Nazis, Not Pirates

I was cleaning up my home office recently and I found a couple of installation disks for Apple’s OS X Tiger operating system, 10.4.7. They must have come with the Macbook Pro I bought back in early 2006, and since that time I’ve upgraded  several times, to 10.5 (Leopard), 10.6 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), and in the not too distant future I’m sure I’ll make the move to 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

Because I have absolutely no need to keep the OSX Tiger disks, I figured I’d sell them on eBay. After all, they might be of some use to someone with an older Mac who wants to stay on that older version of the OS, who possibly has lost or damaged their original disks. I listed them online for $1, eBay’s minimum bid, and hoped that they  might be of some benefit to someone, somewhere.

Less than 24 hours after listing them, I get an email from eBay telling me they had to pull the ad after getting a takedown notice from the Business Software Alliance. “Your item was removed because of a request we received from BSA asking us to remove the item”. They say that “software offered for sale is in violation of an enforceable license agreement, which constitutes a copyright infringement”.

WTF? Are they serious? This is an operating system that is nearly 5 generations old and is no longer for sale.  The only people interested in this software would already own the Mac hardware to run it on, which means they did, at least at one point, own their own copy of the disks anyway.

The email suggested I should write to the BSA if I had further questions.  So I did…

Dear BSA,

I got the following email from eBay after I listed a set of Mac OSX 10.4.7 installation disks…

You guys cannot be serious?

This is a legacy operating system, no longer supported by Apple. How can it possibly be seen as a copyright infringement?  What damages can the BSA possibly claim?  This is not taking sales of new software away from Apple, nor depriving Apple of income.  The disks are sitting in my drawer gathering dust, and I listed them for the absolute minimum price allowed ($1) in the hope that someone who needs them, running an older Mac, might benefit from them.

Surely you understand that these disks are of no benefit to anyone who does not already own the hardware capable of running the software?  By implication, they have already bought – and probably subsequently lost – the disks that came with their original system.  All I’m doing is offering them to chance to get a genuine copy of the disks they have already bought.

Unlike the Windows operating system, Mac OSX cannot be bought as a standalone product, and so whoever has hardware capable of running OSX 10.4.7 has already bought the software, since it came with their hardware! If those original disks have been damaged or lost, the disks I was offering on eBay will simply allow them to have a genuine replacement for something they have already paid for.

Please reply to this email and explain the rationale behind your request to pull these disks from sale on eBay, and also please explain to me – realistically – what damages are being done and to whom.

I await your reply.

Those who know me well would know that I usually do my best to do the right thing regarding copyright, but this seems just stupid to me. Copyright is supposed to protect people from loss of income due to the theft of intellectual property. I fail to see how this takedown notice does that. Thanks to the nazis at the BSA, somebody who might get some benefit from owning the disks for this 6 year old operating system will no longer be able to, and I’ll be deprived of a whole dollar.

Meanwhile Apple still have over $100,000,000,000 in the bank.

Victimless crime? Copyright gone mad? Or am I just being unreasonable?

CC BY-SA 4.0 Nazis, Not Pirates by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

11 Replies to “Nazis, Not Pirates”

    1. That’s the problem Therese, it’s simply giving the disks to a new owner that the BSA see as the issue. I couldn’t care less whether I sell them or give them away, I just wanted to find them a new home that would help someone else. I recently gave away another copy of Tiger (I bought two Macs back in 2006) to someone on the Ozteachers List for his wife’s old Mac, as he’d lost the disks. He appreciated it, I felt good about it and everyone was happy.

      This BSA mob are unbelievable.

      1. Hmm it’ll be interesting to see their response. Hope you receive one – keep us posted!

        Btw, this sentence seems to suggest that the issue might be the act of reselling (rather than ‘gifting’):
        “…software offered *for sale* is in violation of an enforceable license agreement”.

        Either way, hang in there 😉

        1. Chris, thanks for putting the question to the BSA, publicly.

          Therese, gifting is *worse* than resale (for the BSA). Legally, a copyright owner has power to regulate (not just profit from) reproduction and distribution of the “work”. Commercially speaking, gifting pushes the market price (and the notional value) of old assets down towards zero. (Consider file-sharing.)

          Apple is utilising law passed by elected Australian representatives in 1968, 2001 and 2006. Treaties such as TPP are likely to require stricter copyright law and enforcement. (see https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp ) Is this desirable?

          Who is our government listening to, about copyright, patents, and fair use?

    1. Hi Doug,

      Yes, the inability to share digital resources (eBooks on the Kindle, videos on the Apple TV, etc) is a source of some annoyance to me too. I really like the convenience factor (at least some aspects of it), but the limitations of the digital formats compared to the dead tree versions are just plain stupid. I’ve actually been thinking of going back to the “old ways” of real books and DVDs just to reclaim some of the sanity. It’s stupid that I can buy a movie on Apple TV and it’s stuck there, but the same movie on DVD I can lend to my mum to watch.

      Good news to hear that the EU is starting to address this nonsense. Hopefully it will filter through to the rest of the world eventually too.

  1. Hi Chris,

    Those pack-in discs are not regular copies of OSX. They are tied to the Macbook Pro you used to own, if someone tried to install them on a different type of computer it won’t work.

  2. Joe, exactly…

    I had this same issue. I had several of these discs and sold them..and was eventually greated by the same message.

    These work on a specific model….therefore there should be no concern of the media/software being used in a manner it was not originted for.

    Furthermore… You cannot purchase old apple software from Apple. If you have, for example, a 2006 imac..or even and 2007 imac….you are SOL if you lost your disc(s). Mountain Lion wont run on older computers. These leaves you with a paperweight. (Thanks Apple!)

  3. Hi Chris,

    I noticed your original post is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

    Why did you do that?

    Justin.

  4. eBay just pulled my listing for Rosetta Stone Software for the same reasons. I guess we live in a world increasingly governed by rules and regulations that trump common sense reason and logic.

    I think the real reason is simple. eBay caters to and protects it’s business Power User base at the expense of ordinary people. With all the pesky used or cheap alternatives removed, there’s just the newest and most expensive item left. The one listed by an authorized reseller.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Every policy, restriction, limitation, and monitoring measure taken by eBay is designed to protect the business based Power User.

    There needs to be an eBay for the common user, craftsmen, and artisan. A place where there listing doesn’t get drowned out by mega listers or bias policies.

    As a web developer, I can build it, but who would come? Are there enough of us out there that are absolutely sick of eBay?

  5. This policy is absurd. You cannot even purchase this software from Apple. I recently picked up some old Mac G4 computers and I want to purchase copies of Tiger but the only option is from ebay. No one else sells this close to the original retail prices! Do you hear this apple?

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?