Would-be ‘Mac cloner’ Psystar tries risky allegation against Apple

“In its last legal salvo against Psystar, Apple suggested the Mac clone maker was backed by a silent third party or two. And at this point it better be, because there’s going to be hell to pay when Apple legal is through with it, regardless of how Psystar revises its original complaint. Its antitrust allegations against Apple dismissed, Pystar [yesterday] renewed its copyright claims against the company, alleging the Mac OS is designed to go into a kernel panic if it determines it’s being run on non-Apple hardware,” John Paczkowski reports for All Things Digital.

“That’s an intriguing allegation. Risky though, since it’s also an admission that Psystar has circumvented the technological copyright-protection measures built into OS X,” Paczkowski writes. “Apple contends Psystar has done so illegally, in violation of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Psystar says that’s impossible because the kernel panic-forcing code at issue here isn’t a copyright-protection measure.”

Paczkowski writes, “Who’s right? Who knows? But if it’s Apple, then Psystar presumably is guilty of circumventing Apple’s copyright protection systems under the DMCA. And that’s a felony, because Psystar profited from the circumvention.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “James W.” for the heads up.]


  1. @qka

    Harvey’s analogy with printer drivers may not be the best analogy. Try this one.

    RIM makes the Blackberry OS. This OS only works with Blackberry or other RIM-made phones.

    Sony makes the Playstation OS. This OS only works with Playstation or other Sony-made hardware.

    Apple makes Mac OS X. This OS only works with Macs or other Apple-made hardware.

    So if Psystar prevails, suddenly everyone and their dog could start suing RIM to allow their Blackberry OS to run on their third-party phone hardware, and Sony to allow the Playstation OS to run on their third-party game console.

    I can’t see any judge ruling in Psystar’s favor and creating those kinds of ripple effects through the industry.

  2. Lexmark had not long ago won a case against aftermarket toner manufacturers for building toners that work with Lexmark printers. In order to do that, they had to reverse-engineer encrypted code in Lexmark’s original toners and re-create the same code for their own toners. However, they subsequently lost on appeal. However, the opinions were written by all applate judges, and the majority ones provided nice legal material for future cases.

    Unlike patents, copyright protection cannot be applied to ideas, but only to particular, creative expressions of ideas. Distinguishing between an unprotectable idea and a protectable creative expression is difficult in the context of computer programs; even though it may be possible to express the same idea in many different programs, “practical realities” — hardware and software constraints, design standards, industry practices, etc. — may make different expressions impractical. “Lock-out” codes — codes that must be performed in a certain way in order to bypass a security system — are generally considered functional rather than creative, and thus unprotectable.

    With Mac OS X, it shouldn’t be difficult for Apple to demonstrate the creative expression qualities of their code. Once they accomplish that, they can invoke DMCA.

  3. By Pystar’s logic, I should be allowed to run the operating system from an. XBox on my PS3. Microsoft is monopolizing the XBox OS market…

    Oh yeah, I also want to run the OS from a TiVo on my DVD player, and the OS from a Sony TV on my cheap no-name set.


  4. Gabriel,

    “I can’t see any judge ruling in Psystar’s favor and creating those kinds of ripple effects through the industry.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with your entire post, but I can easily see some idiot judge (maybe the same fool who rendered the M$-Apple decision back in the 1990″s) ruling against Apple, especially in that backwater hole in eastern Texas where the trial is taking place.

  5. > Psystar says that’s impossible because the kernel panic-forcing code at issue here isn’t a copyright-protection measure.

    If there is such code, why is it NOT a copyright-protection measure?

    These guys are dead and desperate, and if there is financial backing, it was very smart of Apple to bring them into the picture. The damage claims will reach into deeper pockets.

  6. I agree with other posts about running OS’s or software from one product on another, but at least in these cases there would be effort required to make it work.

    Another analogy for me is films. If Psystars argument stood, then surely DRM on music and film would be illegal. And there is NO technical difficulty in studios releasing films for all media simultaneously. So they would have to release for iTunes and Netflix (which is another current story) at the same time as on DVD. Indeed, they would have to release on DVD at the same time as cinema. Furthermore they would not be allowed to block copying from DVD to computer or ipod etc.

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