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"Free" OS X riles Apple

Apple Computer becomes an unwitting Santa Claus after some Mac diehards discover a way to turn a complimentary Mac OS X upgrade CD into a free copy of the OS itself.

Apple Computer has been turned into an unwitting Santa Claus after some Mac diehards discovered a way to turn a complimentary Mac OS X upgrade CD into a free copy of the operating system itself.

In October, Apple gave away thousands of free CDs that offered owners of Mac OS X a free upgrade to version 10.1--the first major update to the new OS and a key enabler for tasks such as playing DVD movies and burning files onto DVDs. However, what was designed to be a nice perk for early adopters of the new OS turned out to be a way for holdouts to get a free version of Mac OS X, which normally costs $129.

Last week, Mac site posted details that could be used to provide a complete installation of Mac OS X, even for those who did not have a copy of an earlier version. Macfixit later took down the posting after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Apple.

"Whenever we find information that contributes to the theft of our products, we will take swift action to prevent the use of that information," Apple said in a statement. "In this instance, information was provided by Macfixit that might contribute to the theft of Mac OS X software."

For its part, Macfixit claims on its site that its posting helped solve a legitimate technical issue--reverting to Mac OS X version 10.1 after later updating to OS X 10.1.1. Without the technique, reverting back is not possible for people who upgraded using the version 10.1 update disc.

"Although we believe the information provides a legitimate method for dealing with certain troubleshooting issues (as explained in the original article) and that we were not advocating anything illegal, we understand Apple's concern and have thus cooperated," Macfixit said in a posting on its Web site dated Nov. 28.

Of course, taking down the instructions from Macfixit won't prevent them from circulating in darker corners of the Internet.

Apple said anyone who uses the upgrade CD without owning a copy of the Mac OS is violating the terms of its license.

"We trust our users to do the right thing, and we have a license that we expect people to respect," an Apple representative said.