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Apple Believes Someone Is Behind Psystar 606

rgraham writes "From the article on Growler: 'Apple apparently believes that somebody else is behind Psystar, which might help to explain why a major law firm would take on what seems like a fly-by-night's case; also why Psystar has been so bold in continuing to sell its products. I knew this thing felt funny. As Alice in Wonderland might put it, "It gets interestinger and interestinger."'"
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Apple Believes Someone Is Behind Psystar

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  • I had to see da wiki (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:59AM (#25989593) Homepage Journal

    I haven't heard of this particular bruhaha or indeed, Psystar itself. TFA had few clues, it was apparently not its first blog about Psystar. So if anyone else is curious, I'll quote and link []

    Psystar Corporation is an electronics company based in Miami, Florida which sells surveillance and communication equipment, and, most popularly, "Open Computers". These computers, first announced in April 2008, have the option to be pre-installed with Mac OS X Leopard, making them the first commercially-distributed hackintoshes.[1]

    The end-user license agreement for Mac OS X forbids third-party installations of Leopard, and Psystar's Mac clone is in violation of that agreement.[2] However, Psystar believes Apple's prohibition against third-party installations might not hold up in court: "What if Honda said that, after you buy their car, you could only drive it on the roads they said you could?"[2] Psystar says it will continue to sell the Open system, adding "We're not breaking any laws."[2]

    On July 3rd, 2008, Apple filed a lawsuit against Psystar in the District Court of Northern California.[3] A case management conference was scheduled for October 22nd to plan out future proceedings of the trial.

    On August 28th, 2008, Psystar Corporation responded to Apple's claims of copyright infringement, and also countersued Apple for anti-competitive practices, monopolistic behavior, and copyright misuse.[4][5] This countersuit was dismissed on November 18, 2008.[6]

  • Re:miss quote [sic] (Score:2, Informative)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @11:59AM (#25989597) Homepage
  • Re:Growler Groklaw (Score:5, Informative)

    by Graff ( 532189 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:10PM (#25989775)

    For those who wonder WTF "growler" is, they meant "Greplaw"

    Erm, you mean Groklaw [] right? That's where the article from the Slashdot submission is from.

    Greplaw [] is a different, if similar, site.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Informative)

    by B1 ( 86803 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:24PM (#25989985)

    The deal is that Compaq reversed engineered IBM's BIOS -- the only part of the design that was a trade secret. Everything else with the PC was very well documented and easily reproduced. The BIOS calls were already well documented. All Compaq needed to do was come up with a fully compatible BIOS without using IBM's code. Compaq came up with workalike BIOS using clean room techniques (or was it Phoenix technologies or some other shop -- I don't remember). I'm sure IBM fought tooth and nail, but they obviously weren't successful.

    As for Apple vs. Psystar, it's quite different, the issue is that Psystar is violating Apple's software license agreement (that the OSX software will only be used on Apple-branded hardware). There are software checks in OSX to verify the hardware is Apple's, which means that Psystar would have to patch OSX to bypass those checks, and then distribute the modified code as their own OS.

    Had Psystar somehow reverse engineered OSX with clean-room techniques to produce their own fully compatible workalike, this might be a very different case.

    Also, copyright laws have changed quite a bit since 1981. I don't know if Compaq would have been able to legally clone the PC with today's laws.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:25PM (#25989997) Homepage Journal

    ...are they implying that Microsoft has something to do with this?

    From an earlier Groklaw article:

    On the theme of folks piling on Apple lately, here's a new lawsuit against Apple, claiming Apple is trying to monopolize MP3s. And here's another, complaining about monopoly again and how Apple is such a meanie for not letting iTunes play Microsoft's DRM-encrusted format, Windows Media Audio. I've come to the conclusion, personally, that if you compete against Microsoft and start to win, you get sued by litigants who suddenly care about stuff only Microsoft can possibly care about. Speaking of monopolies. Complaining that iTunes on the iPod doesn't support Microsoft DRM doesn't pass my sniff test. I simply do not believe there is a customer in the world that would sue over that.

    Just my opinion, folks. But I confess when I see a lawsuit complaining that DRM won't play, I start to wonder who might really care about that. I know I don't. I don't know anyone who cares about that, actually. That's what vendors fall in love with, not customers. Maybe in an alternative universe. And lookee here. The plaintiff is a lawyer. Well.

    P.J. definitely has a point here. As such, Apple may have a point in their filing. The question is, how far abstracted from Psystar are the parties that Apple is really looking for?

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot.stango@org> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:35PM (#25990183) Homepage Journal

    I don't get the double standard of why Compaq's cloning of the PC was good while Psystar's cloning of the Mac is bad

    Not good cloning versus bad cloning-- legal cloning versus illegal cloning.

    IBM wanted to get a machine on store shelves quickly back in 1981, so they built an open system that was easily copied. The only proprietary thing about the IBM PC was the BIOS, which had to be clean-roomed. The Compaq BIOS was designed from scratch to mimic the genuine, copyrighted IBM BIOS in function, but other than that was an entirely original product. IBM sued over it and lost.*

    Today's Macintosh is, from a hardware standpoint, an more or less open system that is easily copied. The only proprietary thing about a Mac is OS X. But Psystar isn't designing their own duplicate of OS X that does the same thing, which would be legal (ignoring patented aspects of Mac OS X for the sake of the argument). They are illegally altering an existing, copyrighted product. That's the difference.


    * Later, in an attempt to stuff the genie back into the bottle, they developed the proprietary Micro Channel Architecture to make their hardware a closed system to kill the cloners. The plan flopped-- the companies that were making clones banded together and standardized on a new open architecture (the ISA bus, IIRC) themselves, and from that point on IBM no longer dictated the direction the development of the x86-base personal computer would take.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amazing Quantum Man ( 458715 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:46PM (#25990393) Homepage

    the companies that were making clones banded together and standardized on a new open architecture (the ISA bus, IIRC)

    No, the ISA bus was already out there (it was the 16-bit AT bus). The So-called "Gang of Nine" created the EISA bus, which was also backwards compatible with ISA cards.

  • Re:Power Computing (Score:3, Informative)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @12:47PM (#25990401)
    Power Computing was the only clone manufacturer who was completely bought by Apple as opposed to having their contract canceled like the other and for good reason, their computers unlike the other clones where excellent.

    I don't know if I'd say they were "excellent". They were more powerful than comparably-priced Apples, though. I had to deal with about 150 Power Computing clones many years ago. While they were a good value, they were nowhere near as reliable as the Apples from the same timeframe. Not to mention that many shipped with CD drives that you couldn't boot from (this made systemic wipes/restorations a bit of a pain). When it came time to upgrade, we cleared out the Power Computings as quickly as we could.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:11PM (#25990827) Homepage Journal

    I think Microsoft would be willing to pay quite a lot of money for a legal precedent in favor of shrinkwrap EULAs on operating systems, especially if they can make Apple look like the bad guys each time they call on the precedent.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by fidget42 ( 538823 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:36PM (#25991235)


    Why is it illegal to clone Apple Macintosh computers, but it was not illegal to clone the IBM PC? Why is Apple protected, but IBM was not? What's the distinction?

    Because IBM made the mistake of not getting an exclusive license to DOS.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zenaku ( 821866 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:36PM (#25991237)


    Because it is currently 2008, instead of the 1970's, and the legal environment has changed. If today's laws had been in force when the IBM PC was cloned, it would never have been allowed.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:4, Informative)

    by neoform ( 551705 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:41PM (#25991321) Homepage

    IBM Compatible []: "IBM PC compatible computers are those generally similar to the original IBM PC, XT, and AT. Such computers used to be referred to as PC clones, or IBM clones since they almost exactly duplicated all the significant features of the PC architecture, facilitated by various manufacturers' ability to legally reverse engineer the BIOS through clean room design."

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dougisfunny ( 1200171 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:41PM (#25991325)

    I always thought the problem was with the software (only allowed to run on a mac) and not the hardware.

    Pystar is selling software on the clones, I seem to recall that being the basis of the case.

  • Re:It's true. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gilmoure ( 18428 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:44PM (#25991361) Journal

    I'm Spartacus and so's my wife!

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:54PM (#25991519) Homepage Journal

    You can "clone" a Mac all you want. Hell, at this point the Mac brand is more or less a clone of a PC anyway. Copy it and sell it all you want, just don't use any Apple branding on it. The kicker here is the software. OS X has a nice friendly EULA which stipulates that the software can only legally be run on Apple brand hardware. Despite the fact that you are buying a program to do with what you please, and it only takes a minor amount of circumventing to allow it to run on non-Apple hardware, it is illegal nonetheless. That is, if you believe EULAs are binding in the first place.

    No comment on that.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:4, Informative)

    by scotsghost ( 1125495 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:55PM (#25991527) Journal

    In a (very boiled-down) nutshell, IBM completely lost control of the platform. Same thing happened to Apple with the AppleII, but Apple learned and introduced some technical protections with their next product line -- the Macintosh. One thing they did was to include system software in ROM hardware, making it much harder to reverse-engineer. [] []

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:56PM (#25991549) Homepage

    Also, copyright laws have changed quite a bit since 1981. I don't know if Compaq would have been able to legally clone the PC with today's laws.

    If the circumstances were the same, only the time period and legal climate was changed, then yes they could. Clean room reverse engineering is still a legal and valid way to duplicate someone else's product, the only real change to this being the DMCA which wouldn't apply because the IBM BIOS did not include any access control mechanism.

    However if IBM of today could send a note back in time detailing what they know today to IBM of 1980, then there's no way Compaq would succeed. They would have made sure through their licensing and business agreements that nobody could make a PC without the IBM BIOS. Their biggest mistake, the one they would most emphasize in their time-traveling letter, was not signing an exclusive deal for MS-DOS. It was because of this that when the clones appeared that Microsoft could sell MS-DOS to them, which is why over time the definition of PC changed from "IBM-compatible" to "runs a Microsoft OS". IBM lost control of the PC market and handed it to Microsoft because of that mistake.

    I think clones would still have existed, once they also got a sufficiently compatible DOS. Prior to the arrival of clones, the PC market was much smaller, and maybe MS wouldn't have been able to play the tricks they did later to stymie DR-DOS and others. Would the world have been better off with IBM PCs running MS-DOS and "IBM compatible" PCs running NOTMS-DOS? I think so.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:3, Informative)

    by scotsghost ( 1125495 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @01:57PM (#25991575) Journal

    You don't think Mac clones were tried in, oh, 1986 or so, a wee bit closer to the Mac's introduction? Without benefit of the 2008 legal landscape?

  • Not True (Score:4, Informative)

    by waldoj ( 8229 ) < minus author> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:05PM (#25991677) Homepage Journal

    You write that Apple "granted permission" to the maker of Franklin and then yanked it. That's simply not true []. Not even close.

    In Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., the 3rd Circuit found that Franklin did so without any permission from Apple, but Franklin's logic was that you can't copyright something software isn't written down on paper. They copied ROMs that had no equivalent for sale on paper, ergo they didn't need to ask permission and Apple couldn't stop them. The circuit court ruled in favor of Franklin, because there was no legal precedent allowing software to be copyrighted, which is how it got bumped up to the circuit court, who ruled for Apple.

    Obviously, Apple was right here. Without copyright for software, we'd have no GPL and the open source movement would still be stuck at the "freeware" stage.


  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by B1 ( 86803 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:32PM (#25992131)

    The sticking point was always the Mac ROMs, since those contained Apple's proprietary / copyrighted code.

    Any company could slap a 680x0 chip, some RAM, and other misc. parts onto a motherboard and call it a Mac emulator board... but the Mac ROMs were the tough part, and they were essential.

    IIRC, there were Mac emulator boards for the Amiga and Atari ST, but you had to transplant the ROMs yourself (from your old Mac).

    Apple did actually license clones at one point, but only for a brief period of time...

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:3, Informative)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:46PM (#25992369)
    Because IBM made the mistake of not getting an exclusive license to DOS.

    There were strong sales of MS-DOS PCs before the IBM BIOS was cloned. Microsoft had been smart to retain its independence from IBM and smarter still about setting the price for DOS.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hawk ( 1151 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:49PM (#25992415) Journal


    I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If you want that, wire me a retainer :)

    A few years ago, an artist was buying barbies and modifying them. My favorite was "Trailer Park Barbie," with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, a baby on her hip, and a voice bubble saying, "My daddy says I'm the best kisser in the trailer park!"

    Mattel was not amused, and did successfully shut these down.

    If you pasted commentary into the Harry Potter book, my inclination (though I'd need to research before standing by this) is that you'd be ok, while if you pasted in paragraphs changing the story and sold your version, you would be in trouble.

    hawk, esq.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:2, Informative)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:58PM (#25992533)
    Shh, don't tell PETA or you'll get a bunch of crazies after you for animal exploitation :)
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @03:14PM (#25992813)
    There are lots of PC companies that probably see Windows as a bit of a stumbling block to future sales.

    Of the fifteen "5 Star" laptops you can walk in and buy at any WalMart store, all run XP or Vista. Customer Favorites []
    Of the 86 laptops sold through, seven are netbooks running Linux, and "not available in stores."
    The notion that Windows is a stumbling block to sales is lunatic.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lars T. ( 470328 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @03:47PM (#25993297) Journal

    I keep pointing out that Apple didn't file against Psystar until the pro-EULA decision in the WoW Glider case came through.

    Too bad you are wrong then. Yes, the news of Apple's suit came out on July 15th, a day after the Glider decision. However Apple filed its suit on July 3 []

  • Re:It's true. (Score:4, Informative)

    by CelticWhisper ( 601755 ) <celticwhisper AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 04, 2008 @04:07PM (#25993567)

    This is madness.

  • Re:LOUD, Crazy Loud (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:41PM (#25994813) Homepage Journal

    The post was modded off-topic because his post had nothing to do with the one he replied to.

    He should have left a new comment instead of just automatically replying to the first highly-modded post. This is an abuse of the comment system to get his own comment to appear as high-up on the page as possible. I have mod points and I nearly modded him down myself, but I decided that explaining another modder's motives would be of greater help.

  • Re:Awwww... (Score:2, Informative)

    by db32 ( 862117 ) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @05:57PM (#25995021) Journal
    Actually I have a huge problem with that EULA popup crap where you agree after purchase. However, agree before purchase is pretty simple contract law. You either agree and purchase or you disagree and don't purchase. Apple makes no secret that their License Agreement is only for "Apple-labeled computers". Their whole tagline for Leopard is "add a new Mac to your Mac".

    The only time I have seen EULA legitimately questioned was when it was that click-wrap crap where you have to open/install and then cannot return it if you disagree or when it violated First Sale (ala AutoCAD lawsuit).

    Companies sell their products at a price based these contracts. Fact is, you cannot do whatever you want with what you purchase. You can't make copies of DVDs and sell them legally for example. If you could really do whatever you want with any product you buy things like OSs and DVDs would only be available to the ultrarich. What movie studio is going to sell you a master copy for $10 at walmart? Apple set its price of $129 with the condition that it only can be used on Macs. They are well within their right to do that. If people don't like it noone is forcing them to buy it or use it. Hell, MS has more restrictions and bullshit with their OS and it costs twice as much. Apple sells a 5 license family pack for $199, how much do you think 5 Vista licenses will cost you?. Also, OSX installs have no bullshit product keys, activations, or other such nonsense. So in turn for not treating their customers like criminals they get thier stuff stolen and people whining about how they should be allowed to steal it from them. This is exactly why companies turn to such horrid draconian measures.
  • Re:Awwww... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mstone ( 8523 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:01AM (#25999149)

    Cloning a PC wouldn't be legal either if IBM hadn't screwed the pooch on getting the first product to market.

    First of all, IBM massively underestimated the potential for growth of a microcomputer market. They held the idea that Big Iron was the only true definition of computing, and that things like the Apple ][ were hobbyist toys that would never amount to anything. They made the further mistake of assuming that if a market for 'toy' computers did start to become worthwhile, they'd have plenty of time to develop and ship their own product.

    They were wrong in both cases.

    When IBM finally decided to sell a PC, they were of the opinion that Apple was 6-12 months from getting a lock on the microcomputer market. If IBM couldn't put a product on the shelves by that time, there wouldn't be much point in trying.

    So they tasked an engineer with the job of creating enough of a product to hold a space in the market while the designers put together something really good. Being a good engineer, he did a baseline critical path analysis, and learned that with all the forms, paperwork, and meetings, it would take something like 18 months to ship an empty box with "IBM PC" printed on it. Actually designing a computer to put in the box, shopping for parts suppliers, building an assembly plant, and all those other little details would just push the ship time farther out.

    So, faced with the choice between losing a new market entirely or skirting around standard procedures, he proposed a radical plan: design a machine out of off-the-shelf parts, and contract third-party assembly shops to do the construction. That would allow IBM to put a product on the shelves within the 6-12 month deadline, but it would also create an enormous risk: anyone else who wanted to enter the market would be able to do exactly the same thing just as quickly, and just as easily. In fact, it would be even cheaper and easier for the me-too competitors, because they could skip the R&D phase and copy IBM's hardware design more or less verbatim (a process that came to be known as 'cloning').

    So they built the whole thing around a chip which could only be sold by IBM: the BIOS.

    The BIOS was a computer program burned into ROM. IBM held the copyright on the program, so nobody could legally duplicate that chip. But the BIOS was also tightly integrated with the hardware. Without it, the rest of the computer was just a box of random components. But those components were arranged in such a specific way that it would be hell to try to design a compatible product that wouldn't require IBM's BIOS to run. In one version of the fantasy, IBM wouldn't have to build computers at all, they'd just license BIOS chips to all the other companies that wanted to build hardware.

    Then along came a company called Compaq, which reverse-engineered the IBM BIOS, and built a legally clean BIOS of their own from the reverse-engineered spec.

    IBM sued, and lost. Compaq's legal team had done its homework on maintaining the 'virginity' of the coders who wrote the cloned BIOS.

    At THAT point, IBM lost all control of the PC hardware market. And since their OS had also been outsourced to a little company up in Seattle, they didn't have any hooks left in the product.

    So in answer to your question: it's legal to clone a PC because IBM was lumbering, stupid, arrogant, in a big hurry, and not thinking very clearly when it spent tons of money pushing a design into the market that could be ganked away from them almost overnight. In the process, they handed half of their market dominance to Microsoft (whose OS became the only thing that made the hardware a 'PC') and the other half to cloners like Compaq.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser