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Abusing Copyrights to Silence Critics, Control Customers, and Crush Competition

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Hardly a day goes by without yet another news story about creative uses of copyright, the DMCA, and generic attack lawyers to stifle free speech, criticism, and competition. It seems that money can buy all kinds of creative "justice." For example, in the increasingly bizarre Apple vs. Psystar drama, in which Psystar commited the awful crime of selling a tool to help customers install Mac OS X on the hardware of their choice, Apple have prevailed yet again in court, and Psystar cannot do this anymore. Linux Today readers, as usual, offer clear insights:

What They've Twisted Copyright Into

"The whole case with Psystar just underlines what big business has twisted copyright into. The so-called 'DRM' in Apple's operating system isn't to prevent copying of the software, but to prevent installation on a non-Apple machine."

"Psystar wasn't selling pirated copies of Apple's operating system, they were simply installing legitimately purchased copies of the operating system on machines not made by Apple. The only thing prohibiting this is the EULA for the operating system, not copyright law, so how does this this by any stretch of the imagination make them "hardcore copyright infringers"? At most it puts them in violation of the EULA, a contract, not copyright law.

"Since it is not a violation of copyright to install the operating system on other hardware besides Apple's, the DMCA does not apply. The DMCA only applies to circumventing copy protection, not circumventing installation protection (and installation is specifically covered as an exception to copyright protection according to U.S. copyright law, so for legal purposes it does not constitute copying).

"Did Psystar violate the EULA on OS X? Perhaps they did. A better question might be, "Is that part of the EULA legal?" It stomps all over the normal fair use rights of consumers. In any event, this is not a copyright case and shouldn't be regarded as one. Money behind you makes all sorts of things possible though."

Will not stop Mac clones

"If Apple thinks it has scored a major victory here it is mistaken. While Psystar was appallingly brazen by actually marketing and selling Apple clones, the hacker community has been developing methods and hacks for installing Apple's venerable OSX onto ordinary Intel/AMD based hardware for years. The underground community behind these so called "Hackintosh" machines is large and growing. While I understand Apple's position in maintaining total control over the hardware and software, I can't imagine how allowing even unsupported installation of OSX onto generic PCs would hurt Apple. In fact, in my view it would be a win-win situation for all concerned. Perhaps if OSX and its huge commercial software library were available as a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows, we'd actually get some real innovation out of Redmond."

Shutting Up Truth

Court orders three H-1B sites disabled looks like a classic SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Political Participation) lawsuit, and an example of abusing copyright to shut up critics. Unfortunately in this case it has partially succeeded. If copyrighting documents is all it takes to shield them from critics and whistleblowers, then we are in seriously bad shape as a country. As this reader observes, even the most generous interpretation is hard to put a positive spin on:

Can't have it both ways

"I could accept EITHER that they were the copyright holders, or that the contents were false and defamatory. I can't accept BOTH as being true. So the company is lying about at least something, even if we can't tell what. Unless there's a much more subtle explanation (e.g., it was put together as a joke inside the company), which I might believe if they explained it. Possibly.

"OTOH, news reports usually distort things. So perhaps we're being presented with a distorted image? (This, however, sounds like the kind of things that get reported straight, because they're boring, and thus not worth any extra work.)

It sounds much more like legal intimidation and the court abusing the weaker party than anything else."

This case also vividly highlight the perils of Internet publishing-- there are many links in the chain outside of any individual's control (domain name registrar, hosting provider, Internet service provider, telcos), and all it takes to shut down a site is to break any one of these links.

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