Piracy and Ownership (drivers and OS X on Intel)

Discussion in 'macOS' started by atszyman, Jun 15, 2005.

  1. atszyman macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #1
    I have had an interesting thought over the past couple of days.

    Everyone seems to agree that somewhere, somehow, someone will hack the OS X that gets installed on the Intel based Macs to run on stock Intel boxes. Some drivers for unsupported hardware will have to be written. The question then arises:

    Who owns the rights to the drivers?

    Can Apple keep a close eye on these unauthorized users and then just take any good drivers that they might write since they used a pirated version of software to write it? If I steal all of the parts to build myself a car from one source, the car technically belongs to the establishment that I stole the parts from, correct? If I get caught, they get the car (all of their stolen parts) back and I get thrown in jail. Could Apple be making OS X just hard enough to crack that most people won't bother and then using the people that do hack it as a source of new drivers?

    Just a thought.
     
  2. strider42 macrumors 65816

    strider42

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    #2
    since apple owns all and any copyrights to the software, and any unofficial drivers that are made are in violation of the license agreement, any drivers made would be illegal and apple would sue any entity distributing them. So owngin illegal drivers isn't really soimething someone would want. Apple wouldn't own any such drivers, but the drivers are still illegal, and I don't know that you can claim copyright ownership of something that is patently illegal.

    And personally, I think apple may make it harder to do then people think. There's a lot that will have to go into hacking OS X to run on unsupported hardware depending on the method apple chooses, and writing drivers isn't going to be trivial, especially with apple legal breathing down your neck.

    Just because something is possible doesn't mean it will happen on any kind of scale. remember, apple wasn't the only group using PPC processors, but you never saw OS X hacked to work on non apple motherboards. The old mac OS required a hardware rom to work, which was actually cloned in South America when some weird import laws prevented macs from being sold there, but you never saw clones here or anything because of the legaility issues.
     
  3. atszyman thread starter macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #3
    I'm not saying it would be easy to make OS X work on standard Intel boxes but it won't be impossible. The comparison to other PPC motherboards isn't very good since most other PPC motherboards are not cheap or widely available. The fact that everyone and their dog can get an Intel motherboard and processor for <$300 will make it that much more appealing for hackers to try.

    I also wasn't saying that there would be an entity to sue for distributing the drivers. Plenty of software is pirated on the net right now without being prosecuted. If drivers for a non-Apple supported piece of hardware were to show up on usenet, and happened to be well written, couldn't Apple roll that driver into the OS in an update/future release? Would the original developer have any legal recourse? Could Apple, use this as an "unofficial" development team?
     
  4. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

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    #4
    In the past people used to hack the Apple System x.x all the time and write extensions and bootloaders to get the System to run on "unathorized machines."

    Heck, some of the tweaks were so good Apple started shipping them during their future OS updates.

    Of course this is a bit different since these hacks made the newer Systems run on older Macs, or allowed hardware updates.

    Apple is likely act like they have recently, on the attempts to get around the iPod DRM.
     
  5. jcgerm macrumors member

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    #5
    Uh, would you mind explaining how writing a driver for a piece of hardware is illegal? That really doesn't make any sense.
     
  6. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #6
    What license is Darwin under? This is the major question, as it defines the copyright of drivers. All of Apple's kernel is open source under the APSL , I believe. I also think that this is a "free" license, so you can write any module to interface with the kernel that you want as long as it is available for inspection (I am sure there is a workaround to the source opening for commercial entities, I just don't feel like reading the whole license).

    So as far as making new drivers for Darwin, it is perfectly legal.

    Oh yeah, Darwin is the kernel of OS X, if you don't know. The kernel handles the hardware layer, and thus uses the drivers.

    Jim
     
  7. atszyman thread starter macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #7
    If you steal the tools used to write the driver, i.e. pirated the development tools, then I'm not sure where the legal ground on ownership is. If I were to steal the parts to build a computer I don't own the parts, and therefore don't own the computer.
     
  8. jcgerm macrumors member

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    #8
    Steals the tools?? To write a driver you just need access to the kernel (which is open source). There's API documentation, different API's, and even HOW-TO's for writing device drivers. The only dev tool you really need is gcc.
     
  9. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Heck, you don't even need that. You just need a published API of the driver interface to the kernel just so you get the hooks right and a compiler. There are several companies that support Windows drivers without kernel source access, I am sure. It would be suicide for an OS maker (even Apple) to not give access to a driver API.

    Drivers will be made (and will be legal), but not many people know how to do the whole hardware-level programming and do it well (stability, remember?). Plus you need specs, which aren't exactly available from most companies. Just look at the driver situation with video cards in Linux, as a small example.

    Jim
     
  10. strider42 macrumors 65816

    strider42

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    #10
    if you are modifying anything in apple's OS, its illegal. they own it, you don't have the right to modify it or make derivitive works. I don't know a whole heck fo a lot about programming or OS/hardware interaction I admit, but you could be sure apple would do everything possible

    Whats more, apple could probably invoke the DMCA to prevent people from getting around the copyright protection that ties the software to their won machines. Even if the tools or Darwin source is available, it doesn't make it legal to circumvent apple's tying it to particular hardware. And its a clear violation of the license agreement.

    And if apple uses some fo the new trusted computing ideas coming from intel et al, they could be violating more than just apple's claims to under the DMCA.

    Also, Darwin != OS X. Again, I'm no expert, but it seems like apple could pretty easily add something to the closed source part of OS X that would make it impossible to run on non-apple machines without hacking the closed source, which would obviously be illegal.

    In short, we need to wait and see how apple implements the tying to their own hardware to see how people might be able to get around it.

    Chances are that apple could write better stuff than anyone could hack together, since they have all the code right there and can get documentation from the OEM's whose hardware they wanted to support. I think apple would avoid using code written by anyone from outside the company unless it was clearly licensed, through open source or otherwise, for them to use. If someone wrote a driver, they might still have a copyright case, even if the product was illegal. Hard to say. I don't know that the law has caught up with an eventuality like that yet.

    The other thing is that if apple wants an unofficial development team, they'd probably get the darwin community to do it, since all of that would be properly licensed under the bsd license.
     
  11. jcgerm macrumors member

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    #11
    It's not modifying an OS. Drivers are supplementary modules that essentially plug into the OS, allowing it to talk to different pieces of hardware. Besides, the kernel is open source and covered under the APSL, just like Jim said. Writing driver is legal, period. Circumventing a piece of hardware that prevents OS X from running on non-macs isn't, but the two are mutually exclusive.

    Just curious...what do you think a driver is?
     
  12. atszyman thread starter macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #12
    Ok, I understand that. That also clears up any legal issues. Drivers developed in this manner are also subject to the ASPL and therefore can be distributed with Darwin (included in OS X) at Apple's whim, correct?

    Will Apple be utilizing the base of advanced users who hack OS X to run on a standard generic Intel PC as a possible source of drivers for hardware that is not currently supported?
     
  13. strider42 macrumors 65816

    strider42

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    #13
    I'm definiltey no expert on any of this stuff. But it seems obvious to me that writing a driver to get around protections apple put in place is a clear violation of the DMCA, whether its through hardware or software means. And a plug in must be interacting with the OS on some level, and if apple chooses to disallow this under the license agreement, it seems like it would be illegal to me. And writing a driver to make darwin work on other hardware may not make OS X run on other hardware. they aren't the same thing. I mean, they got dawrin working on intel a long time ago, but it wasn't the same as getting OS X running on it. But maybe I'm misunderstanding how it all works together.

    But maybe I'm completely wrong. I dunno. just throwing out my opinion based on my understanding of the law.
     
  14. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #14
    Actually, no. You are making incorrect assumptions for the subject at hand. Read my above post about the APSL. Darwin (the kernel, which is a good fraction of an OS) can be freely modified and adapted. As said above also, none of that really matters when it comes to drivers. Apple has no IP to protect with other peoples' drivers, and they'd shoot themselves in the foot if they went after driver programmers.

    Jim
     
  15. Linkjeniero macrumors 6502

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    #15
    Not necessarily. As someone stated before, you don'n need access to the kernel, or any Apple tool, to develop a driver; just the APIs. After all, drivers are just programs; and so, Apple COULD distribute them if the developer chose to make them freely available under the GPL, ASPL or another licence of that kind, just as they do with many programs (like gcc, for example).

    And I don't think Apple wants people to break into OS X; if what you think is correct (Apple wants the hacker community to contribute with drivers), then that's what they made Darwin freely available for.
     
  16. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Or a lack of understanding about the underlying technology. None of us know how Apple is going to protect installation of the OS. I have a feeling that will require more than a simple kernel hack to workaround, thus making it irrelevant to this thread. I thought we were talking about drivers for non-Apple-supported hardware, not hacking Boot ROMs or BIOS or whatever. That's a whole new can of worms where the DMCA could apply depending on the implementation, which again, none of us know about.

    As far as making drivers goes, the DMCA will not apply from Apple. The only way it could would be if you reverse-engineered a third party driver in order to get the specs to make your driver for Darwin. In that case the third-party company may come after you under the DMCA, not Apple. They made their driver API (and whole freaking kernel) public. DMCA doesn't apply gracefully.

    Jim
     
  17. strider42 macrumors 65816

    strider42

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    #17

    Ok, bear with me a bit. I'm just trying to understand.

    I accept that its legal to write drivers for darwin. but couldn't apple eaisly just put something in the closed source part of OS X (which includes the entire GUI and a lot of other stuff) to prevent it from working on non apple producted hardware. Then using the open source kernal and all that wouldn't be enough, and you'r back to illegally getting around copyright protections and the license agreements.

    if I'm way off base, let me know. Just trying to understand. It just seems like everyone thinks its going to be so easy and I don't see why.
     
  18. Linkjeniero macrumors 6502

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    #18
    First of all, you need to understand what a driver is. It's a program that ALLOWS the kernel to interact with a given piece of hardware, and that's it. Those are LEGAL, even if the kernel is not open source (like it happens with the millions of drivers for stuff to run in Windows). A program that provides a workaround to any of Apple's protections may be illegal, but IT IS NOT A DRIVER.

    EDIT: Something else about the legal issue: I don't know if you've read the Mac OS X Licence agreement, but it specifically states that you can only install it on an Apple branded computer; so, even if OS X could be installed on a Dell without any modifications at all, it would still be illegal.
     
  19. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #19
    Yes they can. But that has nothing to do with drivers. You're talking about hacking and working around a hardware or encrypted solution. We are talking about writing drivers for something like a non-supported video card, or say a VIA-southbridge, or stuff along that line.

    Yes, hacking OSX to run on a whitebox is going to be illegal (but not due to driver problems), but writing a driver for your Audigy Pro or whatever will not be.

    So it is illegal to get OSX to boot on your generic PC (probably), because you will have to get around a copy-protection scheme in the firmware, most likely. However, it is not illegal to get all hardware supported on your PC through the kernel (by making drivers). I can see how that is not concrete to many, and is perhaps aiding in the confusion of this thread.

    Hope that helps.

    Jim
     
  20. strider42 macrumors 65816

    strider42

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    #20

    Ok, thanks. I was thinking mostly about getting the OS to run on a non apple motherboard, I wasn't thinking about things like video cards, etc. So I think was kind of talking about something different from everyone else because I mixed up my terms a bit. Anyway, I understand what is meant now, and I agree with you completely. I was referring entirely to getting OS X running on a white box.

    Sorry for adding any confusion to this thread.
     
  21. atszyman thread starter macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #21
    Scenario:
    Bob is a computer expert who happens to have a fairly recent Intel machine that isn't doing anything. Apple releases Tiger for Intel. Bob, liking a challenge hacks OS X to run on his Intel box. Once he has it running he finds that he has an old NIC laying around from a company that is no longer around. Bob decides to write a driver for this NIC to network his new toy. He codes an exceptional driver and makes it available to others on the net. Apple finds the driver and adds it to the next update/release of OS X after verifying that it is up to Apple's standards.

    In the scenario, Apple wasn't concerned about the discontinued hardware but now has a driver for it that they didn't have before without wasting development cycles that were better spent elsewhere. The hardware company no longer exists, so there isn't an issue there. Now if the hardware company did exist what is to prevent Apple from approaching the company and getting permission to use the driver in the OS and providing support for it. The hardware company has just expanded their customer base and if Apple is providing support it is very little skin off their back to make more money.

    Sure Bob could have done the driver development with Darwin and gcc, but there was no challenge in getting Darwin running and could have just as easily done a Linux distribution.

    OS X hack was illegal, although if Bob bought the copy of OS X there might be some fair use doctrine that could be used to challenge the EULA.

    Driver development could have been done completely legally but was not. Makes it a bit questionable but probably nothing worth prosecuting.

    Apple got a driver for previously unsupported hardware without having to tie up developers on the project.

    Hardware company has new customers.

    I'm not saying that Apple wants this to happen or is even counting on it but might they be viewing it as a possible source for new drivers and even a testing ground to see how well the OS could handle the myriad of hardware configurations in the PC world?
     
  22. jim. macrumors 6502

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    #22
    I do believe that is why Darwin is open. Darwin has been able to run on x86 for a long time. I do believe that there are groups that write drivers for Darwin, there just aren't many actively working on that.

    In your scenario, the driver development itself was completely legal. The only illegal action was the original hack of OS X. That would in no way taint the driver. It's almost like charging someone with two crimes for filling up the gas in a car they stole, it doesn't work.

    Jim
     
  23. jcgerm macrumors member

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    #23
    Exactly. I think a line needs to be drawn here between drivers and actually hacking OS X. OS X isn't going to be hacked through developing drivers for hardware that isn't natively supported. The legal issues are directly related to how Apple is going to protect OS X from being run on any old PC, not the drivers that support different types of hardware. We don't know how they're going to do it yet, but developing drivers for unsupported hardware really has nothing to do with it legally.
     

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