DRM was anti-consumer. We got away from DRM on music because the big four woke up one day and realised that their insistence on DRM had given Apple a huge amount of control over their distribution channel and the only way to regain this control was to allow other distributors (and, eventually, Apple) to sell music without DRM. Netflix wants to have the same control over movie and TV show distribution that Apple had over music distribution at the height of iPod and iTunes Music Store popularity and the studios seem not to have realised that DRM helps Netflix, not them and so are making it a requirement for distribution. It doesn't do anything to prevent piracy, but it sure adds to be barrier to entry for anyone wanting to start up a Netflix competitor (want to support all of the mutually incompatible set-top boxes that all have Netflix clients? You'll need to develop a load of client apps. Of course, almost all of them can already play back DRM-free H.264...).
    • Aside from a small number of people who would've done so anyway, no one is going to be ripping Netflix content in response to this, for the simple reason that the phone is the fallback we rely on only when we have absolutely nothing else to use. But because Netflix runs on basically every device, that scenario doesn't play out for most people with any sort of regularity.

      At this moment, I have 7 different devices hooked directly up to my TV with which I can watch Netflix (Playstations 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Wii

      • Kodi boxes (Score:5, Informative)

        by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:09AM (#54419185)
        I don't think this is targeting the small number of people with rooted Android phones; it's targeting the large (and growing) number of people who use Android-OS-based TV boxes running Kodi with unauthorized streaming plug-ins (a.k.a. "Kodi Boxes").
    • Re:So pirate? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:59AM (#54419073) Homepage Journal

      It's security theatre, for the benefit of copyright holders who don't understand computers but were told by a DRM salesman they needed it to stop everyone watching for free.

    • If you really want to rip Netflix, just use Chrome on Linux. You can screenshot Netflix in Chrome on Linux without issue, so I'm assuming the framebuffer is totally 'unprotected'; you can presumably just capture the video through the usual means.

    • For me, Neflix is not only easier than piracy but it's a lot less trouble. Trying to match subtitles for a given DVD rip is like trying to win the lottery.

      • What I can't find in the pirate's waters, I wouldn't find on Netflix either. Things like "My Three Sons" or "Money to Burn"
    • Yarr, you're welcome to re-join the crew mateys, if ye haven't become a bunch of lilly-livered DRM-lubbers!

  • But it's rooted... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...surely you can make the Netflix app think it's on a walled-garden phone. You have root rights!

    • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:58AM (#54419051)

      You'd think,

      But for all the brilliant developers out there, nobody has ever created any way of bypassing root detection on phones.

      You'd think it would be a no brainer, sandbox the app, and feed it the inputs it wants so it thinks it's on a stock device, but somehow nobody has ever done that.

      Instead there have been hundreds of different services that pretend to hide the fact that your phone is rooted, but not one of them ever works.

      Why can't someone develop an app sandbox? a virtual machine of some form? sure it may slow the app down a bit, but with the power of today's phones, I can't imagine it would be enough to matter.

      • You are 'someone'...do it.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          And here is where opensource software completely misses the boat. It is always assumed that anyone with any ideas is ALSO able to implement their idea, including every bit of knowledge required, and all the time and resources. If that person can't it's assumed that the idea itself isn't worth trying.

          Hate to tell you this, but just because someone can't implement their own idea, doesn't mean the idea itself is without merit.

          Virtual machines have existed quite successfully for many many years, and done correc

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

            Idea's are a dime a dozen. If you had bothered to look, you would see there are attempts to do, more or less, what you describe. Learn to Google.

          • by wed128 ( 722152 )

            And here is where opensource software completely misses the boat. It is always assumed that anyone with any ideas is ALSO able to implement their idea, including every bit of knowledge required, and all the time and resources.

            No, it assumes that anyone *can*. Your idea is a fine one, it's just that nobody with the knowledge to fix the problem has the same itch that you do. You're demanding that "somebody" do something, when *you can!*, and if you can't or won't, then it's within your power to hire someone.

      • There used to be an app called RootCloak that worked on the XPosed framework, which when given an application list, would prevent a program from seeing if SuperSU was present or a su binary was installed in the usual directories. However, both the XPosed framework and RootCloak have not been updated for any new release of Android. I used to use this to allow SoftCard to run ages ago.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          Sure, RootCloak used to exist (still does actually), but it never actually hid the fact that you were rooted from any applications, even when it was brand new. There are dozens of those sorts of apps, not one of them has ever actually worked.

          The only way to actually win this one is to stop trying to hide one or two indicators that your device is rooted, and start running these stupid apps inside a container that isn't rooted. A fake phone within your real one.

          • I really wish phones offered container or VM functionality. That way, I can keep sets of contacts separate, and keep work stuff separate from home stuff. Not hard to do, because the ARM CPU offers "worlds" which are essentially containers... but tend to not be used.

            • by hackel ( 10452 )

              It's pretty trivial to create separate user profiles on Android, actually. It does exactly what you are looking for.

      • It can be done with proot "easily" and will probably only take a few days of work to polish everything up.
        I've just never felt the need to do it; I'm sure there are a lot of other people more qualified than me that feel the same way.
      • by hackel ( 10452 )

        What are you talking about? Magisk works just fine.

        It's obviously going to be a continuous cat and mouse game until the corporations finally just give up and realise they're spending millions of dollars to defeat an extremely small minority of users. Imagine if they tried to do this for Windows PCs...there would be a riot.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          They ARE trying to do it for Windows PCs, the only difference is that they haven't yet succeeded there. It's only a matter of time.

          As for Magisk... sure... it "works"... if what you're trying to do is make your life more complicated without stopping your applications from detecting that your phone is rooted. I've used it. It works a miniscule fraction of the time. Of course that's far better than anyone else has managed yet, but it's not enough to be able to use your rooted phone for apps from overbearing c

      • Necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe this will make it necessary enough for someone to do it. Or at least have it work for Netflix.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:35AM (#54418855) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, because if I want to steal content, the FIRST device I think of for doing so is MY FUCKING PHONE.

    Riiiight.

    Never mind that a desktop (or even a laptop) PC is orders of magnitude more powerful and possesses FAR more options for absconding with the content...

    • Re:Idiocy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by green1 ( 322787 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:00AM (#54419077)

      This is a common theme. Many programs won't run on a rooted phone, but happily run on a computer with admin rights. Unfortunately the most likely "solution" to this obvious double standard isn't for them to start working on rooted phones, it's for users to stop having admin rights on their computers.

      • Even admins, should not routinely login as admin or equivalent. Applications/services/daemons that need admin, get admin to only the resources they need. Spend the time.

  • Barclays did the same thing by blocking rooted devices from running their banking software (crap bank, different story). Geniuses on XDA took care of that a long time ago and i'm pretty sure they'll do it again!
    • by Tukz ( 664339 )

      As the article says, the app works just fine. You just can't install it from Google Play Store. No need for XDA to take care of anything.

      • by hackel ( 10452 )

        ...for now. Judging by their statement, I wouldn't expect that to continue indefinitely.

  • Their support people didn't know this and they didn't list it in their requirements, but I'm guessing this is why I've never been able to download shows for offline viewing on my OnePlus One. Cyanogen is probably blocked from that functionality... I guess the Netflix app is pointless for me now because if I have WiFi, I'm watching on my laptop screen and I'm sure as hell not going to watch Netflix using mobile data.

    • if I have WiFi, I'm watching on my laptop screen

      Do you carry your laptop everywhere you go? If not, you might be in a restaurant or whatever with Wi-Fi but no laptop. (If so, you're probably like me.)

      and I'm sure as hell not going to watch Netflix using mobile data.

      T-Mobile USA has a promotion called Binge On [t-mobile.com], which lets video stream providers apply at no charge to have their SD streams exempted from the cap. Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Sling are among the participating video providers.

      • Do you carry your laptop everywhere you go? If not, you might be in a restaurant or whatever with Wi-Fi but no laptop.

        Yes, but that would mean watching a movie or a TV show on my phone, which isn't ever going to happen. I honestly can't imagine why anyone would want this. Maybe for a 9+" tablet, but that's a bit more like carrying your laptop around.

        • You don't. I don't. My daughter does (my phone's 5" screen isn't much smaller than those car DVD players anyway, and I can wedge it between the headrest and the main part of my wife's passenger seat while she watches The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That*, or Sid the Science Kid), and apparently a lot of younger adults do too. And that's fine. The entire world doesn't have to revolve around my preferences, there's room for everyone on this fragile planet of our's.

          * Yes, that's really its name. It's an

    • by TypoNAM ( 695420 )

      They even stopped supporting devices like the first generation amazon FireTV Stick as won't show up in app search and going directly on amazon's appstore website says both netflix apps are incompatible with it. But of course netflix's support site doesn't mention this. Along with them only allowing up to 720p on Firefox, these arbitrary changes netflix has been doing is making me reconsider keeping my subscription.

  • I though it was odd that suddenly Netflix disappeared from the play store. I just have a tablet running CM12, and had to download from apkmirror. This is a stupid move. I'll just watch more on Amazon.

  • My mother-in-law doesn't care what device she uses, nor does she know the difference between iOS and Android. If you had to have a conversation about a "rooted" device it would probably be painful. Netflix major push is it's own created content and major TV shows and producers. The want control over their content. This is watched by everyone and available on smart tv's, roku, Xbox, iPads, etc. Netflix can piss off some people who are using their devices in more technical ways and it will never touch their
  • Bah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by therealspacebug ( 4922543 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @10:47AM (#54418959)
    Bye bye Netflix. Welcome back torrents.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      It's no good, their 100% foolproof plan of blocking rooted phones has completely cut off any source for those torrents!

      ok... I tried... but I just couldn't type that with a straight face.

  • Will Hide My Root [google.com] not work in this situation? I guess if it is looking at an unlocked bootloader it may not matter.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Hide my root hasn't worked in any other situation, why would this be different?

      I have a half dozen apps I'd like to run, but can't because my phone is rooted, I've tried dozens of different root hiding apps, none have ever allowed even a single one of those apps to run.

      I don't however want to run any of them badly enough to give up:
      - changing my resolution to something that doesn't think I'm trying to use my 5" screen from across the living room. I'm not blind!
      - ad blocking
      - firewalls

      Newsflash, not one of t

  • by Tukz ( 664339 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @11:05AM (#54419143) Journal

    The only thing this does is forcing rooted android users to install Netflix from unofficial installers.

    If you can root your phone, you know how to install .apk packages without Google Play Store. They won't be able to find a verified package.

    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      It's not the only thing it does.

      It also makes people just stop using Netflix.

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        We've been debating killing Netflix for a while now, as there's plenty of content I can watch on the big screen at home without it, but the recurring theme is that it's the only legal way we can watch stuff on our phones when we're not home (and as difficult as the content providers make it, we do try to do things the legal way, even if it would be far more convenient not to). If Netflix is going to stop doing that, then it stops having any value to me. And no, I'm not giving up my ad blocker, my firewall,

  • Thankfully even locked Android phones still support uTorrent, so you can kiss my ass goodbye, Netflix.

  • This is a contender for most crack addled management pratfall ever.

  • It sounds like my decision to ditch Netflix last year was a great one!

  • I've been a Netflix customer for almost 10 years. If they block their app on my rooted device, our business relationship will have reached its conclusion.

  • If you own NFLX, now's about the time to get out. If they're willing to start picking and choosing who pays them money, it can't be long before they run their business into the ground.

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Monday May 15, 2017 @03:15PM (#54421315)

    This one is easy.

    $50 bet: Netflix is planning to start introducing ads to their paying customers. Disabling the service on rooted devices is a measure to prevent people from blocking them.

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