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Android Cellphones Handhelds The Media

Android Tricorder Killed By CBS 247

First time accepted submitter josn writes "Today I found out that Moonlight's Tricorder app, which I always install on Android devices, is gone. Google received a DMCA letter from CBS. I think it is a shame that CBS thinks it needs to kill a free and open source project giving a ad-less app. I, for one, sent a message to CBS explaining that this fan-supported app is not bad, but good for them, and asked them to reconsider. I hope, especially for the author, who must have spent a lot of time on this app, that they do."
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Android Tricorder Killed By CBS

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  • Lame! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:15PM (#37292470)
    I love that app. Does anyone know, for those of us who still have it installed, Android App Market doesn't automatically uninstall apps without user permission (like they'll remove books from the Kindle) in cases like this, do they?
    • Like Apple, they have the ability, but IIRC the only circumstances under which it has been used were to remove malware that made its way into the Andriod store.
    • Re:Lame! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Artifex ( 18308 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:50PM (#37292752) Journal

      No, but last night I had it installed when I wiped & installed a later ROM. When it got through auto-reinstalling my backed up apps from Market, Tricorder was no longer there :(

      Just goes to show, ya gotta back up your software locally (In this case, the .apks); can't trust a vendor to store it for you.

      • *sigh* I've been saying this for a long time.
        This is why you shouldn't use other companies to store your files, unless you locally encrypt it first - don't want a rogue DCMA taking down your files, now, do you?
        You should also keep multiple local copies, just in case. It's always worth it.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Just goes to show, ya gotta back up your software locally (In this case, the .apks); can't trust a vendor to store it for you.

        Probably one of my biggest beefs with Android is just that. The "cloud backup" crap doesn't work (the apps I have on my Market account is missing a bunch of apps).

        It's one of the things I really do like about iTunes - you connect your phone to iTunes, iTunes backs up app data and apps themselves to your hard drive.

        And no, I won't trust iCloud either - as long as iTunes doesn't lose t

      • Fortunately, the iCloud betas from Apple allow you to download apps that were even yanked from the App Store, provided you already purchased them.

    • Re:Lame! (Score:4, Informative)

      by nbetcher ( 973062 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {rehctebn}> on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:09PM (#37292860)
      No. It does not. Also, you can still install the Tricorder app by finding the APK on the web, checking 'Unknown Sources' (Settings->Applications), then issuing: 'adb install tricorder.apk' while your phone is connected to a PC that has the ADB drivers installed. Otherwise you can download the APK to your phone and use Astro Filemanager to install it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JesusFreke ( 1216908 )

        "Unknown Sources" has nothing to do with using adb install. It will work whether or not you have "Unknown Sources" checked or not. That is only if you want to allow other applications on the device to install applications e.g. allow the browser to install an apk that it downloaded, or allow a third party market application to install an application.

    • It only does remote uninstalls in case of active malware (that got installed through the Market). Just to be safe thought, if I were you, I'd root my phone and backup the app with Titanium Backup (their free version is enough).

      I don't ever expect Google to turn themselves into Amazon, it would be a stupid PR move on their part, but if there is ever a court order ordering them to do a mass remote uninstall, I don't expect them to refuse such an order.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The take down the free Android version but leave the pay-for iPhone version?

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:17PM (#37292494)
    ...I'm a doctor, not a copyright lawyer.
  • And now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:19PM (#37292506) Homepage Journal

    we see the power of the android system.

    I can still load the app from other sources.

  • by Necroman ( 61604 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:19PM (#37292510)

    A little googling turn up this []. Looks like it would have been fun to play with.

  • It's going to be a real problem when the Klingons show up for real, and claim ownership of that name and then hold the entire planet responsible for violating the trademark.
  • This is the kind of annoying thing the lawyers just automatically do. I think a petition campaign might be effective in this case. If the app doesn't harm them, annoying geeks does, they might reconsider.
    • by Pastis ( 145655 )
      I agree.

      I would have paid one dollar for the app. Maybe CBS wants to reconsider instead, contract the developper to modify the app. If they keep the open source version, they could have a different theme for the OSS one.

      Win-win ?

      I haven't found a petition. Is there one ?
  • I'm so sick of this bullshit I could just scream.

    • They created a neat application that does cool stuff.

      But they themed it in a way that borrowed heavily from someone else's work.

      That's okay if the someone else approves and gives you permission.

      But that someone else got upset.

      They can still have a sensor-machine app, but the Star Trek ties are the issue.

      Ideally he they would work with CBS, and they'd have a better product for it. But if CBS doesn't want to play ball, why should they have to? Perhaps they want to release their own version of the app?

      • by FxChiP ( 687923 )

        I have two problems with what you're saying:

        1.) Moonblink's Tricorder app was neither made nor intended to divert profits or attention away from the Star Trek franchise/collection of works. In fact, it was written in homage to the series, and it's really hard to imagine how it could even unintentionally harm CBS in any way, shape or form, especially given that the app (and the part of Star Trek it's emulating) is fairly trivial. It was basically harmless. CBS squelching it seems more out of spite or misgu

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:29PM (#37292586)

    I can only find one tricorder app on the Android market. And the one I have installed has gone missing. At least they didn't remotely remove it.

    Meh, hopefully they can bring them back with a similar name. Quadcorder maybe?

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      It's not the name, it's the style of the images.

    • by Psion ( 2244 )
      Actually, it isn't the name "tricorder" that's at issue here. According to the original text, Roddenberry himself said anyone who could produce a functional equivalent was allowed to use the name "Tricorder" ... the problem is the use of an interface that mimics the LCARS user interface from later Star Trek shows. Tweak the look and I bet he'd still be able to get away with calling it a tricorder.
      • But that would be covered by a *design patent* not a copyright. Copyright covers *specific* creative works - I don't see how this app could violate a copyright unless it included *specific* elements owned by CBS, such as sounds and images. Just putting rounded rectangles on the screen should not be enough to trigger a copyright takedown since CBS would need to point to the specific original work that was copied. LCARs itself cannot be copyrighted - the name can be trademarked, and certain design elements
      • Roddenberry himself said

        Roddenberry is dead. He can't say anything anymore. He can't pay a lawyer to say anything. Seriously, in a world where contracts are renegotiated on a daily bases to favor the richer, do you believe a corpse's empty words count for anything?

  • Does CBS even own a Star Trek trademark? Isn't that owned by Paramount/Viacom?

    And I get that you need to defend trademarks, but I don't know that a tricorder app violates that. JJ Abrams is in no hurry on the next Star Trek movie. There is no TV show on the air. Keeping fans thinking about Star Trek with little things like this only adds value to the property on the whole.

    • Corporate ownership ----- At Star Trek's creation, Norway Productions, Roddenberry's production company, shared ownership with Desilu and, after Gulf+Western acquired Desilu in 1967, with Paramount Pictures, the conglomerate's film studio. Paramount did not want to own the unsuccessful show; net profit was to be shared between Norway, Desilu/Paramount, Shatner, and NBC but Star Trek lost money, and the studio did not expect to syndicate it. In 1970 Paramount offered to sell all rights to Star Trek to Roddenberry, but he could not afford the $150,000 ($848,000 today) price. In 1989 Gulf+Western renamed itself as Paramount Communications, and in 1994 merged with Viacom.[70]:218,220,223 In 2005 Viacom divided into CBS Corporation, whose CBS Television Studios subsidiary retained the Star Trek brand, and Viacom, whose Paramount Pictures subsidiary retained the Star Trek film library and rights to make additional films.[71]

      Source: [] (bottom of page, which has original sources)

    • If it's about the trademark, why file for a DMCA takedown, since that's for copyrights, not trademarks.
      • When all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

        Corollary: when your problem is a lawyer, a hammer is just fine.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone always thinks it's an evil corporation trying to spoil fun but there's a fundamental reason. If they don't defend trademarks and copyrights then other corporations can use the names to sell products. What's to stop Apple or Microsoft from releasing a new PDA or tablet computer called a "Tricorder"? They can say CBS failed to enforce the trademark so it no longer applies. What if the device sucks and the name Tricorder takes on negative image or worse yet becomes a bad joke? Then their trademark ove

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      What's to stop Apple or Microsoft from releasing a new PDA or tablet computer called a "Tricorder"?

      Where do I buy a CBS Tricorder?

      • by kat_skan ( 5219 )

        You don't. If you read the takedown notice it turns out CBS has some kind of PADD-themed Star Trek triva app [] in the Itunes store and they don't want competition. Which is sensible considering the comments make it sound pretty pants.

    • If it were say a system that mattered for the name, say the app was called Star-Trek the next generation gadget. or whatever I could see it, the actual series name would be harmful for them to have used by others, but the name of one small item in the show, lets say it were microsoft, and they did release a tri-corder as a stand alone device based on windows CE, it gave inaccurate information and blue screened every 2 seconds. Would that effect how likely you will be to watch the next star trek movie or sho
  • I've never heard of the tricorder app before. After finding some information about it ( [] ) and looking at what it does: "sense environmental factors like magnetic flux, acceleration, sound waves and even solar activity...", it seems to me that saying the project has been "killed" by CBS seems a bit premature. The interface and name ("Tricorder") is certainly drawn from Star Trek inspiration, and while I don't see how this
    • Look and feel can be covered by a design patent.

      However I would think any such design patent would be expired or moot given the time frames involved.

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @07:38PM (#37292646)

    You can't copyright the word "tricorder". The app (according to the posts that someone else posted here) doesn't infringe on any copyrights of screen design or anything like that (and it looks more like the LCARS interface from TNG, which CBS holds no claim to - that would be Viacom, owners of Paramount).

    There is only one live entry for a registered trademark for "tricorder", and that's held by Paul Allen's company named Kiha Software, which holds the trademark as it relates to mobile device programs.

    So, where does CBS get the balls to get this app taken down?

  • The Tricorder was available in the nineties for the Palm platform. Why now?

  • That corporations would be a little less eager to tempt Anonymous.
  • A similar story [] made the rounds last April. CBS claimed copyright infringement on the "DiagnosticPADD" app for the iPad. Specifically, CBS claimed

    “the Application uses the ‘PADD’ trademark and the interface is substantially similar to CBSS’ copyrighted LCARS interface. Your use of the Series’ Properties improperly trades on the goodwill and reputation of CBSS and the Series and is likely to cause confusion among consumers that the Application is affiliated with or licensed by CBSS and/or the Series. CBSS has concluded that such use constitutes trademark infringement, dilution, passing off and misappropriation under the Lanham Act and applicable state laws, as well as copyright infringement under applicable U.S. copyright law and counterpart laws around the world.”

    What's confusing to me is they seem to flip back and forth between copyright and trademark infringement. I'm not sure how either would apply here anyway.

    • Unless they've actually filed for a trademark on this stuff, then it's actually more an issue of "trade dress" - ie being "confusingly similar". I really can't see how they can argue that there's any copyright violation.
  • This command will clone the svn repository into a new git repository, preserving history.

    Warning: It will take a few minutes. Also, if your slashdot preferences add "[]" to the url, remove it.

    git svn clone -s [] moonblink-read-only

  • The author can put it on my app store if they want.

  • That's why we let a fictional, non-functional application veto the production of an actual, useful product. Although, looking at America's industry and economics, it does seem that they value fiction over reality.

  • They sent the link from an apple store app as their right to license of an image? Something smells less legal. If Google will react to such a weak request you can probably send them anything you want and get any app taken down.
    • That's how the DMCA works. They file, and the author is given an opportunity to say "no, I do have the rights to this", in which case it goes back up and CBS can go to court with a record that the author claims ownership and the host (in this case Google) is free and clear legally, as it is now between CBS and moonblink. In this case, the author didn't. It does use LCARS style interface and tricorder sound effects.

      Been there, done that in about 16 years of commercial hosting. In the case of child porn,

  • I can only find what look like very specific feedback forms.
  • by Radak ( 126696 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:29PM (#37292986) Journal

    I hadn't heard of this app before. Thanks to CBS giving it some free publicity, I have now, and found the apk on another site.

    Pretty cool app. Thank you CBS and your lawyers for cluing me to it.

  • LCARS is the problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Friday September 02, 2011 @08:44PM (#37293078) Homepage

    The summary includes a link to the wiki article about it being killed by lawyers. This in turn includes the text of the DMCA takedown notice. Take a look: to
    Reply - More info Aug 23

    AutoDetectedBrowser: Internet Explorer 7
    AutoDetectedOS: Windows XP
    IIILanguage: en
    IssueType: lr_dmca
    Language: en
    agree1: checked
    agree: checked
    android_app_developer_1: Moonblink
    android_app_name_1: Tricorder
    android_app_url_1: []
    companyname: CBS
    country_residence: US
    description_of_copyrighted_work: LCARS graphical user interface
    dmca_signature: Lxxxxxxn
    dmca_signature_date_day: 23
    dmca_signature_date_month: 8
    dmca_signature_date_year: 2011
    full_name: Lxxxxxxn
    hidden_product: androidmarket
    location_of_copyrighted_work: LCARS graphical user interface, an example of which can be viewed at the URL below: [] represented_copyright_holder: CBS Studios Inc.

    Now, I used to have an app on my Palm PDA that pretended to be a tricorder but didn't actually do anything (other than make some chirp noises and display various jokes). That's not what this is; this "tricorder" app displays the outputs from various sensors on an Android phone. You can get a magnetic compass, sound data from the microphone, GPS data, etc. The DMCA takedown isn't about this functionality, but just about the LCARS interface.

    The solution is obvious: reskin the app, using an Android sort of theme, and for extra safety change the name. The result shouldn't bother CBS anymore.

    I don't even really like LCARS much.

    P.S. I presume that CBS will go after the people who install LCARS themes on their desktops. What a waste of time.


  • Contract violation? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 02, 2011 @09:03PM (#37293200)

    According to this In Gene Roddenberry contract if any of the technology in star trek gets invented they can use the name free of charge. Is it that now he is gone they will ignore that part of there original contract?

    • According to this [] In Gene Roddenberry contract if any of the technology in star trek gets invented they can use the name free of charge. Is it that now he is gone they will ignore that part of there original contract?

      This isn't about the name, that would be a trademark issue, and CBS couldn't avail themselves of the DMCA. CBS is claiming a copyright on the design of LCARS, which this app uses.

      Being that I'm not an actual lawyer, and just read in law, I can't say for sure if this is a valid copyright, but then I know enough to say that this probably ought be argued in a court... (the more you read in law, the more you want to actually litigate matters in general... I suppose it makes for good business for lawyers?)

  • Does anyone know where a mirror is for the .apk? This article made me find out about this app, and now I want it, but I can't find the .apk anywhere.


  • that's all, just "stupid douchebags"
  • I guess those scientists working on quantum teleportation better quit before they get sued then. And theres no legal chance of anybody inventing a real warp drive because of the legal issues, we are going to be stuck in this solar system until we go extinct.
    Extinction may be sooner than we thought too, if there is an asteroid heading towards earth we can't go and blow it up without being sued by Atari

    How come google are gatting awat with calling their user interface Android ?

  • Go fuck yourself.
  • One of the truly useful apps on the market. Yes, I've needed a magnet detector. (Geocaching). I've needed to analyze ambient noise. I've needed a compass and GPS. I've needed to see what networks were around me. I even used the Solar page to see why my GPS wasn't working worth crap that day (solar flare).

    Saving it out to an APK now onto my card just in case.

  • Ah, fascism, isn't it great? It is amazing to think how completely the corporate world is allowed to rule our lives. What we can buy, where we can buy and ever what we can do with it once we have bought it.
    And of course of government is no where to found as they are too busy making new laws to protect our corporate guardians.

    Tell me, I cannot be the only one who feels this way! The time is close I think for change. The economy is in the crapper, our "leaders" are fighting themselves harder and harder, we se

  • Seems like a repeat performance of the same bullshit Paramount pulled during the 90's when they went after fan websites, pissing on the free advertising those sites represented.

  • No problem. Just wait ten years and it'll come out as a bloated, incomprehensible desktop application.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal