May 26, 2011
Google’s new movie rental service on the Android Market is about to come with one huge caveat for a large subset of Android users. According to Android and Me, users of rooted devices will not have access to movie rentals on the Market. When a rooted device tries to rent a movie, an “Error 49” pops up, which should only pop up on rooted devices. According to Android Market’s page on Error 49, “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.”
Right now, this only affects a small number of devices, that number being one – the Motorola Xoom on Android 3.1, although the Galaxy Tab 10.1 will ship with Android 3.1, and the movie rental service should be coming to all Android devices on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and above soon. This demand was likely put in place by the content providers wishing for protection on their movies so that rooted users couldn’t just pirate them easily, despite the fact that pretty much every movie is readily available from illicit sources as it is.
This could prove to be a double-edged sword – while rooted users represent a minority on the platform, they do still number in the millions (at least based on the number of users who have downloaded ROM Manager, a tool for rooted users to download and install new custom roms). As well, many of them may be the kind of frequent Android users who would rent movies more often than non-rooted users. As such, blocking off this class of users from renting movies based on a mild piracy fear could be an ill-advised move. Of course, it could also turn out to only have a minor effect as well, as rooted users are a minority of Android owners, after all. Android and Me points out that the HBO Go app for Android is available to rooted users as well, and that app is home to HBO’s lucrative content, including an episode of Game of Thrones that is available through the app before it airs on TV – a true target for piracy. These security fears may likely be overblown given the actual threat.