A French image processing company by the name of DxO Labs has filed a DMCA takedown request targeting 12 GitHub repositories containing device-specific code for ROMs, most of them maintained by CyanogenMod team members. The notice is vague, only citing:

[3] I have a good faith belief that the file downloads identified below (by URL) are unlawful under these copyright laws because among other things, the files circumvent effective access controls and/or copyright protection measures; [4] Reason:

Content Type: "Custom Firmware" files

Violation(s): Trafficking a device that circumvents effective access controls and/or trafficking a device that circumvents effective copyright protection measures.

The likely culprit has been identified as libDxOAF.so, a file that would have come from an OEM's stock ROM and is almost certainly used to operate the company's Auto Focus Speed-Up feature. The takedown does not just target projects with the offending binary, but also those that merely name it within their scripts and configurations. Here is a list of affected devices:

  • HTC EVO 4G LTE (Jewel)
  • HTC One XL
  • HTC One S (Ville)
  • HTC One X (Evita)
  • HTC Droid DNA (DLX)
  • Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE XT897 (Asanti)

At first glance, it appears that DxO Labs is acting maliciously towards these projects, but it is possible that the only intention was to remove a copyrighted driver. It is difficult to tell if the filing was meant to shut down entire repositories or just the individual files. GitHub's policy on DMCA Takedowns is not specific for this situation, but shuttering a repo for the short term is usually the most reasonable option until a fix can be worked out. Still, GitHub should be pushing back against claims as trivial as a single text file that includes the name of another file.

The distribution of copyrighted content is an open-and-shut case of infringement, but there may be no incentive for DxO Labs to pursue it. The driver is specific to a select set of camera hardware, making it useless on other handsets. Plus, the OEMs have already covered the cost of licensing. Ultimately, if 3rd party ROM makers are redistributing this file, they are only replacing software that came pre-installed. There is very little credible reason for the company to prevent end users from having convenient access to the binary.

Hopefully, this is just a misunderstanding that lead to an overreaction by from DxO's legal department. It wouldn't be the first time some lawyers got the message wrong. Unfortunately, this could also result in a permanent removal of the driver, leaving some custom ROMs with crippled camera functionality. Either way, DxO Labs is handling this situation very poorly. At the moment, little is known about what sparked the takedown request now as opposed to any other time, but we are watching the affected device maintainers for news, and have reached out to DxO Labs for clarification. We'll continue to post updates as more information becomes available.

Here is the full text:

Takedown Notice under DMCA

Date: March 11, 2013

Dear GitHub Copyright Agent:

I, the undersigned state UNDER PENALTY OF PURJURY that:

[1] I am, a person injured, or an agent authorized on behalf of a person injured by a violation of the U.S. Copyright laws, in particiular section(s) 1201(a)(2) and/or 1201(b)(1) of Title 17 of the United States Code, commonly referred to as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or "DMCA"; [2] I May Be Contacted At:

Name of Injured Party: DxO Labs SA

Name and Title: [private], Legal Assistant

Company: DxO Labs SA

Address: 3 rue Nationale

City, State, and Zip: Boulogne-Billancourt, 92100, FRANCE

Email address: [email protected]

Telephone: +33 155 20 55 20 99

Fax: +33 155 20 55 20 98

[3] I have a good faith belief that the file downloads identified below (by URL) are unlawful under these copyright laws because among other things, the files circumvent effective access controls and/or copyright protection measures; [4] Reason:

Content Type: "Custom Firmware" files

Violation(s): Trafficking a device that circumvents effective access controls and/or trafficking a device that circumvents effective copyright protection measures.

[5] Please act expeditiously to remove the file-downloads found at the following URLs:

https://github.com/TheMuppets/proprietary_vendor_htc

https://github.com/htc-msm8960/proprietary_vendor_htc

https://github.com/rohanmathur/aosp_device_htc_evita/tree/master/vendor/proprietary/lib

https://github.com/CyanogenMod/android_device_htc_ville/pull/1/files

https://github.com/xkonni/android_device_htc_ville_old/blob/master/proprietary_files.txt

https://github.com/Bajee11/device_htc_msm8960-common/blob/master/common-proprietary-files.txt

https://github.com/midnight88/android_device_moto_asanti/blob/master/proprietary-files.txt

https://github.com/lmartin92/android_device_moto_asanti/blob/master/proprietary-files.txt

https://github.com/hfase01/android_device_moto_asanti/blob/master/proprietary-files.txt

https://github.com/intervigilium/android_device_htc_ville/pull/5/files

https://github.com/timothyswt/android_device_htc_ville/blob/master/proprietary-files.txt

https://github.com/cofface/android_htc_device_dlx/blob/master/proprietary-files.txt

[6] I have a good faith belief that the circumvention of effective access controls and/or copyright protection measures identified above is not authorized by law; and [7] The information in this notice is accurate.

Thank you for your kind assistance.

Truthfully,

DxO Labs SA

[Signed]

Land Of Technology, GitHub