Just before the release of Snow Leopard, Uncle Walt Mossberg did the unthinkable by writing that the $29 Leopard upgrade:
reported that as well but didn't have all the facts verified at the time. Gizmodo likened Walt to a pirate and guessed that he'll have to apologize or at least clarify his position.
Now, after buying the family edition, I have done every sort of installation known to man and have the facts. It seems that Walt was right, but he didn't tell you the whole story. You can take the $29 upgrade disc and install it over Leopard, over Tiger, or over a freshly formatted hard drive. The disc doesn't care. Regardless of whether you pay $29, $49 or $169, you get the same disc with the same capabilities.
But just because you have a disc, if you use it for a purpose not intended upon purchase, you are breaking your agreement with Apple. The contents of the disc are the property of Apple and how that intellectual property is to be used is determined by the EULA (End User License Agreement) that you agree to before installation.
For each method of purchase the EULA is different. For the $169 package which includes iLife '09 and iWork '09 this is what you agree to:
Clear enough. You can use it on one computer. It doesn't say that you need any operating system to start with. I would assume that you can put it on as many hard disks as you want, as long as you only use those hard disks with one specified computer.
For the $229 Family Pack which also includes iLife '09 and iWork '09 here's what you are able to do according to the EULA.
Again, no previous operating system is required. You can install all three discs on five computers under the same provisions as the single user boxed set.
For the $49 Family Pack, and the $29 single user upgrade, you only get the Snow Leopard disc and can install under the following provisions:
The provisions are the same with one marked difference. For you to be in compliance, either your one or five computers, depending upon your purchase, are required to run a version of OS X 10.5.
When you click 'agree' you have fulfilled your part of the contract with Apple and agreed that you will do the right thing. Just because you can do more with the disc doesn't mean that you are legally allowed to do so.
Should Uncle Walt, and those that jumped on that bandwagon, be sanctioned or sued for giving out the secret password? Absolutely not. Mossberg, in doing his job as a reporter, reported on what he discovered. He did not say it was legal, or illegal, he did not say whether it was ethical or unethical. He reported, and a reporter reports.
Not following the EULA is breaking the contract that you willingly agreed to follow. If you do decide to go rogue on your own, are you going to get caught? Probably not, but that's not the point. The point is that Apple (and I would think the great majority of the world) expects people to act in an ethical manner and amazingly enough, most people do just that.
Apple has been selling five user Family Packs of its operating systems for as long as I can remember and never has one been copy protected or restricted in any way. As far as I can tell the Family Packs were the same disc as the single user disc.
This, I imagine, saves lots of money for Apple since they only have to press one disc. It also works well for the vast majority of Mac users who are different than we are. They can't name everyone who signed the case of the Apple ][GS. I can, and I'm sure that many of you can as well. The majority are are consumers, not hobbyists, fanatics or fanboys. If they want to upgrade, they buy what the nice person in the orange shirt suggests and are happy with their purchase.
For the rest of us, which I have to believe constitutes an infinitesimal fraction of the Macintosh user base, I would bet money that the great majority of those, in the know, also do the right thing. I wouldn't consider buying the $29 upgrade and putting it on my four Macs all running Leopard any more than I would consider shoplifting, which for all intents and purposes is the same thing.
So the dirty little secret is out and I'm sure it surprises no one. The next time you buy intellectual property, regardless of how it's packaged, read the EULA. For most of us this would be a first. I for one never read them. I just scroll down as fast as I can and click on 'agree' to get to the goodies, but perhaps this case will change things a bit. I wouldn't sign a contract I didn't read and maybe it's time for this behavior to filter down to intellectual property.
Let us know your feelings on this potentially sticky situation.