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Psystar halts sales of Mac cloning tool, will peddle Linux PCs

Mac clone maker defends Rebel EFI, likens it to 'reading a book in the bathroom'

December 27, 2009 06:01 PM ET

Computerworld - Mac clone maker Psystar last week indefinitely suspended sales of its only product, a $50 utility that lets customers install Apple's Snow Leopard operating system on generic Intel-based computers.

The company also said it would resume selling systems "in the coming days." Those machines will run Linux rather than Mac OS X.

Psystar, which began selling Mac clones in April 2008, has been battling Apple in federal court in California since July 2008, when Apple sued the Doral, Fla. firm, saying it violated copyright laws by preinstalling the Mac operating system on its machines.

Sales of Rebel EFI, which Psystar launched in October, have been "voluntarily suspended" while the company seeks clarification from the courts about whether the software is legal, Psystar said in a Dec. 22 statement. "Psystar feels it would be prudent to halt the sale of Rebel EFI while we explicitly ask the court for clarification on the legality of Rebel EFI."

Rebel EFI has been Psystar's only product since early December, when the company halted sales of all hardware, including the Intel-based clones pre-loaded with Snow Leopard, and agreed to pay Apple approximately $2.7 million if it loses planned appeals of a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup.

On Dec. 15, Alsup issued an injunction that banned Psystar from selling Mac OS X-equipped computers, giving the small business until midnight Dec. 31 to comply. Although the injunction did not expressly include Rebel EFI, Alsup warned Psystar that at some point it could be held in contempt if it sold the software.

"Whether Rebel EFI violates the terms of the injunction set forth in this order is a factual issue more appropriate for a contempt action," Alsup said in his order two weeks ago. "[But] this order declines to 'bless' a product about which it knows little of substance ... and Psystar -- if it continues to do so -- sells Rebel EFI at its peril."

Previously, Psystar argued that Rebel EFI should not be liable to any injunction ordered by Alsup, and in a second lawsuit, has asked a south Florida federal court to rule on the software's legality.

Although Psystar took Alsup's warning seriously enough to pull Rebel EFI, it continued to trumpet its right to sell the utility. "We respectfully disagree with courts [sic] notion that we are 'hardcore copyright infringers,'" said Psystar on its Web site. "Psystar has never, and will never, condone software piracy. It's your software, you should be able to use it where you want to."

Apple, however, has argued in the Florida federal court of U.S. District Court Judge William Hoeveler that Rebel EFI is "simply a repackaged version of Psystar's circumvention technology" that has been barred by Alsup. Apple has asked Hoeveler to transfer the Florida lawsuit to Alsup's court.



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