Apple Computer Inc. has won a significant copyright case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals panel rejected a claim by Psystar Corp., a small computer maker, that Apple abused its copyright by requiring that the Apple, Mac OS X, operating system software run on Apple computers. Psystar didn’t deny it infringed the Apple copyrights but argued Apple overstepped its rights and that the license limits Apple to claims for unauthorized copying and distribution. Psystar argued Apple had no claims against it for its use once it the software was purchased.
The appeals court disagreed.
Judge Mary Schroeder, writing for the panel, also upheld the injunction against Psystar’s continued infringement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Psystar did win on the single issue of an overly broad order sealing records in the case and ordered that U.S. District Judge William Alsup unseal the records.
Apple sells Mac OS X software in retail-packaged DVD’s with licenses to allow existing customers to upgrade their Mac computers. But the company requires that the system be used only on Apple computers.
In 2008 Psystar began making and selling personal computers, originally named “OpenMac” and then renamed “Open Computers.” It sold Open Computers with Mac OS X, using a legally purchased copy of the DVD that was used to create a master image and reproduced in its Open Computers for sale to the public and included an unopened copy of Mac OS X, which Psystar bought from Apple.
Apple sued later that same year for copyright infringement and trademark violations.
Psystar countered that Apple misused its copyright by requiring purchasers to use Apple computers.
Schroeder said the copyright misuse doctrine does not prohibit Apple from setting conditions to control use of its copyrighted material. What it does prevent is copyright holders using those conditions to stifle competition. That was not the case here, according to the court. Psystar and other competitors are free to develop their own software and consumers may use non-Apple components with their computers.
Case: Apple Inc. v. Psystar Corp., No. 10-15113