Skip to main content

What OS X El Capitan’s license really says, according to a programmer/lawyer

MacBook OS X El Capitan

We all know the features of OS X El Capitan pretty well by now: Split View multitasking, new San Francisco system font, overhauled Notes app, and smaller changes throughout. Before anyone upgrades to El Cap, however, we’re all faced with the usual scrolling wall of text that we’re asked to read and agree to before ever using OS X: the licensing agreement.

I’m guessing virtually no one reads beyond the first paragraph if even that, but Robb Schecter, a self-described programmer/lawyer, took for one the team this year and translated El Cap’s license into plain English. These 7 points tell me more than I admittedly knew before:

I can’t use the Capitan with illegal copies of anyone’s stuff.

Apple didn’t sell me this software. They still own it, in fact. I’m just borrowing it.

If I install more Apple software, those are on loan as well.

I can use the Capitan in two virtual Machines, and on one computer.

But these VM’s cannot be used for business. The only exception is for software developers (I guess they wouldn’t follow this rule anyways.)

I’ve got to read the separate rules that came with the fonts, and obey them. (I can only borrow those too.)

Those cool voices for the clock? — no remixing!

Sorry if I’ve ever remixed those voices … Schecter breaks down 15 more rules translated from the El Capitan license that we technically agree to before using the operating system. Read the full rundown on his blog.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. DarkBro (@Darkomen78) - 7 years ago

    One computer or one APPLE computer ?

  2. Jim T (@JimT1246) - 7 years ago

    This shouldn’t be a surprise. Proprietary software isn’t sold, it’s licensed. Same as books, music, movies etc. You must be new here. :-)

  3. samuelsnay - 7 years ago

    Same as literally every other piece of software that isn’t freeware or shareware.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.