I was a part of a conversation on a community group that looks at church and technology that discussed a site selling cheap computers designed to become “Hackintoshes” (computer built to run Apple’s OS X that are not built by Apple). It’s another conversation that we saw with indie artists who were not getting paid and bigger artists coming along side them.
In my mind, I thought this was an easy conversation. It is illegal to have, so you should not purchase it nor should you endorse it. Apparently I was alone in this conversation.
Why Is It Illegal?
The website selling these devices are very clever in how they are promoting this. They sell you a computer that is blank, though the specs of the computer are perfect for installing a hacked copy of the software. They do not sell you a copy of OS X that will work on the machine.
Selling hardware in and of itself is not illegal. Selling pirated or hacked software and owning it is illegal.
In fact, if you go to the OS X website, you cant actually buy a copy of the software, you are only given the option to upgrade. Further, in Apple’s OS X EULA it states:
you are granted a limited, non-transferable, nonexclusive license
and further explicitly states:
to download, install, use and run for personal, non-commercial use, one (1) copy of the Apple Software directly on each Apple-branded computer running OS X Yosemite, OS X Mavericks, OS X Mountain Lion, OS X Lion or OS X Snow Leopard (“Mac Computer”) that you own or control
Finally, Apple has covered all of the bases with this final restriction:
The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so.
There is no grey here. You cannot put this software on a device, even as a virtual machine, unless the machine originally was granted a license already.
Is It Ethical?
It was later discussed that European courts are more lenient to customers with regards to software. I have yet to hear a court case that allows people to break this contract you agree to when you install the original software. (If I’m wrong, I’d love to read the court case documentation)
But for the sake of a good debate, let’s have a brief look at “what if it were deemed legal” if the courts had overturned this. Is it still okay for you to do?
The conversation then moves from one of legality to one of ethics. If a copy states they do not want you to do something, is it okay to go against their wishes? At this point, ethics does not care about the fact that you duplicated the software and have not taken their original copy.
Going back to the alternate example given at the top of this article with an indie artist, if people were to allow you to use their music for free but simply requested you appropriately and fully cite them as the source but you did not do so, have you been unethical? Yes. They deserve that recognition.
Apple is the same way with their operating system.
“But Apple is charging. And Apple is a huge organization that won’t miss that small amount of money.” Again, ethics doesn’t care about that. That’s a legal issue. Ethics are neutral to who is being hurt, instead stating that we should not do so.
Is It Sinning?
The short answer is yes. You are stealing as defined by the courts. You are not appropriately compensating Apple as they have laid out.
“But they are clearly sinning too with what they support, how they are trying to get out of taxes, and hoarding all their money.” A sin in response to a sin is no more justified than the original sin itself. It’s just that, justification. You disappoint God in doing so and you should not take part, legally, ethically, or spiritually.