Apple files for DRM system akin to Microsoft

The Mac maker has filed an updated patent application for an authentication technology that would give it control over its software similar to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor on

Apple has filed an updated patent application for a technology that would give it control over its software that is similar to Microsoft's much-criticised Windows Genuine Advantage.

Windows Genuine Advantage is the mechanism that Windows uses to validate copies of its operating system, with the company claiming it is one of the main ways of preventing illegal software copying.

Now Apple has updated a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office called "Run-time Code Injection to Perform Checks".

In the abstract of the application, Apple describes a digital rights management system that could restrict execution of an application to specific hardware platforms. It says that while an application is running, code is injected that would perform periodic checks on the authenticity of the software. If the software is found to be fake, the application would be closed and made unusable.

Apple said the check would be transparent to the user and difficult to circumvent. A cryptographic key would have to be generated before the user receives their hardware. The Mac maker does not currently copy protect OS X, its latest operating system. It would not comment on the application at the time of writing.

Digital rights management has been a contentious issue, and many users have been unhappy with Microsoft's approach.

In August, around 12,000 Windows users found that they could not either register their software, or found that parts of it became unusable, because Microsoft loaded the wrong software during a WGA update.

Legitimate users were also locked out of their Microsoft software in late 2006. The company has subsequently said it will reduce the effects of WGA in the forthcoming Service Pack 1 for Vista, displaying frequent warnings if it fails validity checks but no longer disabling the operating system.

Users have also urged Microsoft to be more transparent over what WGA does. As a result, the software giant updated WGA at the end of 2006 to provide in plain English an explanation of the functions of the software. The previous version had explained those functions, but only in a lengthy user licence which few users read.

Editorial standards