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Apple defeats attack of the clones

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Apple has successfully defended its OS copyright, beating clone-maker Psystar in a Californian court.
Apple has successfully defended its OS copyright, beating clone-maker Psystar in a Californian court.

Apple has won its copyright infringement claim against Florida Mac clone maker Psystar.

The key argument wasn't OS X's End User Licence Agreement (EULA) or Psystar's failed claims that Apple was running an unfair monopoly, but pure, simple copyright infringement.

Psystar was illegally copying, modifying, and distributing Apple's code. It was found Psystar was making multiple copies of OS X from an imaging station, and that cannot be done without permission, which was never going to be forthcoming from Apple since Psystar's entire enterprise was undertaken without Apple's agreement.

Psystar was arguing that it included a purchased copy of OS X with all of its computers.

But no - it turned out the version of the OS on the Psystar machines was often different than the version on the disc, and several of the machines examined didn't have discs included at all.

Psystar was also found to be circumventing Apple's kernel encryption in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Part of the copyright infringement found against Psystar was ‘creation of derivative works'. In order to boot OS X on what was essentially a ‘hackintosh' (a PC modified to load and run Mac OS X, despite it being licensed to run on Apple machines only), Psystar replaced OS X's bootloader, disabled and removed Apple kernel extensions, and added its own kernel extensions.

That was enough variation from Apple's code to warrant a finding of copyright infringement all on its own, since Psystar was essentially selling a custom version of Apple's copyrighted code. For that, my friends, you need permission. And hell hasn't frozen over quite yet.

Hacking OS X to run on non-Apple hardware is illegal. It's as simple as that, writes Engadget.

Psystar's antitrust and monopoly arguments has already been thrown out. Then Psystar tried to argue that Apple was misusing its copyright on OS X by limiting it to Apple hardware.

It may have been an interesting argument, and the court didn't buy it since Apple was not prohibiting others from independently developing and using their own operating systems.
As Apple doesn't try to prevent OS X owners from buying Windows PCs, for example, it can sell OS X whichever way it chooses.

Psystar, which had already filed for bankruptcy, will have to pay ... we don't know how much, yet.

The company was more than US$250,000 in debt when it filed for bankruptcy in May, due to poor sales.

This case only covered Mac OS 10.5x ‘Leopard'; Apple and Psystar are fighting a separate battle over OS 10.6x ‘Snow Leopard' in Florida.

Apple has various other claims pending against Psystar, including breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition. These haven't yet been addressed in a ruling.

None of this seems to have put off an Italian company. A startup computer maker called Engineering Project was intending a series of new computers including a couple that ‘could' run OS X, according to the Italian site Macity. There's a translation here.

Engineering Project lists several possible computers including a 2.93 GHz Core 2 Duo configuration with a 500GB HDD and 2GB of RAM, listed at €479 (about NZD$1055). The highest offering integrates a 2.66GHz Core i7 CPU with a 1TB HDD and 4GB of RAM for €849 (about NZD$1868).

The Evo Store was inactive when this was reported earlier in November, but the company claims it will soon be operational.

Apple has licensed clones before. Received wisdom (OK, ‘wisdom' might be a bit charitable) from the Windows world reads ‘Windows is best coz it's most used. It's most used coz it runs on many different vendors' machines. If Apple wants to be as big as Microsoft, Apple should license its OS.'

This logic is wrong for many reasons: I don't think Apple wants to be as big as Microsoft. Apple likes to develop and build insanely great stuff that enables people, meanwhile emasculating the technocracy.

If Apple wanted to be as big as Microsoft, it wouldn't be charging what it charges, and Apple could easily afford to cut prices.

So it's very hard for me to believe that becoming Microsoft is (or was ever) Apple's intention.

Besides, being ‘as big as Microsoft' means buying into inertia and ennui.

Windows is not ‘best' because it's most used. At all. Just as McDonalds is hardly the best food in the world, despite its popularity.

If OS X ran on any machine, Apple would lose control of the hardware-software integration, which is a huge factor in how good Apple stuff is.

Apple would have to embrace legacy hardware issues well outside its control, and try and support all those grab-bags of components PC users get lumbered with.

The PC wisdom also comes from a narrow-minded view of how the computing world would be. A few misguided people still ask me, ‘Is Apple a hardware or a software company? It should decide!'

To which I reply: ‘It's plain to see, sir - it's both.'

Actually, there were licensed Mac clones once. This was allowed to happen when Steve Jobs was away in the 1990s, and it was cut soon after he came back. But for a while, Power Computing and even a few Daystar clones showed up in New Zealand, and they were, for a while (tis true!) faster and cheaper than Macs. Albeit ugly.

There's a Wikipedia entry about this.

To my eyes, Apple's rights and position seem very clear cut, and I have to wonder why anyone would enter such an enterprise, especially against a company with Apple's wealth and profile.

Is it just desperation to get more affordable computers for the world's best operating system? Or a (potentially very expensive) publicity stunt?

Probably just ill-advised madness, actually.

- Mark Webster mac.nz

 

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