Apple Trounces Psystar in Court Ruling

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It’s a legal fight that’s been brewing for over a year, but now a heavy hammer has come down: U.S. District Judge William Alsup has ruled categorically against Mac clone maker Psystar, finding the company violated Apple’s copyrights by pre-installing Mac OS X on its own Intel-based computers. The judge also threw out Psystar’s motions that Apple was misusing copyright law to monopolize a market, and that Psystar had the right to do anything it liked with Mac OS X under the “first sale” doctrine.

“Psystar has violated Apple’s exclusive reproduction right, distribution right, and right to create derivative works,” Judge Alsup wrote in his ruling (available as a PDF via Groklaw). “Accordingly, Apple’s motion for summary judgment on copyright infringement must be granted.” The ruling also found that Psystar violated the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The ruling provides legal backbone to end-user license agreements (EULAs) included with most commercial software and operating systems. Apple’s EULA for Mac OS X restricts the software to use on Apple computers and specifically disallows using the operating system on non-Apple systems.

While the ruling is a sweeping victory for Apple—and few in the legal community expected any other outcome—it does not mean an end to the legal wrangling between Psystar and Apple: Judge Alsup did not rule on damages from copyright infringement, or on Apple’s claims involving trademark infringement, breach of contract, and other issues. Psystar also has a case pending against Apple in Florida, in which it claims Apple illegally ties Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” to Apple hardware; however, in light of Judge Alsup’s ruling, Psystar’s Florida case seems like a very, very dim hope.