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How does Apple prevent piracy of OS X?
February 17, 2005 4:38 PM   Subscribe

How does Apple prevent piracy of OS X updates? You always hear so much about Microsoft's Windows Product Activation and CD keys that I'm curious how Apple deals with the same issue.
posted by smackfu to Computers & Internet (24 answers total)
 
afaik, they don't.
posted by fishfucker at 4:42 PM on February 17, 2005


(also, incremental updates -- non-major-version-numbers -- don't seem to have a problem loading onto cracked versions -- AS I"VE BEEN TOLD BY THE ARCHETYPAL FRIEND)
posted by fishfucker at 4:44 PM on February 17, 2005


I don't know the answer to this, but here's my take on it. I've always inferred that because you can only install OS X on a computer you bought from Apple in the first place, Apple is less concerned than Microsoft about piracy. If everyone pirates Windows, Microsoft goes broke, but if everyone pirates OS X, Apple at least saw some of your money when you bought the computer you installed it on. As a result, Apple can afford to trust its customers more than Microsoft can.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:45 PM on February 17, 2005


They don't seem to care, but that doesn't account for their future outlook. I have yet to hear of anyone being denied an update, either through Software Update or direct downloads, of OSX update packages that were copies or otherwise not legit. I have installed OSX on G3 machines from the 'System Restore' disk of a G5. There is no serial number or access key for OS installs. In other words, they are very lax about it but that's not a reason to do it. Where I work we have a multi-client license but there is no way I know of that they check for it.

What makes them relatively nice is that all Apple computers come with the latest OS, so it's rare that you'll ever need to break a license, and I think Apple understands this. In the PC world I can very easily round up a new machine from parts and have to find a new license.

What you need to watch out for though is installing or downloading pre-release Apple software. They have recently gone and sued a set of people that provided 10.4 beta versions over Bittorrent (where everyone who downloads also is a provider.) They are very concerned with their trade secrets, so be careful.
posted by neustile at 4:50 PM on February 17, 2005


Actually, doesn't Microsoft let most users get the patches? I know that XP SP2 required a valid key (or one that wasn't on the 10 most pirated list) but before that, back when I wasn't legit, I never had any trouble getting updates. Maybe my name is on a Microsoft naughty list now.
posted by graventy at 4:53 PM on February 17, 2005


graventry, starting soon you'll have to prove you're legit before you can install Windows updates.
posted by zsazsa at 5:22 PM on February 17, 2005


starting soon, there will be a large pool of of un-patched windows machines with known exploits out there -- a virus/worm writer's dream world.
posted by pmbuko at 5:28 PM on February 17, 2005


what neustile said. but when pearpc starts running faster and faster, then I'm guessing apple will start to care.
posted by dorian at 5:39 PM on February 17, 2005


Basically they just send out a C&D request/sue when something major and public happens. The give out full install OSX cds with their computers that have no copy protection (that I know of).

Get OSX 10.1.1 for free with magazine purchase (C&D).

Developer seed of OSX 10.4 bittorrented (sue).

Really they don't have a problem, since the only people who pirate OSX are almost always just doing an upgrade. Apple is a hardware company - OSX is just a bonus. That's why they don't have to worry about piracy much. They also shoot for a higher-end market; I'm sure piracy can be directly related to a country's GDP per capita.

With windows, you can build your own machine and get a pirated copy of windows for it. The only way to to get a OSX capable computer without getting OSX with it would be to buy an old mac off of eBay that supports XPostFacto. Otherwise, your only need for a illegitimate copy is for upgrades. And most users don't upgrade their OS unless they have to - thus, less profit to lose. As neustile said, Apple is more concerned about secrets.

(Note: PearPC does not make an OSX capable computer by any stretch of the imagination currently.)
posted by easyasy3k at 5:43 PM on February 17, 2005


Apple copy-protects their operating system with a hardware dongle. This dongle is called a Macintosh.
posted by kindall at 5:44 PM on February 17, 2005 [1 favorite]


've a g3 powerbook running osx; it is basically at the utter low end of usability. pearpc runs somewhat slower than that, i.e. not yet suitable for everyday use. but it's getting there.

heh kindall made prosecco come out my nose. bastid.
posted by dorian at 5:47 PM on February 17, 2005


also, whenever ibm get round to selling desktops based on the playstation3 hardware and people can easily run osx via maconlinux, that will probably piss off apple nicely. I would also give the pegasos hardware as an example, but those jokers actually make apple hardware look cheep.
posted by dorian at 5:53 PM on February 17, 2005


Given all that, I'm kind of surprised they sell any OS X upgrades to Mac shops.
posted by smackfu at 6:30 PM on February 17, 2005


kindall wins. awesome summation of the situation.
posted by neustile at 6:41 PM on February 17, 2005


They have recently gone and sued a set of people that provided 10.4 beta versions over Bittorrent (where everyone who downloads also is a provider.) They are very concerned with their trade secrets, so be careful.

If I'm not mistaken, wasn't the lawsuit about forcing the people to reveal their sources more than it was actual copyright infringement/intellectual property "theft"/whatever-you-call-it?
posted by odinsdream at 7:12 PM on February 17, 2005


I thought the sources one was about the FW-based GarageBand dealie that was on ThinkSecret or something? either way (esp. if the Garage Band dealie is true) someone broke an NDA..
posted by mrg at 7:36 PM on February 17, 2005


Apple copy-protects their operating system with a hardware dongle. This dongle is called a Macintosh.

This is almost, but not quite true, since the "dongle" can run almost any version of the operating system, including unpaid upgrades.

Basically, Apple doesn't protect their client OS from illegal copying.

However, Mac OS X Server does require a valid, unused serial number. The serial number will not work on multiple machines in the same subnet.

(Some other applications that Apple sells also require a serial number: Keynote and ARD, to name a couple examples.)

Kindall's comment is true to the point that Apple makes their profits from hardware sales, not software. However, Apple's profits from software are always increasing. There's no indication that Apple would want that to change, so...

Doing some Tiger beta tests, there were hints that registration would be worked into the final release. Tracking information has been put into beta releases, and has been used to track down torrent feeds.

It is uncertain whether or not this will make it into the GM of Tiger. My guess is no, based on precedent.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:50 PM on February 17, 2005


"The give out full install OSX cds with their computers that have no copy protection (that I know of)."

The OSX DVD that came with my brand new 12" Powerbook G4/1.5 explicitly will boot but not install on other hardware. I tried to run it on my 12" Powerbook G4/867 (so I could nuke it and sell it) and the installer complained that it was the wrong model. This might be difficult to defeat for the average user.

So, while it may be historically true that hardware-bundled installers were indiscriminate about how they were used, that seems to have changed.

As far as upgrade installers go, so far there seems to be little to no anti-piracy technology in use, though the installers usually do check that you have a previous version of the OS installed.
posted by majick at 8:23 PM on February 17, 2005


"The OSX DVD that came with my brand new 12" Powerbook G4/1.5 explicitly will boot but not install on other hardware. I tried to run it on my 12" Powerbook G4/867 (so I could nuke it and sell it) and the installer complained that it was the wrong model. This might be difficult to defeat for the average user."

That's funny because my stepdad just bought Panther from macsales.com for 59 bucks thinking it was a good deal. They sent him the CD package that comes with a 15" Powerbook: manuals, restore,OS disks and all. He kind of felt shafted but it worked on his G3. I guess it's legal to do this? Anyone know?
posted by sammich at 9:43 PM on February 17, 2005


what neustile said. but when pearpc starts running faster and faster, then I'm guessing apple will start to care.

I disagree with this. I don't believe enough people will ever run OS X in PearPC for it to be that relevant. Also, consider that people running PearPC are people who are most likely already in possession of a mac (hence having OS X), or are never going to buy a Macintosh in the first place. Beyond that, you could even see using PearPC to run OS X as a "try before you buy" experience, which would entice them to purchase a Mac outright. So, I propose that PearPC is nothing but good for sales of Macintoshes, and OS X.

Also another thing to consider is that antipiracy measures cost time to implement, and time, as always, is money.
posted by angry modem at 8:24 AM on February 18, 2005


Given all that, I'm kind of surprised they sell any OS X upgrades to Mac shops.

I wonder about this, too. I work in a company where we've got about 250-300 Macs that is, in turn, part of a larger holding company, so we've got a licensing program that entitles us to all the upgrades, but my hunch is that smaller shops generally don't upgrade major revs on the same machine.

I also wonder what the divide is between Mac and Windows, as well. A lot of non-techies I know don't ever upgrade their Windows boxes and look at me like an alien when I suggest ditching Windows 98.

And then you've got folks like PP, who are still running OS 9...
posted by mkultra at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2005


From my experience, retail OS X installers work on any machine that meets the minimum hardware requirements. The installers that ship with new computers, however, are often specific to that make and model. Retailers who sell iBook install disks are being shitty.

Apple Pro software, like Quicktime, Final Cut, and Soundtrack, will not get updates with pirated copies, or so I have been told (ahem!).
posted by mds35 at 9:10 AM on February 18, 2005


when pearpc starts running faster and faster

When PearPC starts running faster and faster, it'll be because hardware is becoming faster and faster. Emulation will always be at least an order of magnitude software than native software running on the same processor -- usually more like two.
posted by kindall at 10:29 AM on February 18, 2005


Here is a kind of esoteric idea, but for me it happens to be true. I like Apple and it's products. I don't want to cheat the company because I want them to suceeed and continue to innovate. So as a consequence I BUY the updates. And use the older versions on my other computers. Or in the case of Panther I bought a five license copy.

OTOH, I hate Mircosoft, so I if I need a copy of it's OS I steal it.
posted by CCK at 11:33 AM on February 19, 2005


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