In the continuing saga of HTC versus JMZ Software, which affects everyone involved in rooting and customization, we now have the text of the email that contained legal requests, and reasoning for the requests, from HTC’s legal rep.

The text has been modified by JMZ to remove some personally identifiable information; however, it’s all hopefully complete otherwise. The full text can be viewed here.

I asked HTCDev for a comment on the stance of Sense-based ROM redistribution, and I got back a statement that HTC can’t comment on it because HTCRUU was not the company’s website. I have re-volleyed the question into something that HTC can’t wiggle around, and that’s for a statement on HTCs policies on Sense-based ROM redistribution. However, I’m just waiting for an answer I probably will not get.

HTCRUU was taken down for using HTC in the domain name, and also using HTC’s logo. If the owner wanted to fight it, he probably could argue that it’s the same intent as a store called Nissan Aftermarket: there was no affiliation with HTC, except that he was distributing HTC-branded products (the RUUs). It would be a tricky thing to have kept the domain name, and next to impossible to keep the RUUs.

The lawyer didn’t seem to initially understand that. For example, the term Jewel is what developers still call the EVO 4G LTE, and any directory named Jewel contained released and modified released ROMs, not pre-release ROMs. The lawyer states that in any case, these ROMs pose a security risk because they could be modified or changed in such a way that could harm the device or its user, and that fault would be imputed to HTC. In general, this would probably have not been assumed if domain name did not have HTC in the title, but in this case the HTC legal representative tells JMZ that the ROMs have to come down and that finding any other sites that have modified HTC ROMs would be appreciated.

That statement from HTC’s lawyer should be of great concern to all: “On the ROM front, HTC does not endorse or allow distribution of its ROMs by any third party.” If this statement is true, this means that for the past several years, developers who have been operating under the blessing (or at least the turned eye) of HTC have been gravely mistaken, and their hard development work can be lawyered away if HTC wants what they’ve made for its own, or just doesn’t like them.

Questions still remain, though: Is this just a lawyer who doesn’t understand how the ROM world works? Is this HTC’s official stance? Is this another case like Trevor Eckhart’s Carrier IQ saga, where HTC will  plan to bully anyone into doing what it wants by unfounded, or in this case potentially unbacked, legal threats?

Since answers don’t seem forthcoming, perhaps it’s time to demand answers from HTC.

  • What are the exact reasons JMZ software (both RUUs and custom ROMs) is being taken down?
  • Why are his ROMs potentially dangerous, at least in the lawyer’s opinion, but XDA (for example) has thousands of ROMs for every HTC device ever made that are based on stock software, and nobody has complained?
  • Is the object here to crush custom ROM development and distribution completely?
  • Without using doublespeak, what is HTC’s stance on Sense ROM modification and redistribution by third parties? Is HTC planning to threaten other developers who make its phones more usable, while it works through trying to fix bugs in the latest official release? Or is this just JMZ being told he is out of the game since he used HTC in the domain name?

The most important question here is the future of open development on HTC’s device platform. The future is at risk if developers are not allowed to make modifications and fixes, and distribute these mods. Several people, myself included, would have walked from HTC a long time ago, had it not been for being able to get ROMs that function correctly after a disastrous update.

HTC obviously has benefited from the development world. So please, HTC, just let us know: is it your plan to kill development by shutting down distribution of custom modified stock ROMs, or is this just a lawyer who was tasked with shutting down a trademark infringing website, and he’s gone a bit too far?

If you’d like to know from HTC about the threat to development and the complaints against JMZ other than the trademark infringement, tweet @HTC and @HTCDev and ask for an official statement on 3rd party custom ROM distribution. Or just click here and it will tweet for you.

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