Back in the day, most software was copy-protected. Software makers feared that people would copy and distribute what they had bought, so they put extra software in their software or even did controlled damage to the floppy disks that software used to come on to prevent software copying.

Clearly, the software companies were right to be concerned; people copy software, music, movies, e-books, and anything else they can copy—because they can. And if you’re an intellectual property creator you want to stop this. But copy protection and Digital Rights Management (DRM) make people angry, and with good cause; sure, they stop all that illegal copying and help combat the reduction in revenue that comes with it, but they also create problems. It was almost three years ago that I told you about the RIAA’s stance on this.

Apple, a company whose products I admire, whose business savvy I admire even more, but whose business practices I find to be evil more days than not, is introducing what amounts to copy protection in their OS/X operating system. When OS X Mountain Lion comes out later this year, the only way to acquire the new version of the software will be by downloading it.

This is a smart move. It will create issues for people who don’t have fast, reliable, unlimited-bandwidth Internet connections, but in the Apple ecosystem I’m going to guess not too many people fit that description. And it will all but eliminate people buying one copy of the OS/X operating system upgrade and installing it on as many Macintosh computers as they own.

And Apple didn’t even have to use DRM or copy protection.

It’s a smart way to create business change that can matter to Apple’s bottom line happen, but without giving anyone a reason to say “hey, Apple, you’re breaking my stuff!”. Unlike with DRM, or copy protection, there’s really nothing to get upset about. Yet, the end result will be the same; copying of OS/X Mountain Lion will only happen by the most technically savvy of intentionally-stealing-Apple’s-software users. “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to put this software on all of my computers” won’t mean anything.

It’s smart business. It beats the heck out of shooting copy-protection buckshot everywhere. And it’s why Apple is as successful as it is.

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