While Android, Symbian, and Maemo have brought open source operating systems to mainstream mobile devices, even the most open smartphones contain proprietary software and are subject to user restrictions that the open source community has rejected on the desktop.
The remaining bastions of lock-down are the result of a confluence of forces. Patent restrictions prevent some mobile device vendors from providing open source hardware drivers and multimedia codecs for their devices. FCC regulations discourage vendors from opening the code that controls radio communications. And the companies behind the open source mobile operating systems withhold important code for various reasons.
These restrictions have real effects on users: they make it difficult to share improved versions of the software, they enable device manufacturers and carriers to control users and compromise their privacy. This talk will explore all of these factors limiting the openness of open source phones and offer suggestions for overcoming them.
Aaron Williamson serves as counsel for the Software Freedom Law Center, a nonprofit legal services organization that advises developers of free and open source software. He has explored the legal and technical issues around open source mobile operating systems extensively, and in his free time develops software for Android.
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