The XDA forums are the capitol of all Android root/ROM development efforts these days, and from its multitudes of developers and endless pages of posts come most of the homebrew software that provides us with root access, liberates draconian device restrictions, and keeps older phones ticking. Android enthusiasts aren't the only ones making use of the software there, though. Turkish OEM General Mobile recently rolled out its own Android Q beta program for two of its phones even though it isn't among the manufacturers Google lists as participating in these early Q tests. It turns out, that's because General Mobile's Android Q beta is merely a lightly-tweaked ripoff of an unofficial GSI from XDA's forums.
Lol i found my name pic.twitter.com/9COcmpAX54
— Erfan Abdi (@Khode_Erfan) July 19, 2019
In its examinations of the GSI (generic system image) being distributed by General Mobile, XDA found that the OEM "barely made any modifications" to the unofficial image being distributed, merely adding its logo and changing a few build properties to fit its devices. Telltale signs like a pair of folders, file signatures, usernames included in package names, and some universal compatibility tweaks to a script all serve to indicate that the source of the lightly modified Android Q beta image is the homebrew version distributed on the XDA forums.
A disclaimer attached to the original forum post for General Mobile's distributed images (since taken down) even hypocritically claims that the company's end users can't redistribute or modify the software being distributed. Google Translate version of an excerpt based on Bing's cache available just below:
You may not sell, rent, lease, redistribute, publish, transmit, transmit, modify, sublicense, transfer, or transfer any of the content, including downloaded copies of content available through General Mobile, to third parties.
An investigation will be initiated for users who are found not to comply with the above conditions.
At some point following the discovery, General Mobile later allegedly added credit thanking the GSI's original developers, erfanoabdi and phhusson, though the forum post would appear to have since been taken down entirely.
While the XDA community images are peer-reviewed, open-source, and usually of quite high quality, the fact that an OEM would be redistributing these homebrew versions as their own is nearly unbelievable, even just from a security standpoint. Thankfully, the original developers don't seem too upset by General Mobile's actions once credit was provided, according to XDA. That doesn't change the almost unbelievable and ridiculous fact that an OEM based its software on a lightly-modified version of a ROM from the XDA Forums.
General Mobile has provided a response to this controversy to XDA:
"General Mobile is committed to open-source application development and we aim to support application developers on every platform.
The Android version of Q is not yet available to end users globally. For this reason, we shared Android Q Beta with only a limited audience for developers to develop and test their applications.
In this direction, our R&D department has prepared the Android Q Beta Program by using the open source code of the independent developers, and aimed to support each developer by referring to them within the code and on our github page in accordance with the rules regarding the use of open source license. As a result of the comments about the absence of credit given to the developers, the situation was noticed and we made sure that our developer friends were included in the references immediately. We would like to state that we are in contact with these two friends and that we wish to work together on similar projects in the future. They also stated that they would be happy to contribute in this direction.
As General Mobile, we would like to remind once again that we attach great importance to the development of software developers and that we are open to the contribution and feedback from all stakeholders in all our projects."
- XDA Developers