Apple Will Likely Invoke DMCA Against Psytar’s Cheapo Hackintosh

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The Miami company selling a generic PC that runs Mac OS X says it will fight Apple in the courts — but it’s reasoning seems flawed.

Psystar says it has ported OS X to run on a $400 machine called the OpenMac — in violation of the OS X’s shrinkwrap license, which restricts the software from being installed on any non-Apple branded machine.

But a spokesman for Psystar told InformationWeek that Apple’s shrinkwrap license for OS X violates U.S. antitrust law.

“What if Microsoft said you could only install Windows on Dell computers?” said the spokesman, identified only as Robert.

He continued: “What if Honda said that, after you buy their car, you could only drive it on the roads they said you could?”

But the spokesman seems to be confusing monopoly with abuse of monopoly. Having a monopoly is not illegal — abusing that monopoly is.

And although there’s no definitive court ruling on the enforceability of shrinkwrap EULA licenses (End-User License Agreements), Apple will likely sue under the more sweeping Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which criminalizes the circumvention of copyright controls.

Apple has encrypted core segments of OS X — including portions of the Finder and Dock — in an overt anti-piracy effort, according to eWeek. Security researcher Bruce Schneier, said companies are using the DMCA as an anti-piracy measure, but also to prevent reverse engineering. Any attempt to break the encrypted code is in violation of the DMCA.

Psystar’s OpenMac claims to be a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo machine with 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, integrated Intel graphics, a DVD burner and four USB Ports. Most of the components can be upgraded.

36 responses to “Apple Will Likely Invoke DMCA Against Psytar’s Cheapo Hackintosh”

  1. Dann says:

    Isn’t Apple claiming that OS X can only legally be run on Apple-branded hardware the same as Amazon selling eBooks that can only be read by the Kindle? Or DRM that is exclusive to iPods? If you don’t like it, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other alternatives on the market.

  2. imajoebob says:

    I see Apple’s prohibition as similar to Xerox only allowing customers to use Xerox supplies. A requirement that was soundly thrashed in the courts. But the Psystar guy has it backward. It’s not like Honda saying you can only use certain roads; it’s more like Shell saying you can only use their gasoline in Hondas. Almost universally, the courts have maintained that an end-user can do most anything they want (for private use) with a purchase.

    While they claim all they sell is a license to use their product, Apple needs to be careful how they try to enforce their EULA. Despite what they say, for all practical purposes Apple sells it. If someone finds a clever enough lawyer, they can probably punch holes in the license like others have done with trademarks (you have to practice using it as a license, not just claim you are). And the DCMA claim is specious. They’ll have extreme difficulty proving reverse engineering, and I believe trade secrets can be protected from discovery. lacking specific knowledge that reversing occurred. (You can’t require Psytstar to prove a negative.)

    No matter what, Psystar simply avoids the problem by not installing OS X. Anyone who’s ever replaced their hard drive knows you just stick the disk in the slot, enter your name, and click Install. You’re done in less than 45 minutes. And if that’s the price I have to pay to save 600 bucks, I’ll do it every time.

    And by the way Steve, one of the reasons Apple survived was the loyalty of customers who hated Microsoft regularly squash competitors and their innovations. This is a great way to eviscerate decades of Good Will. If you try this and lose, my next notebook won’t be a MacBook Pro, it’ll be a PsystarPro. Just to tell you to get stuffed.

  3. Andrew DK says:

    “No matter what, Psystar simply avoids the problem by not installing OS X.”

    How does the hardware alone allow one to install OS X?

    “If you try this and lose, my next notebook won’t be a MacBook Pro, it’ll be a PsystarPro. Just to tell you to get stuffed.”

    This is why they’re fighting the battle in the first place. Test, test *feedback* … is this thing on?

    “one of the reasons Apple survived was the loyalty of customers who hated Microsoft regularly squash competitors and their innovations.”

    You call that thing innovation? Have you taken your meds today sir?

  4. Doug S. says:

    “And if that’s the price I have to pay to save 600 bucks, I’ll do it every time.”

    Umm…. You do realize that Psystar seems to be making what is more or less crapware in that they can’t even promise that Apple software updates will work on their machine?

    If you’re willing to buy crapware just to save $600, then Apple doesn’t really want you as a customer anyway.

  5. Andrew DK says:

    “How does the hardware alone allow one to install OS X?”

    Found my answer:

    http://www.macrumors.com/2008/

  6. imajoebob says:

    The more I mull this over, I think I want to invest in Psystar(?!). My latest whack-job theory is that Psystar doesn’t actually want to sell any computers. Their investment will be in challenging the EULA enforceability. If they have even a whiff of a chance of winning, the entire software industry will pay them millions and millions of dollars to go away. Even if they can’t beat the EULA as a whole, there’s likely a very good chance they can beat parts of it. This is the last thing the industry wants to see, and they’ll buy these guys off in a heartbeat.

  7. Peruchito says:

    actually its more like asking honda to put a ford engine into your car. personally think anyone who buys this is a fool. so save a few hundred bucks but you get this huge clunker. you can upgrade it, but by the time you consider an upgrade pc prices will drop even more. the value of your pc, and the power will not be up to par, and for a bit of extra doe you can just buy a new pc rather than upgrade.

    also, 150% less in price, but the thing is 500% more in size and desktop space.

  8. Whatever says:

    You guys are so hypocritical – you gleefully pounced on the Microsoft for offering IE, a browser for Christ’s sake, with the OS! That’s -wrong- but restricting the OS to particular hardware is OK? What planet are you from? Just admit your bias and stop these contorted arguments to justify Steve’s business practices. The genius of Microsoft is that they’re ‘ho’s and will run on anything you let them. The genius of Apple is they’re horribly restrictive but have built a blindly loyal niche market that will forgive them anything, feeding off the anti-Gates playa haters who flatter themselves smarter but more noble than Bill.

    Good luck Psystar

  9. Whatever says:

    BTW, the ultimate irony is that OS X is just an Apple-branded OpenBSD/Linux hybrid clone for dilettantes. And *that’s* why Apple is quaking in its boots. After the DOJ & EU vs. Microsoft lawsuits the fake geek squad fled to Mac because they wanted to “stick it to Bill” but were too timid or ignorant to embrace Linux without a pretty GUI (slackware R.I.P.). Yet they failed to see what was most obvious – Apple is more controlling than Windows – Bill never said “You MUST use our browser in OUR OS!” it’s just the ready-made option and incorporated its GUI features into the OS. Netscape didn’t like the competition so they whined to the DOJ and the EU who saw a paycheck and went along with the fallacy. Now mac-heads are using the same argument Microsoft used to defend Steve, yet Apple’s business practices are WAY more reprehensible than the whole IE vs. Netscape browser war ever was. Keep patting yourselves on the back by paying premium for a name while Jobs pats himself on the back counting his money in the bank. I wish Psystar the best of luck, keep Apple on its toes – open competition breeds ingenuity.

  10. Chris Maxcer says:

    Whoah! Are you guys all nuts? At least a third of the reason I like Apple products is because the hardware is so good. The fit and finish, the design, the reliability. I’m typing on my fourth Mac laptop right now, but I have to use a PC for some of the work that I do, and right now, it’s a brand new Dell that looks like a child designed it and then hired a sibling to assemble it. The Dell would be more tolerable if it ran OS X, true enough, but it would be like installing the engine and transmission of a BMW inside of a Ford Focus and then being a consumer who expected a BMW experience.

  11. iburl says:

    This is one of the reasons Apple rules, they retain CONTROL of the computing environments. That’s why Macs don’t have as many problems as PCs. Appleites are willing -to pay the extra $600, so that they don’t don’t have to worry about things like trying to get a hold of the Psystart Tech Support Team when Apple’s Leopard Software Update transmogrifies their $600 lawsuit magnet into a smoking brick.

  12. iburl says:

    ‘Let’s go kick Intel’s Ass!” – Power Computing

    http://lowendmac.com/orchard/0

  13. Nick says:

    “but it would be like installing the engine and transmission of a BMW inside of a Ford Focus and then being a consumer who expected a BMW experience.”

    “actually its more like asking honda to put a ford engine into your car.”

    Yet in both these cases, you could very legally do this yourself without fear of Ford or BMW filing charges. That aside, the car analogy is not the most accurate.

    A better one would be of Sony building cars, and suing anyone that tried to install a Sony car stereo into any non-Sony vehicle. Why is it Sony’s business what I do with one of their stereos?

    The same holds true for Apple. It is in Apple’s best interest to prevent OS X from being installed on non-apple hardware, because they are using OS X to generate sales on their hardware. Their hardware is the cash cow, not their OS. However, it’s NOT in the consumer’s best interest because it means there is no longer a level playing field between Aplle and other PC hardware vendors. Apple can now sell its hardware at inflated prices relative to other computer makers.

    So this is GREAT for Apple, but generall BAD for consumers. There’s a conflict of interests here.

  14. rbarger says:

    to Chris Maxcer: bingo!

  15. Andrew DK says:

    “you gleefully pounced on the Microsoft for offering IE, a browser for Christ’s sake, with the OS!”

    Dude, who here said a damn thing about IE?

    “Bill never said “You MUST use our browser in OUR OS!”

    Oh my God, who the hell let these kids in here?

    No one here gives a damn about IE or Gates or your jackasstic comments. Seriously, they belong back in the 90’s when Apple fans actually WERE upset because the company they admired was not doing well. Yes, that was annoying, move on. Well, now apparently the tables have turned ’cause the only bitching I seam to be hearing these days is from whiny-ass anti-Apple geeks. Guess what? You’re as annoying now as we were back then. We’re square now, so stop, ffs.

    In conclusion, I think the regular readers here can all agree that the following are all annoying and should be avoided:

    -Apple/Microsoft fanboi smugness
    -whining about Apple/Microsoft’s supposed monopolies
    -bringing up decade old issues that no one cares about anymore and claiming we do

    Anyone else care to add to the list?

    Rant over.

  16. Aqua says:

    Church of Apple: Very well put. Very well put indeed.

  17. Doug S. says:

    From Psystar’s terms of service, apparently:

    “When you purchase an OpenMac you understand that you are not purchasing a computer made by Apple Computers, Inc. You understand that Apple Computers does not support the OpenMac in any capacity and that they may not approve of your usage of the OpenMac. In the same token Psystar does not guarantee that each and every program and feature will not operate correctly as the OpenMac is not supported by Apple Computers. Psystar does not support the OS X operating system. All copies of OS X sold by Psystar are legitimately licensed and purchased from Apple Computers and are not pirated in any way. Psystar does not guarantee that any of your peripherals, Apple-related or not, will function correctly. Psystar will not be responsible for your usage of the OpenMac in any way.”

    (source: http://www.crn.com/hardware/20

    Now, that’s standing behind your product! Well worth skimming $600 off the price of your computer, huh?

    Can anyone say, penny-wise and pound-foolish?

  18. Vsevolod Glumov says:

    I’ve seen a good explanation of what Apple do here: http://goo.gl/i76PL . Apple is playing with law, trying to find a way to ban the os86x community. The thing is, that they succeded in use of DCMA to prove that any change to original soft/hard ware is a crime, and you can’t build a hackintosh using NO modified software. Seriously, read the post there, they would explain it better than me.