At the iPad event earlier this week, Apple announced new versions of iWork and iLife, which it would give away for free with new devices or to existing owners. It appears that Apple is knowingly being very lax in determining which users are eligible for a free upgrade, as even users with pirated or trial copies of old iWork, Aperture or iLife apps have been able to upgrade to the latest version via the Mac App Store.
MacTrast spoke to someone inside of Apple’s software engineering team, who had this to say about the update process:
It’s no coincidence that Apple’s support site doesn’t have downloads for the new Aperture, iWork, and iLife updates. They aren’t in our Software Update system either – and there’s a good reason for that. With Mavericks, we have changed the way we distribute updates for legacy versions of our apps
Rather than maintain separate updates for these in addition to the Mac App Store versions of each app, Apple has decided to eliminate their legacy software update system for apps entirely. Instead, when Mavericks discovers legacy apps installed on your Mac, it provisions them as a Mac App Store purchase using your Apple ID. It saves us a lot of time, effort, and bandwidth. After the provision is complete, it will appear in your Mac App Store history as though you have purchased the Mac App Store version of the app.
While we are aware that this enables piracy of our apps for unethical users, Apple has never taken a strong stance or action against piracy in the past. We like to believe that our users are honest, even if that belief is in vain.
Since money from software contributes very little relative to the company’s total revenues, it would make sense that Apple doesn’t invest a lot of efforts into validating license keys for older versions at the risk of letting a few people upgrade through improper means.