With the ruling on the weekend, and Apple lawyers putting the final stake in rogue company Psystar’s heart, it is clear to see that you just don’t mess with the legal system put in place by the computer industry, which may be the thing that people hate most.

The article I posted concerning the dubious usage of OEM or System Builder copies of Windows 7 further shows that only the lawyers who craft these instruments understand them, as certain Microsoft employees and confederates don’t have the story straight on proper usage.

A story on PC World, concerning the Apple – Psystar case shows that much of the time, software patents and end-user-license-agreements are not only vague and restrictive, they run counter to commonly accepted norms of sensible practice.

I don’t agree that Apple should have the ability to restrict the hardware that I install the Mac OS X software on, but based on the application of existing laws I can understand why Apple won this case. The fact that Apple can leverage existing law to maintain draconian control over how its products are used is a flaw with the laws and their application, not with Apple.

I don’t understand or agree with most copyright law and EULA restrictions as they pertain to computer hardware and software. As far as I am concerned, Apple dictating what hardware I can install Mac OS X on is like Doubleday Books telling me where I am allowed to read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, or like Sony restricting me from playing The Taking of Pelham 123 on a Toshiba DVD player.

Having read the EULA of every piece of software I have ever bought, it amazes me that we are at a point where software makers have users by the short hairs on many things, and users only hope of any sort of compensation or help with problems is in the public shaming of the software provider.

It is very certain that software providers have a very sweet deal.

How many times have you read phrases like “ said company is not responsible for any hardware or software incompatibilities, including those causing data loss ‘ and thought to yourself, “Why does anyone in their right mind agree to this?”

It means that you get to pay for something, which, by the way, you’re only renting, and if anything bad happens that company doesn’t know you and (like the disembodied voice in Mission: Impossible) disavows all knowledge of anything concerning you or your computer. However, if you should want to use that rented piece of software on another machine, most likely you will hear from the built in copy protection, and, in some rare cases, hear from those same lawyers that made that EULA you really did not understand to begin with.

Imagine if other industries worked like that. Let’s use cars as an example. You pay $30,000 for the privilege of indefinitely ‘borrowing’ a Chevy Camaro, but General Motors reserves the right to tell you where you can park it. And, if you try to customize or modify it in any way, like changing the factory-default rims or installing a new stereo system, General Motors sues you for creating a ‘derivative work’. There would be riots.

I fully understand that I can’t reproduce the product in part or whole for redistribution as my own. Got it. But, once I have paid Apple for my copy of Mac OS X it shouldn’t be Apple’s business any longer what I do with it. If I want to modify it to make an automated toaster oven, or use the DVD as a coaster for my coffee mug that should be my prerogative. Its mine, I paid for it.

That’s the way it should work, but in fact, real life is far different from that ideal situation. As a matter of fact, I’m certain that’s why software is only rented, instead of sold. Your rights, concerning many things with your interaction with that software would be distinctly different if you held ownership.

This judgment comes in the wake of the recent update Apple released for the Mac OS X operating system that prevents users from creating ‘Hackintosh’ systems. By removing support for the Intel Atom processor, Apple effectively disabled the ability for users to install Mac OS X on inexpensive netbook hardware.

The Psystar case and the Hackintosh ‘update’ both work to ensure that Apple retains complete, draconian control of every aspect of Mac ownership. From developing the operating system, to what hardware the operating system can run on, to where you can buy the hardware and software, Apple dictates the customer experience.

The result is a solid operating system and a wonderful customer experience, with little or no potential of growing much beyond its current market share. Apple seems to be generating huge profit and maintaining high customer satisfaction just fine though, so choosing draconian control over market dominance seems to be working out OK.

The author wraps up the article in a sort of “and everyone lived happily ever after” sort of way, but things really should not be that neat.

While those on the side of software development say we would never get anywhere if software companies were forced to fix their buggy software, I say that we might not need to have such frequent updates if said software worked correctly in the first place.

While it’s true that software would certainly cost more if it was forced to work correctly, might we not be much happier because of it? I’m certain some hate it when I use car analogies, but so many times, since cars are another passion, the analogous situation is quick to come to mind, and I think it is easier to demonstrate a thought or case with something that is more concrete.

The analog I would cite here is the Nordic countries, where citizens there spend much more for their Saabs and Volvos. They keep the cars for a longer time than we do in the United States. The car makers know that for the customer to be moved from his usual 7-10 year cycle of purchase, their new car must include a ‘cannot live without it’ feature, as well as demonstrating improvements in every other area. Otherwise, no increase in domestic sales. Because of this model, the customers are very loyal, buying domestic most of the time, and the producing companies do well abroad, because their product is superior in features and build quality.

Also, these companies are less concerned with difference for its own sake, and stay with basic designs for a few years, preferring to refine features, and build consistent quality, while upgrading individual parts for improved reliability.

If the software industry used this model, there would be much higher usage of new products, much less churn from manufacturer to manufacturer (customers trying to find software nirvana),  I am not so naive as to think that piracy would stop completely, but casual piracy, from people thinking that the software, as delivered, is less than worth the price asked, and rationalizing their misdeeds, would stop.

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Mad as Hell (Howard Beale-Network)should we not all be, “Mad as Hell” about software copyrights and EULAs?



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