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This question is directly related to my answer to a question on the main site: Mobile to PC skype video chat?

The timeline for the sake of relevancy: The questioner was looking for a way to make a Skype video call from his phone (EVO, not supported by Skype's video feature) to a computer. I saw a thread on XDA which was discussing the idea with the rather vague title of "Skype with Video", and I left a comment containing a link to that thread. As it turns out, there is a Skype .apk in that XDA thread which has been modified to allow video calls on unsupported phones. The link to said .apk has been subsequently edited into my answer.

My concern: In the United States, the modified .apk is almost certainly a copyright violation under DMCA law. It may also fall under international laws, but I'm not really sure (I also will not comment on other countries as I am not familiar enough with their laws). Being that both Skype and Stack Exchange are based in the US, I'm not sure that international law would really fall into play anyhow.

The edit which includes the link was added, then rolled back (by Al Everett), then added again. Since there seems to be something of a gray area here, I wanted to explicitly pose this question: Where do we stand on modified .apk files? For that matter, does anyone know where the law stands on these files? Patching the file presumably required decompilation of the .apk, which is why I believe it would constitute a copyright violation in countries with DMCA-like laws.

Related Meta question: Policy on linking to questionable/illegal/warez download sites

  • Another issue is that someone made a bad edit (added content that significantly changed the answer), it was reverted, the edit was entered again, rejected, and then done yet another time. This is no place for edit wars. – ale Jul 21 '11 at 14:30
  • This is a good question for the devs, they may already have formed a position on this sort of thing. I know it's OK to use copyrighted images and such, they feel it falls under fair use. As far as legality of the APK - it actually doesn't matter that it was modified for determining whether it's illegal. They're distributing it illegally, and downloading it would be illegal, at least in most countries I know of. @Al Your edit would have benefitted greatly from a comment. I don't think the edit significantly changes the answer. It doesn't remove content, just incorporates the comments+details. – Matthew Read Jul 21 '11 at 14:47
  • @Matthew: You're right that redistribution in general is probably infringing, but modification could be important in other circumstances (i.e. the .apk is freely redistributed outside the Market but only in compiled form). In this particular instance I agree that the modification is more than likely irrelevant, though. – eldarerathis Jul 21 '11 at 15:26
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    Sorry about the edit wars. @Matthew was right, i was just trying to incorporate the answer from the comments to the answer. Understood about the direct link to the apk though, and good call on eldarerathis's part. He has re-edited the answer to exclude the direct link. i didn't even think about it at the time, but this is a good point. The first link was to a public version of skype that was enabled to work on other phones, which i would assume to be okay, but i agree that .apk's that infringe on rights shouldn't be posted directly. Sorry about that, it won't happen again. Thanks guys! – jlehenbauer Jul 22 '11 at 16:12
  • Related question: Getting movies from the Android Market requires a non-rooted phone. So shipping phones without root access by default is essentially a DRM mechanism. Thus, rooting one's phone is circumventing DRM, which is illegal in the US. Do we now have to remove all our questions on and related to rooting? I think that would be ridiculous. – Matthew Read Jul 22 '11 at 16:24
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    @Matthew: That's kind of a fine line, I think. Rooting (and jailbreaking for iPhones) is exempted from the DMCA in the US now, so the act of rooting in and of itself does not constitute infringement. I'd argue that it doesn't "break" the DRM on the Market videos either since you are simply blocked at that point. Circumventing that block, though, would probably be a DMCA violation (IANAL, though). I guess the question would be whether there is a convincing argument that non-root default access is itself DRM for things like the movies. – eldarerathis Jul 22 '11 at 16:31
  • @eldarerathis I'm sure a lawyer could make a convincing argument and a tech-averse judge would agree with it :P. And certainly one could unroot, download the movie, and reroot ... – Matthew Read Jul 22 '11 at 17:19
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r/android on reddit has a strong no-piracy rule, we should follow the same.

As far as I know, this includes modified binaries. A good example of this would be XDA banning modified versions of Swype (because Swype is proprietary software).

  • That presumes detailed knowledge of what is and isn't piracy in multiple jurisdictions. Some (perhaps most) cases are pretty clear-cut. But what about applications that are free, but no longer distributed by the developer? Is that piracy? Linking to a page with other links tables the need for our concern. – Michael Paulukonis Aug 3 '11 at 16:29
  • @Michael How exactly is linking to links any different? The purpose is the same. Like with torrent sites, and even torrent aggregators that only link to other sites, hosting/direct linking can attract the ire of copyright holders ... and precendent does not favor the torrent sites. – Matthew Read Aug 13 '11 at 21:46
  • A link to the thread is more informative than a link to a file. Files can be removed by the original poster, and updates can be added. Linking to the thread/page allows this information to be visible. Additionally, legal notices can be displayed by that site, as well. – Michael Paulukonis Aug 15 '11 at 13:26
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It might be good idea to link to the thread, instead of directly to the file.

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    Does this create a grey area, too, though? Is there a point where the thread is no longer okay to link to, and is that a line we should try to draw? I have to admit, I did not read the entire thread on XDA before I linked to it in my comment, so I wasn't actually aware that the offending .apk was there. – eldarerathis Jul 21 '11 at 15:23
  • @elderathis: talking about illegal activity happening somewhere else is not itself illegal. IANAL, but I would assume it would be (or should be) protected by free speech. However, if the developers never intended an application to be available in certain country, we should not be condoning such activities in good faith. – Lie Ryan Aug 3 '11 at 13:45
  • file may be legal in some places, illegal in others. More than one file or type of file may be available. Linking to a page that discusses these is different from linking to and implicitly supporting the download of one particular file. – Michael Paulukonis Aug 3 '11 at 16:28

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