Apple Seeks To Patent 'Anti-Piracy' Technology. Will Steve Jobs Be Dumb Enough To Use It?

from the counterproductive dept

PCWorld alerts us to an application filed by Apple for a patent titled "Run-time code injection to perform checks." In a nutshell, it covers an operating system periodically checking running applications to determine whether they're pirated, and shutting them down if they are. Now, it should be kept in mind that the fact that Apple has filed a patent application doesn't prove that it will be used (or that it will be granted). To the contrary, companies routinely patent ideas they never intend to implement just so they will have more ammunition in future patent battles. As Microsoft discovered, systems like the one described in the patent inevitably produce false positives, and disabling a paying customer's copy of your product is much worse than allowing a non-paying customer to use it. Moreover, such tools do little to stop piracy, because inevitably someone finds a way to get around them, and news of the workaround quickly spreads around the Internet. So as a result, these kinds of "anti-piracy" programs mostly serve to annoy paying customers, who have to endure slower system performance and periodic "piracy checks" to verify that, yes, they're still paying customers. Thus far, Apple has differentiated itself from Redmond by declining to incorporate significant copy protection in its operating systems. That's given them a key marketing advantage, and I rather doubt Jobs would want to throw that advantage away in a futile attempt to stop piracy.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    TriZz, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:11pm

    OS X

    It's a niche market for Apple. (For the most part) if Apple stops someone from piracy, they're only preventing an upgrade, since OS X (again, mostly) only runs on Apple hardware. OS X also comes with Apple hardware. So, the pirates (in this case) already have at least one valid copy of OS X.

    If Apple does this, it ONLY affects their customers. Whereas if Microsoft does it, it's more than likely to bug those who build their own PCs AND upgraders AND valued consumers.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    TriZz, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:15pm

    Re: OS X

    I guess the point is...I can only see this coming to fruition if they open OS X up to other hardware.

    I don't see that happening (at least not in the foreseeable future), since the appeal of OS X is the sort of 'elitist' community of owning an Apple computer.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: OS X

    actually the appeal of owning a mac is owning a computer that just works and works well. oh and security.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: OS X

    And costs twice as much as any other computer with the same hardware specs

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Heywood, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: OS X

    And doesn't have much in the way of software.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    shanoboy (profile), Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:43pm

    "actually the appeal of owning a mac is owning a computer that just works and works well. oh and security."

    Another great thing about a mac is when a piece of hardware goes bad and it costs a fortune to get it services since you can't really service macs very easily yourself. Not like PCs anyway. A DVD drive in a PC go bad, pop in a new one for $40. A DVD drive in a new Mac go bad... good luck with that.

    I have nothing against Macs, I like em in fact. But they are a bit elitist and I would never run an OS that did have a feature like this entegrated. Hopefully Apple never implements it.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:51pm

    Apple is trying to protect their hardware sales!

    2. "I can only see this coming to fruition if they open OS X up to other hardware."

    I think it has the opposite purpose, to keep people from running OSX on their own hardware. The patent states that it will "restrict execution of that application to specific hardware platforms."

    In other words, if you are not using Apple's specific hardware platform, you're out of luck. I think this technology will be used to make it harder for all the OSX hackers getting the OS to run on non-Apple systems.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Tim Lee, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:51pm

    Tim Lee an Expert?

    Where do you get your opinions from Timhah?

    Why is disabling a paying customer worse than disabling a pirate?
    How do you know there is slower system performance?

    How do you figure Apple has a key marketing advantage? Do they market this fact? No dip$hit....they do not.

    If Apple developed this and it really worked, would it be so bad? Only to people who read this forum who STEAL from Corporations that develop software and the shareholder/employees who support it.

    Stick to facts Timmah. Nobody wants your "Expert" opinion.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    ShanoHandjobO, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    You wouldn't run an OS like this because you wouldn't be able to pirate software. That's why. No because the OS has this feature. Hell, my money is on that you didn't pay for the OS you're using to post this msg. OH that's Right! Your a Linux User. Non-Elitist Pond Scum.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Tim Lee an Expert?

    "Why is disabling a paying customer worse than disabling a pirate?"

    That's not what Tim wrote, he wrote "disabling a paying customer's copy of your product is much worse than allowing a non-paying customer to use it." That is worse because disabling a paying customer means you could piss-off and lose a paying customer. And in the real world, people who use pirated versions of Windows are not impacted at all by WGA. So it ends up only hurting only paying customers.

    "If Apple developed this and it really worked, would it be so bad? Only to people who read this forum who STEAL from Corporations that develop software and the shareholder/employees who support it."

    See my comment in 7. It could stop a paying customer of OSX from installing it on his own computer. In other words, the point is not to stop piracy, it is to force people to buy Apple hardware.

    And look at WGA, it in no way stops piracy of Windows software. Once again, it only frustrates legitimate users of Windows.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    ehrichweiss, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Tim Lee an Expert?

    "Why is disabling a paying customer worse than disabling a pirate?
    How do you know there is slower system performance?"


    Maybe because Micro$loth had the same issue a couple months ago and lots and lots of their paying customers were affected to the point that they removed the program that caused the problems. If that happened to me(and I were still a M$ user), I'd jump ship so fast they couldn't keep track of the numbers, and my clients(who do use M$) would come with me on my recommendation.

    And when you add any new service to an operating system, you are going to take some form of a performance hit. No way around it. If you don't understand why, maybe you need some classes to teach you about how computers work.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    jb, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:10pm

    Retard

    You obviously know nothing of macs, as you can disassemble them in reccord time with virtually NO tools, they are built to take apart.

    As for you retarded DVD analogy, again you are ignorant and cannot help it if you did not know that almost ANY dvd drive can be put inside one of the new towers and the old for that matter. I own and work on both Win and Mac boxes, and swap things like dvds all of the time. If you can afford, which apparently you can't, the workstation grade win boxes, you can even swap out the RAM on the new units, probably the processors also.

    Think before you spout stupidity, some of know how things work.

     

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  13.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Tim Lee an Expert?

    Where do you get your opinions from Timhah?

    Tim is well known and well respected in the space. Who are you?

    Why is disabling a paying customer worse than disabling a pirate?

    That isn't what Tim wrote (perhaps before insulting Tim, it would help to actually read what he wrote...). However, Tim supports the point he did make pretty completely in the post.

    How do you know there is slower system performance?

    Adding an additional function will only serve to slow down system performance. That should be fairly obvious. On top of that we already have the evidence of WGA to show that it's true as well.

    If Apple developed this and it really worked, would it be so bad?

    Yes, yes it would -- as Tim describes in the post. You did read it, right?

    Only to people who read this forum who STEAL from Corporations that develop software and the shareholder/employees who support it.

    I'm beginning to wonder about your reading comprehension skills. Tim makes it pretty clear that he's not supporting unauthorized copying (which, again, isn't stealing, but that's a different argument). He's simply pointing out that any such solution is clearly going to have false positives which hurt legitimate purchasers (as we've already seen with WGA). And it won't stop unauthorized copying, because it won't take long for someone to figure out how to get around the restriction and then that version will be infinitely available to those who want an unauthorized copy.

    In other words, it won't stop the dishonest folks. It will only stop the honest ones. How is that possibly good?

    Stick to facts Timmah. Nobody wants your "Expert" opinion.

    Actually, yes, lots of folks want Tim's expert opinion. Techdirt has always been about providing opinion, and we're not going to stop just because someone who refuses to identify himself and who doesn't bother to read and appears to have little comprehension of what he does read suddenly gets upset. And, beyond just us at Techdirt, I can also say that plenty of folks want *Tim's* opinion, both within his work at various think tanks and within the Techdirt Insight Community, where Tim's expert insight and analysis has put him among the top ranked experts. And that ranking is based on how actual companies rate his insight. He is currently in the top 10% -- giving verified proof that plenty of folks want and value his insight and are willing to pay for it.

    So who are you again?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Houdini, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Tim Lee an Expert?

    Oh, come on now Mr. Magician. A service like that is called "Overhead". And a service like that will not give the app a performance hit to the point it becomes noticeable or a hindrance to the end-user.

    And give me a break. Your "Clients", all 2 of them, wouldn't jump ship based on your recommendation because most companies cannot just "jump ship" without a very large investment of money. Yes Mr. Weiss, even for a fr33 g@y linux OS and their open-source programs. It costs money/productivity to train people and all the drama that goes with that.

    Loser. Give back your A+ Certification.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Iron Chef, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:44pm

    Already done...

    The logic of runtime/injection code checks falls in line with another patent filed about this time last year with the WIPO for media.

    http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?wo=2007044276


    However, I believe previous art exists. For example, way back in 1997, I created a few programs that would give a pirate a "warm fuzzy" feeling and lets them run the software a few times with full access with a valid serial. It then cordially asked to confirm through a third party.

    If user selected to not perform third party auth, it will give you a few more times to run before it prohibits running altogether, and then forces third party auth... It even had "Silent Check" routine that the programmer could call from frequently-used functions, which would CRC32 check files...

    I was quite proud of it, and released it as a library for others to incorporate into their software, even had CRC32 checks on the software under the brand new GPL license.

    I admit, I really went crazy with it... If anyone needs previous art, let me know.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Alcoholics Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 2:59pm

    Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!!!

    oh, it's on!!! Mac vs. PC #873,241: New Years Slay Watch as PC owners try to drive some sense into Mac-heads. Winner? =nobody.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Boris, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Tim Lee an expert?

    "Why is disabling a paying customer worse than disabling a pirate?"

    Actually, if you read the article properly, the real Tim Lee states that disabling a paying customer is worse than NOT disabling a pirate. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

    "How do you know there is slower system performance?"

    It's pretty obvious that introducing a new process is going to use up resources that otherwise would be available to your other software.

    " Stick to facts Timmah. Nobody wants your "Expert" opinion."

    Well I value it. Not so keen on your venomous crap, though, 'false' Tim Lee.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Boris, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 3:48pm

    re: above

    Ah... yes.... had that article open in a window for an hour or two - as a result the above is pretty much redundant. Still it had to be said at least once....

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    RJ, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 4:27pm

    APPLE DRM

    IT WILL HAPPEN, AND YOU WANT EVEN KNOW IT.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 4:29pm

    Endure?

    "... who have to endure slower system performance..."

    Yeah, running a few checks a hour on a dual or quad-code machine that can do six or eight billion instructions a second is really going slow system performance to a crawl. Oh, the things we must endure...

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Gryphon (profile), Dec 26th, 2007 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Total COA?

    @shanoboy

    A Mac can use a lot of the same common components that a PC does. It's perfectly possible to swap lots of things around, cheaply, between the two types of machines. PCI cards, hard drives, DVD drives, keyboards, joypads, etc, etc. All do adhere to certain standards (IDE, PCI, HID, etc.) you know, and even made-for-Mac common parts are pretty reasonable. Not all things are compatible - some items have firmware-specific code for one type of machine, but the majority of standard parts are swappable.

    Case in point, I used a lot of Sonnet (made for Mac) parts in PC builds just because of the sweet purple mask they coated boards with. That, and you could usually assume that if the card had a certain type of chip on it, all would. My main machine still has a Sonnet USB card and an IDE (w/onboard laptop HDD) controller in it.

    Granted, the entry price for a Mac is a *lot* higher, and you miss the experience of selecting all the goodies for your machine and putting them together. But hey. Not everyone likes to turn screws, or wants to. You have to pay for that. That's the same reason a pre-built PC is more expensive.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous 2, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 10:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: OS X

    "And costs twice as much ..."

    You haven't been doing any comparison shopping recently, have you?

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Damien, Dec 27th, 2007 @ 9:06am

    "Oh, come on now Mr. Magician. A service like that is called "Overhead". And a service like that will not give the app a performance hit to the point it becomes noticeable or a hindrance to the end-user."


    Ever met a computer gamer? Trust me, we notice the performance hits from this type of crap. This isn't even restricted to gamers. Any graphics program (you know, one of the things Mac's are supposed to be known fore), audio processing program, or video program will see a hit.

    You might think that modern dual/quad-core processors are immune from slowdown from such "overhead" but they're just a susceptible to it as any other. Most code out there doesn't even know how to run on a dual-core; it sticks to 1 of the cores, maxes it out, and maybe runs the other at 20-30%. Try running a security check while you've got core #1 redlined at 85-90%; you'll see problems.

    "And give me a break. Your "Clients", all 2 of them, wouldn't jump ship based on your recommendation because most companies cannot just "jump ship" without a very large investment of money. Yes Mr. Weiss, even for a fr33 g@y linux OS and their open-source programs. It costs money/productivity to train people and all the drama that goes with that."

    I disagree. This might be true of large corporations with hundreds of computers. It's not true of small businesses, which make up the bulk of the American economy. It might just be anecdotal experience but I personally know of at least two businesses in my area who run Ubuntu on all of their machines. They have yet to have any problems.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    xwinuser, Dec 28th, 2007 @ 11:02am

    All I know is...

    I bought an iMac back in November, because I like Leopard. I've pretty much despised Macs since they were created over 20 years ago.

    That said, one of the reasons I bought an iMac was because there is no phone-home-ware in the OS. If Apple injects this crap onto my machine, via a stealth update (no-opt-out), I will promptly put my iMac up on Ebay.

    I'm getting really tired of Tech companies thinking they can invade one's privacy via phone-home-ware, malware, and marketing data-mining-ware.

    It's MY machine, and I DON'T agree to that crap. Though I have a valid product key for my XP box, it has never been activated, and never will be. (And yes I still get updates).

    It looks like Linux will be my only refuge from these intrusions. 2 of my machines are already linux boxes.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Azmo, Dec 29th, 2007 @ 5:09am

    Re: Endure?

    "Yeah, running a few checks a hour on a dual or quad-code machine that can do six or eight billion instructions a second is really going slow system performance to a crawl."

    Why does my quad core with 2 gig of RAM run Vista like a dog while XP zips along, even if I turn down all the bright and sparklies?

    Yeah, all those little "oh, one more process won't hurt, ppl will be running big beasty machines" insertions that have made it a bloated piece of crap.

    If Apple wants to stroll down the same path as MS, good luck to em. The elitists can now get MS bloat on Mac OS. I'm sure they'll be very proud of that fact.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    pcmerc, Dec 30th, 2007 @ 12:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: OS X

    Sure apple is great for idiots. It just works is right. Most of the end users don't even know how to use the power of a UNIX OS. Point & click is just that. Monkeys can operate it. As for security, that boils down to the end user. If your not smart enough to use it, go learn.

    How about that iphone? It's shit until you hack it. Once hacked, then it's actually MYphone. Until then it's just another appliance by a company that was going nowhere until they built an OS based on a UNIX foundation which in turn lured all the unix users as well as the idiots using them in schools.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    pcmerc, Dec 30th, 2007 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re:

    It cracks me up how no one will say they have pirated.

    Keep up the good work pirates.

    Even if piracy went away all these companies be it games, software, whatever, would still charge HIGH prices for shitty software.

    Now if they were like flashfxp or something similar where you pay $20-$30 for a great app & upgrades are free for the lifetime of the product then it's work buying.

    Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one & they all stink, smell mine?

     

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