Will Psystar Represent A Key Case Concerning Enforceability Of EULAs?

from the let-the-lawsuits-begin! dept

A few weeks back, a company named Psystar made some news by offering to sell PCs with Mac OS X installed. This raised questions about how legit this offer was. After all, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple years back, he killed off all licensing deals that allowed any kind of Mac clones. However, the company has been showing off the clones it's created. Now, the questions are all about whether or not Psystar's actions are legal. The company (of course) says it is legal, and that it's buying a legal copy of the operating system and installing it on PC hardware. However, the end user license agreement (EULA) includes the following:
"This License allows you to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time. You agree not to install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so."
That would seem to preclude what Psystar is doing. The News.com article above does an excellent job laying out the legal issues here. While the courts have found various clickthrough EULAs enforceable (even though no one -- including the companies themselves seem to read through them), it's possible that Psystar could attack the EULA from other directions. As the article notes, it could try to use the first sale doctrine (which allows you to resell copyrighted products you've bought) but that likely won't fly. What may be most effective (even if it's still a long shot under the law) is to claim that the EULA illegally "ties" the software to Apple's own hardware. However, making a claim about tying is quite complicated, and it seems unlikely that Psystar would prevail. This seems unfortunate for the market -- as getting some additional competition into the market would only help drive innovation. But, under the current law, it's difficult to see how Psystar can win.

Filed Under: apple os, eulas, first sale, license agreement, tying
Companies: apple, psystar


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  1. identicon
    Brooks, 5 May 2008 @ 11:17am

    What if they didn't agree

    Given that the EULA is kind of a "gotcha!" piece of paper or clickthrough, what if Psystar simple devised a way to install OSX without agreeing to the EULA? They could, for instance, create a modified image of an installation disk that doesn't require agreement (of course, creating that disk itself might violate the EULA, so it would be done on a Windows computer).

    There are probably other approaches, too. But as much as the courts seem to favor restrictive IP laws, wouldn't it be a bit of a stretch for Apple to argue that by bypassing the EULA, Psystar was implicitly agreeing to it? Or that people are bound by there mere presence of an EULA even if they don't take the slightest affirmative action to agree to it?

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