Federal Judge Rules Against Scrappy Mac Clone Manufacturer Psystar

Sorry, Mac OS lovers who don’t love the price tags on Apple hardware. Apple has emerged victorious in their copyright lawsuit against Mac clone manufacturer Psystar. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled that Psystar is violating Apple’s copyright as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by selling computers with a modified version of OS X pre-installed.

While Psystar claims to purchase a copy of Apple’s software for every computer sold, these copies were allegedly not used during the manufacturing process. By installing the operating system on their computers through an imaging process, standard practice for computer manufacturers, Alsup ruled that Psytar made unauthorized copies of Apple’s property. This was necessary, though, because the version of OS X installed on Psystar’s computers was modified for that purpose.

“Psystar admittedly replaced entire files within the software while copying other portions,” said the judge. “This resulted in a substantial variation from the underlying copyrighted work. In fact, if the bootloader and kernel extensions added by Psystar were removed, then the operating system would not work on Psystar’s computers.”

Although Alsup’s ruling did not specifically mention subsequent moves by Psystar, which include selling the “Rebel EFI” utility , that program may now be in legal jeopardy.

Almost exactly a year ago, Alsup dismissed Psystar’s antitrust claim against Apple, ruling that the company is not a monopoly.

This isn’t over yet, though. The actual trial is scheduled to begin on January 11, 2010.

Apple Wins Court Victory Over Mac Clone Maker Psystar [PC World]

More Ways To Buy A Non-Apple Mac OS X Computer


Edit Your Comment

  1. davere says:

    Totally off topic but for some reason the stories are not opening in Firefox for me today, only IE. Am I the only one?

  2. Falcon5768 says:

    It is over for all purposes. The only thing going on trial now is Apple claims. Even if Psystar wins against them all, they will still lose.

  3. yoni242 says:

    SUCKS, macs are good computers but just too over priced. come on hackers you can beat the system.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @yoni242: Acuras cost more than the Ford Taurus as well. So be satisfied with your Ford, or upgrade to an Acura. Hotwiring your neighbor’s RSX isn’t really kosher, is it?

    • mizike says:

      @yoni242: Go to apple.com and look up the hardware specs for a macbook. Now go to dell.com and put together a system with those specs. Exactly how badly are macs’ overpriced again? Just because they don’t sell a laptop for $500, it doesn’t mean that what they are selling is overpriced.

  4. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Works for me if Firefox. Check your javascript settings.
    Another OT: 4pm EASTERN is comment cut-off?

  5. remington870_20ga says:

    My question with Apple is, whats going on with all the patent issues for their iPhone?

  6. seanhcalgary says:

    Good. Apple has every right to decide what machines their software runs on. They spent millions designing it, it’s their hard work, not Pystar.

    And besides, Apple doesn’t even consider themselves a software firm. They make hardware, and that hardware needs software to run on it. If they were forced to let OS X run on any piece of hardware, they’d go out of business. Remember the Mac clone program of the 1990’s? Nearly killed Apple (along with other problems).

    F*ck Pystar. Nothing but leeches.

    • AI says:

      @seanhcalgary: Yeah, f*ck Compaq too for leeching off IBM by reverse engineering the PC BIOS. The computer industry does not tolerate leeches! /sarcasm

      • Jaynor says:

        @AirIntake: Yeah, and f*ck Microsoft AND Apple for leeching off of Xerox to steal their idea for the graphical user interface and pointing device. Those bastages need to rot in jail.

        Oh wait… aren’t we defending CrApple?

        • Falcon5768 says:

          @Jaynor: If you knew anything about history, Apple didnt leech off Xerox, they purchased the technology and personnel for stock options in Apple. Xerox had the tech and couldn’t make it work.

          Microsoft reversed engineered the Mac OS though, they DID leech off Apple.

          • Jaynor says:

            @Falcon5768: If you knew anything about history you’d read up on the Xerox Star and Xerox’s lawsuit against Apple regarding GUI technology.

            You could then take that data and create an informed post.

    • quail says:

      @seanhcalgary: I’d argue that Apple is an assembly company. All of the memory, hard drive, and the rest are made by other manufacturers and are assembled into the Mac’s shiny shell. The same internal components can be found in many a PC. The configuration may be unique, and I do like the no dust gathering attributes of their G5 (or are they onto a G6 by now? Been so long). But in the end, they don’t have anything that’s unique.

      What you do get for the higher price, however, is excellent customer service. That’s what you’re paying for.

      • microcars says:

        @quail: ” I’d argue that Apple is an assembly company…..But in the end, they don’t have anything that’s unique.”


      • oloranya says:

        @quail: They’re not on G-anything anymore, it’s all Intel chips. They just call them Mac Pro’s, same case, though.

        And I’m not interested in the mac vs pc argument, so I won’t touch that, but you’re right about paying for the customer service. I have two macs and am on my second ipod (a touch), and I’ve had nothing but stellar service from Apple.

    • SuperMacGuy says:

      @seanhcalgary: @quail: By that logic a Yugo is the same as a Mercedes. But cheaper. :-/

  7. qwerty001984 says:

    This case in no way prevents people from selling Mac Clones. It just tells you what processes for installation you can’t do. Also, if you read the ruling the judge ignored a very important part of the copyright law that allows for minor modifications of copyrighted content. The reason the judge did not allow this defense was only because the Psystar lawyers did not bring it up a year ago.

    We will have to wait to another court case where they review the entire copyright law before we know if you can do what Psystar did.

    One thing for sure it does look like copyright law does not include common sense so they can’t clone the OS to save time and would have to install each computer from the original DVD to be legal.

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    This was theft, plain and simple. Leveraging off the shoulders of thousands from some Florida strip mall.
    Apple’s model is based on splitting their development costs on both their hardware and software sales, unlike Microsoft’s (which is why OS X costs $20 versus W7’s $200). So Psystar’s moral argument is a sham.
    Apple’s value proposition is simple: if you want reliable, functional, beautiful, secure computing, go with them. If you don’t, if you’re blind or if your time has little value, go for the other guys.

    I hope Apple goes for damages to provide a woeful disincentive unseen since the Old Testament to pilfering thieves like this.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @Trai_Dep: Since when did OS X cost $20? And I’d say that most of their sales don’t come from computers, hardware or software (well, if you stretch the definition of “computer” a bit, maybe).

      Oh well. I do it myself.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @jamar0303: Sigh. If you don’t know much on a topic, it’s generally wiser to listen than blurt out what’s residing off the top of your head. (OK, $29, but my point still stands: what’s the SRP for the generally available eighteen different versions of Windows?)

        @Rachacha: But when you purchase a shrink-wrapped copy of OS X, you’re not buying the source code with all attendant rights to modify to your heart’s content, then to turn around and sell “your” software, are you?

        Don’t get me wrong, I respect people that like burrowing into the innards of computer OSs, but isn’t that what Linux is all about? For that segment, get Linux and have at it: it’s made, licensed and distributed for precisely that purpose. :)

        • jamar0303 says:

          @Trai_Dep: You said Apple’s model was based off an even split of computer hardware and software. I’m saying that no, it seems to be mostly coming from iPods and iPhones.

          (and as for the price, seems like there’s a reason it’s exponentially cheaper than Windows or even older versions of Mac OS this time around…)

    • gerrycomo says:

      @Trai_Dep: Yes, the prrrrreciousssssss MUST remain untouched and virgin…

    • shepd says:


      You’re making a joke, right?

      What’s next, I’m a thief because I throw away ink jet printers I get for next-to-nothing when the starter cartridges run out?

      Reliable? Not in my experience.

      Functional? Have you ever tried repairing a mac?

      Beautiful? Yes, I have to give you that.

      Secure? Does OS X offer full disk encryption yet? I know all the OSes I’ve used on my PC do.

      My time is of high value. That’s why I can’t risk being without a computer for days on end while I find specialized parts for a Mac. When something goes wrong on my PC (I managed to blow up the DVD drive the other day, for example) I just throw in off the shelf parts (In fact, in my place I literally have enough spare parts to build several computers beside the one I regularly use) and it keeps on trucking.

      • secret_curse says:

        @shepd: What’s complicated about repairing a Mac? The G5 and MacPro towers are extremely easy to open and are amazingly spacious to work in. It’s extremely easy to swap out any part in those bad boys. The laptops are a little tougher to get apart, but I generally expect to spend about 30 minutes disassembling a laptop and 15 minutes putting it back together if I’m doing a complete teardown no matter what the brand is. RAM swaps on a MacBook only require removing the battery and 2 or 3 screws. The hard drives aren’t as accessible as some PC laptops, but I’ve worked on Toshiba laptops that require complete disassembly just to get to the RAM.

        As far as finding parts, ifixit.com has pretty well everything you could need. Sure, you might not be able to walk into a store and find a part to repair a Mac (though you can use off the shelf RAM or HDDs), but I’d rather order from Newegg if I need something for one of my PCs anyway.

        • shepd says:

          @secret_curse and zentec:

          The last macs I have dealt with were an eMac (Exposing 20,000 volts to anyone who wants to change more than the ram, nevermind being a ridiculous nightmare hooking the power switch back up), an iMac, and a mac Mini. All of which were ridiculous contraptions from a servicability standpoint.

          New macs use relatively normal hardware now, yes. However, they tend to use more expensive versions of the same hardware that I don’t have on hand (Firewire if you want to install from an HDD, 2.5″ drives, in the old days Apple branded DVD drives if you wanted the burning capability to work). Furthermore, the “everything built on board, no PCI sockets” approach that many macs take makes for an unpleasant experience when you want to replace items.

          No, I do NOT want an external drive umbilical-ed to my machine because that’s the “way” to fix a Mac. USB and Firewire are slow and unreliable compared to SATA. I also don’t want to screw with the external power supplies required if I want to hook up off-the-shelf hardware externally. Yes, I could use a laptop HDD and DVD drive, and there’s some possibility it’ll work if I plug it in to multiple USB ports. That’s a hack, slow, unreliable, and, quite frankly, sucks.

          My DVD issue cost me $0 to repair with my PC (off the shelf stuff) and I fixed it in 5 minutes *internally*. The drive itself, when I choose to upgrade it, will cost me $29.99 and will be from the same reliable manufacturers Apple uses.

          As far as reliability goes, PC server hardware is still cheaper than top-of-the-line Apple consumer hardware, and this same server hardware has redundancy in it that the Apple lacks. It also provides higher speed, immediate on-site support, and proven multi-9 reliability. If one choses to run a server grade OS on the same hardware, one can also experience the same reliability from the software, as well. I’m even including server-oriented windows in that. I regularly deal with PC systems at work with multi-year uptime. I’d lose my job if I couldn’t keep that up.

          @Nicole: Burning a cheap-n-nasty DVD-R dual layer that managed to lock up the DVD drive firmware. I didn’t want to reboot at the time, so I decided to unhook the molex connector, and reconnect it to reset the drive. Silly me, I did it without actually looking at the connector (Hey, I’ve done this for 10 years, I know what I’m doing) and rather than risking the PC PSU shutting down due to the IDE problems this causes, I actually managed to jam the connector in upside down close enough it arced, after I dropped it, of course. 12 volts on the 5 volt rail = :(

          • secret_curse says:

            @shepd: Since those were the last Macs you dealt with, I’d honestly encourage you to check out some of the newer hardware and software.

            Back when eMacs were around, I was a hardcore Mac hater. I just couldn’t stand OS9, and my college upgraded to 10.0 my freshman year. 10.0 was as bad as Vista at launch IMHO. 10.1 came out pretty quickly and made things a lot better, and now OSX is a brilliant operating system.

            I also think Win7, Ubuntu, and Solaris are great operating systems. They’re all just different tools to assist you in working or playing. I’m not trying to go all Mac fanboy on you, but if you take a look at the latest offerings from Cupertino, you might be pleasantly suprised.

          • dieselmachine says:


            People don’t care because Apple isn’t big enough to do any damage.

            If they somehow got as big as MS, they’d have to deal with the same bullshit. Bundling itunes as an unfair competitive advantage, etc. MS had to separate WMP not because it was bundled, but because it was bundled AND they dominate the computer industry.

            Apple is just lucky enough to not be subject to the responsibility that comes with actually being a player in the market. They advertise all day and night and still run what, 5% of the market?

            If you can only hit 5% even with a massive propaganda machine paving the way, you’re probably not ever going to be a competitor.

      • zentec says:


        Waiting for “specialized” parts is a lot more common on the PC end these days; ever look for a Dell power supply? How about HP? Any computer that isn’t made from beige-box parts is pretty much going to contain some element of manufacturer specific components.

        A blown DVD drive isn’t necessarily a crisis on a Mac nor a PC considering I can buy an USB DVD writer for $80.

        Apple grants you a right-to-run license for OS X when you buy their hardware. No different than what Sun, SGI, Coherent and many other manufacturers have done for years.

    • Rachacha says:

      @Trai_Dep: So it is thievery because Apple chose a business model that was based on the selling of hardware, and sought to make little or no profit from the selling of an operating system?

      If I legally purchased the software, I should be able to do what I want with it. I would not expect Apple to provide technical support for Hackintoshes and if Apple pushes out an update to the OS that instructs the OS to not operate on an Atom processor commonly found in netbooks [www.liliputing.com] No problem as I am violating the TOS but not necessarially breaking a law.

      All that said, people buy macs becuase they are generally more stable than a PC because apple knows every possible hardware configuration and can test and debug for those configurations. Running a MAC clone I would have to imagine degrades reliability, so if you want a Mac, pay for a Mac to take advantage of the advantages of a Mac.

      • tailstoo says:

        @Rachacha: 90% of the people who bought a Psystar system would expect it to work just like a machine from Apple. When something in the OS changed and the machine stopped working, Apple would be getting the angry calls.

        Hackintoshes are fine for computer savvy people, but selling unauthorized Mac clones to retail customers is something I understand Apple wanting to stop.

    • qwerty001984 says:

      Apple does not develop hardware or mafacture anything. They use common PC hardware and sell it for more than market price.

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    Kernel extensions?

    Now you really gave me a hankering for bacon flavored popcorn.

  10. incident_man says:

    Y’know, if Psystar and others wanting to clone the Mac were smart, they’d take OpenDarwin and write their own OS around it (just like Apple did) that just happens to be OSX compatible. As long as they don’t do ANYTHING with OSX and engineer it themselves, they can sell “Mac clones” all day long and there would be nothing that Apple could do about it.

  11. JollyJumjuck says:

    I just wonder why Apple won’t sell any drives with Blu-Ray capability? Can one buy a Blu-Ray read-only or read-write drive and hook it up to a Mac?

  12. DragonThermo says:

    Ditto to everyone who had this thought: How can a reasonable person NOT see that Apple is a monopoly? With the exception of Psystar, how many manufacturers of Apple computers are there? Can you get a Dell-branded Apple computer? Can you get an Acer-branded Apple computer? The answer is no.

    Because Apple is a monopoly, they can charge more for their computers than what they could charge if they were not a monopoly. Where is the FTC when they should be protecting the public? The FTC and DOJ need to break up the Apple monopoly.

  13. Kabukistar says:

    Who says Apple isn’t a monopoly?

    If Microsoft declared that you had to buy a computer from them in order to get Windows, there would be a shit-storm. Yet, Apple’s been doing the same thing for years and no one seems to care.