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Cryptography To Frustrate Printer-Ink Piracy

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the so-sorry-ink-spots dept.

Hardware Hacking 305

Zack Melich writes with news of a new front about to open in the war printer manufacturers wage with cartridge counterfeiters, refillers, and hardware hackers. A San Francisco company, Cryptography Research Inc., is designing a crypto chip to marry cartridges to printers. There's no word so far that any printer manufacturer has committed to using it. Quoting: "The company's chips use cryptography designed to make it harder for printers to use off-brand and counterfeit cartridges. CRI plans to create a secure chip that will allow only certain ink cartridges to communicate with certain printers. CRI also said that the chip will be designed that so large portions of it will have no decipherable structure, a feature that would thwart someone attempting to reverse-engineer the chip by examining it under a microscope to determine how it works. 'You can see 95 percent of the [chip's] grid and you still don't know how it works,' said Kit Rodgers, CRI's vice president of business development. Its chip generates a separate, random code for each ink cartridge, thus requiring a would-be hacker to break every successive cartridge's code to make use of the cartridge."

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Piracy? (5, Insightful)

Rix (54095) | about 7 years ago | (#19705091)

That's absurd enough when applied to simple copyright infringement, but there's absolutely nothing illegal about after market ink. In fact, these sort of shenanigans should be illegal themselves. Let the printer manufacturers compete fairly.

Re:Piracy? (4, Insightful)

mrbluze (1034940) | about 7 years ago | (#19705117)

That's absurd enough when applied to simple copyright infringement, but there's absolutely nothing illegal about after market ink. In fact, these sort of shenanigans should be illegal themselves. Let the printer manufacturers compete fairly.

I doubt it will really work. The technique itself will be patented and will come at a cost to printer manufacturers to implement, whereas it will make the printers particularly unattractive to anyone on a budget.

Everybody, even my grandma, knows that the real cost is in the consumables. People can easily make the calculation, eg: "let me see, I spend $30 more for printer Y but I get to refill, which costs me $15 less each time. Hmmm, what a tricky decision - not!"

Re:Piracy? (4, Insightful)

owlstead (636356) | about 7 years ago | (#19705221)

"I doubt it will really work. The technique itself will be patented and will come at a cost to printer manufacturers to implement, whereas it will make the printers particularly unattractive to anyone on a budget."

That's wishfull thinking. You can easily make chips for a very small fraction of the price of these cartridges. So much so that any "piracy" that is being stamped out will mean more profit for the original manufacturer.

Chips in mass production have two mayor cost components: design and die-size. Now I don't know how much IP overhead there will be, but rest assured that the variable costs (related to die-size) will be extremely low. Especially since some of these cardridges tend to already contain electronics.

Re:Piracy? (3, Interesting)

MindKata (957167) | about 7 years ago | (#19705457)

I think this secure chip news is "Cryptography Research Inc" way of drumming up business. They want to sell/licence the chip to printer manufacturers.

But I think the wider issue is, the continuing attempts to prevent 3rd party printer cartridges, shows blatant violation of antitrust laws. st_law/ []

Its about time legal action was taken against these companies.

Re:Piracy? (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | about 7 years ago | (#19705731)

I doubt it will really work. The technique itself will be patented and will come at a cost to printer manufacturers to implement, whereas it will make the printers particularly unattractive to anyone on a budget.

Are you kidding. They'll up the price and even increase their margin as a result of this. "But why is the ink so expensive ?!" -> "Because people pirate the ink and we had to take protective measures".

Re:Piracy? (2, Interesting)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | about 7 years ago | (#19705901)

Most of the time, the calculation usually goes more along the lines of: "I'll buy this printer on sale for $40 and instead of buying the $50 replacement refills (because usually the black and colour cartridges cost about $25 each), I'll just toss it and buy this month's $40 printer."
And actually, I can usually pack the thing back in the box and take it down to the pawn shop and get $15-20 for it thus further offsetting the cost of replacing the printer every month.

Re:Piracy? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705129)

Please RTFA.....
Who said it was illegal?

They're just trying to minimize profit loss, and I don't blame them.

Re:Piracy? (3, Insightful)

arekq (651007) | about 7 years ago | (#19705223)

Who said it was illegal?

The one who use the word "piracy"!

Re:Piracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705605)

Piracy is NOT illegal, until you get caught.

Re:Piracy? (2, Insightful)

omfgnosis (963606) | about 7 years ago | (#19705625)

Er, by that logic, nothing is against the law, and the only law is that of the people with guns. Fascism, fuck yeah!

Re:Piracy? (1)

Znork (31774) | about 7 years ago | (#19705671)

Of course, due to the IP industries gross misuse of the word the meaning of 'piracy' in this context has degraded to something akin to 'competeing', 'quoting', 'deriving from', or 'cut'n'pasting'.

You cant necessarily infer any assumption of illegality from the use of that word anymore.

Re:Piracy? (1)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | about 7 years ago | (#19705789)

By claiming anytime piracy is used its clearly against the law it will help either change the law or get people to stop using it. After all if you ask Joe Schmoe if downloading videos off the internet is illegal he'd go "I don't fucking care." If you asked him if using a cheaper printer catridge was illegal he'd probably have a stronger opinion.

Re:Piracy? (2, Interesting)

Tunfisch (938605) | about 7 years ago | (#19705241)

Since dreaming costs no money... what about having HP, Epson, Canon and name-another join together to deliver an open standard on Ink cartdriges?

Or have the prices sunken so badly that there is no point of return anymore to selling hardware at its price?

Re:Piracy? (2, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | about 7 years ago | (#19705577)

The lose money on the printer and earn it all on cartridges. How big do you think the chances are for them to make an open standard and thus lower their income?

Re:Piracy? (1)

click2005 (921437) | about 7 years ago | (#19705635)

Also, to increase their income, I'm sure they'll find a way to make old cartridges 'expire' after a short time. It will be done for consumers of course. Inks fade & change colour so to always get maximum quality from your printer, only use fresh cartridges.

Re:Piracy? (1)

haakondahl (893488) | about 7 years ago | (#19705249)

Good catch. Nobody is selling multiple copies of what they only purchased once. This is like Ford suing Chevy for "pirating" the 64.5 Mustang into the Camaro.

Re:Piracy? (1)

JonathanX (469653) | about 7 years ago | (#19705797)

This isn't about stifling competition. It's about making sure that there are no fake "Genuine HP Inkjet Cartridges" out there. If the company making the competing product wants to brand their stuff "Jimmy's Ink" or "Bob's Toner" that's one thing. If Jimmy slaps an HP label on there and then the thing leaks all over the place, it's HP that winds up looking bad, and in some cases is held liable because they can't really prove they didn't make it. Preventing counterfeits is not the same as preventing competing products.

Re:Piracy? (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | about 7 years ago | (#19705839)

But they DO want to prevent competing products by not allowing to use competing inks.

Anti trust? (2, Interesting)

mrjb (547783) | about 7 years ago | (#19705105)

Is this even legal?

Re:Anti trust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705507)

Thankfully the EU have made this practice illegal.

Re:Anti trust? (4, Insightful)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 7 years ago | (#19705607)

Anyway, reverse engineering for compatibility purpose is protected by law in several European countries but you know, when we try to make a law to force compatibility between devices, this is dubbed a "anti-iPod, anti-Apple" law...

Re:Anti trust? (1)

hey! (33014) | about 7 years ago | (#19705883)

It's as good as legal if the DOJ doesn't care.

hacked in 3 seconds: (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705109)

Decided to buy a different printer.

Mod parent up (2, Funny)

josephdrivein (924831) | about 7 years ago | (#19705213)

The printer manufacturers that don't include this will obviously sell more.
"Watch your competitors take suicide: priceless."

Re:hacked in 3 seconds: (4, Insightful)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | about 7 years ago | (#19705803)

These companies can sell printers at a loss and in bulk, thus making it impossible for their smaller competitors to compete, and make up the difference in printer cartridges. Your average Joe won't look beyond the initial printer sale.

Defective by Design (5, Insightful)

saibot834 (1061528) | about 7 years ago | (#19705115)

It is Defective by Design [] . Don't buy this stuff

Re:Defective by Design (1)

flynns (639641) | about 7 years ago | (#19705463)

How in the heck is this off topic? It's true...

Off-topic my ass... he hit the damned nail! (5, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | about 7 years ago | (#19705471)

He hit the damned nail on the head, you idiot anonymous mod. How is this NOT "digital rights management"?

This firm has designed hardware/firmware that would let printer manufacturers digitally restrict your use of their product, i.e. the printer, by preventing OEMs from making alternative cartridges and you from having choices. Isn't that rights management? If a competitor actually succeeded in creating a knockoff, you'd see a repeat of the stunt Lexmark pulled with toner cartridges: they'd sue in court under the provisions of the DMCA. In this case, this sleazebag Cryptography Research would no doubt jump in with a patent infringement suit, as well.

It's bad enough that average people are such a complete disappointment; when I see people here mod like that, even Slashdot disappoints me.

Re:Off-topic my ass... he hit the damned nail! (2)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 7 years ago | (#19705945)

I thought that Digital Rights Management has a remote authentication system, where a company's remote server and a device exchanges keys and can revoke them. This system appears to be self-contained between printer and cartridge, so it's just a copy protection system.

I like the idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705131)

If someone uses this chip, i don't need to think so hard if i can buy this Printer. This will make up a bigger Market for the Producers that produce Printer that play nice with the consumer. It is like the mobile Phones. They suck badly and the most people agree. So, there is a Market for Phones like the Neo1973(

Sorry Guys, the Times in those you can fuck your customers are nearly over.

Uhh yea (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | about 7 years ago | (#19705139)

thus requiring a would-be hacker to break every successive cartridge's code to make use of the cartridge

Or they go out and buy a laser and give the finger to printer manufacturers.

Re:Uhh yea (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 7 years ago | (#19705513)

Or they go out and buy a laser and give the finger to printer manufacturers.

Yeah! Let's zap those evil printer manufacturers and zap them with laserbeams!

Re:Uhh yea (1)

JasonKiddy (850629) | about 7 years ago | (#19705915)

Yeah! Laserbeams that shoot from machines made by???? Oh yeah - the same mofo's that make the inkjets. Do you somehow think that epson inkjet is a different company to epson laser printer? Although lasers tend to be a little cheaper to run.. they are still obviously a complete rip-off when it comes to consumables. Toner, EP cartridges, fusers, and whatever else they can come up with to fleece us with. Sorry - there is no current alternative to being screwed by these tossbags. If you want to print anything... you WILL be screwed by them - one way or another.

misquoted (4, Insightful)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | about 7 years ago | (#19705153)

The company's chips use cryptography designed to make it harder for customers to use off-brand and counterfeit cartridges.

Fixed that for you.

Re:misquoted (4, Insightful)

haakondahl (893488) | about 7 years ago | (#19705203)

Cryptography To Frustrate Printer-Ink Competition

Fixed that for ya.

Re:misquoted (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 years ago | (#19705285)

The company's chips use cryptography designed to lock customers in to a manufacturer and restrict any form of competition.

Seriosuly - this sounds to me like it's getting near anti-trust territory. I'm sure the Sherman Act has some material on product tying. Hopefully somone with a better grasp of the law will be able to elighten us.

Restricting or Denying Consumers Choice? (3, Insightful)

jombeewoof (1107009) | about 7 years ago | (#19705155)

Sounds like business as usual here in the Corporate States of Amerika.
That's like saying I can only use Dodge Brand gas in my car, and my wife could only use Toyota.

Re:Restricting or Denying Consumers Choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705169)

That's like saying I can only use Dodge Brand gas in my car, and my wife could only use Toyota.

Actually it's nothing like that...

Re:Restricting or Denying Consumers Choice? (1)

jombeewoof (1107009) | about 7 years ago | (#19705341)

Not to feed the trolls but, How is it different?
Explain to me in your anonymous wisdom how it is any different.

You could say the the manufacturer is in the business of selling ink and only puts out a printer so that there is a market for their real product...

Not my fucking problem, if they can't make a profit ethically, then they need to find a new market.

If they made a decent product, I might be inclined to pay more than $30 for a printer. But I know it will break within the first 6 months.

If official in cartridges were less than $35 I might actually buy the brand name... Ok, I would probably buy generic anyway, but I'm cheap.

Re:Restricting or Denying Consumers Choice? (1)

Lost Engineer (459920) | about 7 years ago | (#19705429)

Yes, let's not feed the trolls. Gas is to car as ink is to printer... No analogy is perfect, but I got it. Now let's just hope that ink remains readily available outside the middle east.

My opinion of these kinds of lock-ins has always been that their just trying to alienate their own customer base, and the more you try to force people into an artificial business model the more incentive they have to find alternate solutions.

So I say to manufacturers: the game is over. Sell your printers at cost, please, and let ink be just ink. We'll all be better off in the end. Or you can just let Canon own you... whatever.

wait wait wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705161)

There are printers now that last longer than the one cartidge? Who knew.

Ink Jet Profit Margins (0, Troll)

anonymous_but_brave (1075911) | about 7 years ago | (#19705167)

It is common knowledge that ink jet printers are sold cheaply, with the strategy that people must buy their overpriced ink. These companies are just trying to protect their businesses. There's nothing illegal about that. If you don't like it, buy a laser printer.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (1)

jombeewoof (1107009) | about 7 years ago | (#19705193)

They build absolute garbage printers, that hardly work after a month or 2. Now they want to force you to use their ink at $80 (avg for both color and B&W) a refill.

How can this be illegal?
How can artificially restricting the consumables a device uses be anything but illegal and/or abuse of some sort. Of course you can always say that the manufacturers who decide on this will stay on shelves while those that don't will sell their products. But what if the becomes the new standard or is mandated to protect these unfortunate companies bottom lines.

This isn't Burger King, it's America. You'll have it their way. Or at least that is the road we're on.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705695)

You must have been buying some really cheap printers to have a printer fail on you after a month or two. I've had an inkjet last 5+ years.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705235)

It may easily be illegal:

* It increases the amount of waste. A whole printer is price-dumped into the market, and when the ink goes out, people buy a whole new printer.

* Waste again: Preventing cartridge refills, which is easier on the environment.

* Anti-trust: Preventing fair competition in the marketplace of ink cartridge manufacturers.

* Making devices Defective By Design, thus artificially restricting customer choice and creating artificial shortage. The devices are sold normally without any extra labels or warnings. Consumer-laws may have a word or two on that.

Clearly, a company is not justified in any means in order to make a buck. Far from it. Economics theory even includes that companies should invest in local infrastructure and provide services to the community. They are part of the community, not separate from it. The more they sell their soul to Mammon, the worse they make our community. We should then revoke the privileges as a person, which the companies now enjoy.

OTOH: Reverse-engineering might well be illegal in the USA, because of the silly DMCA in said country. Fix your laws!

Details... (4, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | about 7 years ago | (#19705345)

* AFAIK, making wasteful products is not illegal.

* The antitrust argument might have some merit, but I'm not sure if it is good enough to take to court.

* Finally, I've found a case about DMCA and printer cartridges that has already be decided in court: ntrol/20041026_Ruling.pdf []
Here, Lexmark failed with a lawsuit against a company that reverse engineered its cartridges.

The truth isn't quite out there yet... (1)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 7 years ago | (#19705239)

Fair enough, there is this cheap razor/expensive razor blades strategy in use by most (if not all) inkjet printer manufacturers but you know it's a serious licence to print money when, by volume, that ink costs you more than an equivalent amount of vintage champagne does.

The sad fact is that the average consumer has no idea that with an inkjet that they'll spend far, far more on consumables than they did on the printer itself. And when they walk into the average PC superstore to buy a printer, no salesperson is going to rush to tell them because the margin that the store will make on the dozens of cartridges that that buyer will come back for (not to mention the other purchases s/he will make on those repeat trips back to the store) will far outstrip the amount of money made on a one-off colour laser printer sale and maybe one or two toner refills in its lifetime.

I agree that it's not illegal (although putting chips in the cartridges and then using the DCMA to prevent third-party refills from competing fairly is, at best, a rather shady way of doing business) but I disagree that the whole nature of cheap inkjet printers and overpriced ink is common knowledge. If it were, inkjet sales would have dwindled and colour laser sales would have outstripped them over the last couple of years.

The truth isn't quite out there yet.

Re:The truth isn't quite out there yet... (3, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | about 7 years ago | (#19705287)

Vintage champaign? stop dreaming

Currently, the ink of some printers is going above 10% of the price of gold per gram.

Re:The truth isn't quite out there yet... (1)

Lost Engineer (459920) | about 7 years ago | (#19705455)

I'd just like to point out that a lot of things are worth more than gold per gram, including plain old water, in its purest (nanotech-quality) form of course. High-quality marijuana also comes to mind, although the recent rises in gold prices may have made that obsolete information. How about U-235?

Re:The truth isn't quite out there yet... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705595)

And you'd have to be bubbling marijuana through nanotech-quality water in a bong made out of U-235 to pay those sort of prices for printer ink.

I guess the plan for printer makers is to a) hope that not too many of their customers notice that they don't have to pay these prices, and b) pray that some other printer maker doesn't come along and makes lots of noise pointing out that by paying an extra $40 for the printer you can save $200 on ink over the next year or two.

Of course some companies already lock print cartridges to printers. I have a Xerox color laser printer with some sort of chip in the cartridges allows the printer to identify genuine Xerox®(TM) cartridges, and throw a screaming fit if it doesn't find one. Naturally Xerox claims this is protect you from non-genuine cartridges or something like that, but we have a pretty good idea what it's really about.

Now in theory you could put off-brand cartridges in the printer, just like you could drink a milkshake made by shoving your hand in the blender, but the practicalities of doing so effectively deny it. Of course in the case of the Xerox printer the inconveniences you'd have to tolerate are artificial -- that is they're only present because Xerox doesn't want you cutting in on their toner revenue -- as opposed to the intrinsic pitfalls of making a milkshake out of your lower arm.

So there you have it: owning a Xerox color laser printer is only sort of like sticking your hand in a blender.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705319)

Companies have the right to make business decisions to maximize
their revenue. However, you as a customer don't have the right to
inform others about these decisions and even less right to use that
information to decide how to protect your interests. It is your moral duty
not to propagate this information because doing so might damage
the business model of printers makers.

Caught just the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705573)

If you don't like it, buy a laser printer.

In which you'll only be able to use brand-locked toner cartridges and drums.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | about 7 years ago | (#19705805)

Deliberately thwarting people from producing 3rd party parts for your product is most certainly illegal.

Re:Ink Jet Profit Margins (2, Interesting)

tryptych (1023927) | about 7 years ago | (#19705957)

I am a graphic designer that uses a high end inkjet printer to produce prints for sale. Not all of us want laser printers. Lasers are cheap office tools, not designed for print quality. My printer uses eight cartridges, original Epson price: $25, Epson Compatible price $5. You do the math. The inkjet cartridge market always was a scam, and like any other market, the supply will fit the demand, so refills and compatibles move in. Apart from people fraudulently pirating lookalike OEM cartridges, I see no reason why quality inks cannot be sold by other companies. It ensures that the likes of HP and Epson keep their prices down.

Cryptography instead of Quality (4, Interesting)

haakondahl (893488) | about 7 years ago | (#19705179)

I hope any printer manufacturer engaging in this sort of anti-competitive skullduggery is punished HARD in the marketplace. I do not want the manufacturer of anything I buy encrypting it so that I cannot use MY possession as I wish. With all due respect to the special problem of digitized Intellectual Property and other reproducibles, I do not want my car-maker to lock me into only using their strangely constructed non-interchangeable tires and wheels UNLESS as in the case of say, a Corvette or other exotic, there is a compelling QUALITY interest.

I bought an EPSON CX 5200 and it turned out to be a lemon. There was no fix, no refund, it just sucked after about a year. It was a hundred-dollar Jackson Pollock(sp?) machine, and the reason was that the experimental ink cartridge design was crap. My printer would work just fine if the business model were not to use cheap printers to lock you into expensive ink cartridges. My printer would print, if that were the goal of the printer-makers.

I will never buy another EPSON, and I'm glad to say so to so many people. Unless, of course, they were to come out against this encryption nonsense.

I will never buy another EPSON (1)

Tim Ward (514198) | about 7 years ago | (#19705569)

Trouble is you quite soon run out of things to buy - I personally will never buy another HP, because of their crap software, so I'm currently using Epson ... but if I give up on Epson what's left?

Re:I will never buy another EPSON (1)

Technician (215283) | about 7 years ago | (#19705973)

I personally will never buy another HP, because of their crap software, so I'm currently using Epson ... but if I give up on Epson what's left?

Cannon, Xerox, IBM, Kodak,...

I personally will never buy another HP, because of their crap software

Don't use their software. I use Gimp and Ghostscript. Check the hardware compatibility list. All in one units and many scanners are doorstops as in the days of Winmodems.

not in the EU (1)

irw (204684) | about 7 years ago | (#19705181)

I'd like to know how this would square up with the EU electronic waste directive which imposes on manufacturers the cost of disposing of waste electronics. Surely such a chip would increase the cost to the manufacturer thus making it less economically attractive?

It's also possible that putting chips in disposable consumables such as printer cartridges is illegal in the EU - I recall some discussion about this during the Lexmark fiasco a few years ago.

Re:not in the EU (1)

pipatron (966506) | about 7 years ago | (#19705427)

Don't worry, they can call RIAA and ask them to buy some more EU laws. RIAA get the bulk/wholesale price.

Re:not in the EU (1)

Winckle (870180) | about 7 years ago | (#19705697)

The Recording Industry Association Of America have no cause to purchase EU laws.
Perhaps the BPI, or its international counterpart might.

Re:not in the EU (1)

pipatron (966506) | about 7 years ago | (#19705943)

They have a lot of cause to purchase laws all over the world, since a copy made in EU is as much "damage" to them as a copy made in the US. The raid on The Pirate Bay would not have happened unless MPAA would have pushed, which is well documented and something that MPAA even boasts about.

Here is their problem. Their business idea relies on the rest of the world to do exactly as they are being told.

Re:not in the EU (2, Informative)

steve86-ed (469774) | about 7 years ago | (#19705469)

You should be mailing your old cartridges back to the manufacturer. It's free, easy and they recycle them. Printer cartridges disposal isn't regulated in the US because the manufactures here have been responsible so far by providing this service.

You could also just reuse them, using off the shelf refill kits, but it's not going to be the same ink your printer prefers, so it's not going to have the same drying speed, and possible not the exact color, but in most cases, this is more than adequate.

Btw, I see nothing in TFA that suggest this will prevent refilling.

Re:not in the EU (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 7 years ago | (#19705777)

I'm afraid not: many manufacturers already put electronics in the cartridges, to report on remaining ink levels, type of ink, etc. I can't see how expanding the capabilities of that chip a bit would lead to additional physical wastee. It's likely to be only a fiscal cost of manufacturing, not of disposal.

never buy a bubble jet (2, Funny)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#19705191)

i'll stick to my dot matrix thanks. lets seen them DRM that shit.

So, ink will now be an even bigger ripoff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705197)

I wonder how much an ink cartridge will cost once they add this nice new "feature"...

This has been tried Before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705229)

Unfortunately I do not remember the details, but I know that this has been tried before. A printer manufacturer placed special, patented circuitry into all their cartridges (I think this might have been toner cartridges for laser printers and not inkjet cartridges). Because the circuitry was patented it effectively prevented 3rd party companies from duplicating the design. There was an associated safeguard against refilling an existing cartridge.

A third party supplier took the manufacturer to court, in the US, and won their case. The judgement (ruling) I read in relation to this was that the circuitry on the cartridge unit served absolutely no purpose other than to preclude third party suppliers from manufacturing their own brands of replacement units.

The clone-busting design had to be withdrawn.

I'm pretty sure that something like this is likely to fall foul of the RICO Act.

Re:This has been tried Before (3, Funny)

jombeewoof (1107009) | about 7 years ago | (#19705301)

I could only imagine the results of this lawsuit were before congress openly sold laws to the highest bidder.

see keyword openly.

Re:This has been tried Before (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 7 years ago | (#19705353)

That's been going back way before printer cartirdges. There were a lot of organisations responsible for buying prohibition laws almost a century ago.

Re:This has been tried Before (4, Insightful)

jombeewoof (1107009) | about 7 years ago | (#19705365)

Most certainly, but it seems to be almost cyclical.

1. Corruption becomes out of control
2. Profit!!
3. Locals get pissed, get corruption back to acceptable levels.
4. Locals become complacent, stop keeping their good eye on officials
5. Corruption becomes out of control
6. Profit!!

I'm no genius but, I can see a slight pattern developing here.

Re:This has been tried Before (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 7 years ago | (#19705525)

I believe it was done by Epson on toner cartridges.

Re:This has been tried Before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705757)

Not only has something very much like this been tried before, it has WORKED before.

Go right ahead. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19705243)

There are plenty of printers and manufacturers out there. All you've got to do is check out the cost per page.


RIAA and Epson in the same tree (4, Insightful)

eebra82 (907996) | about 7 years ago | (#19705263)

Here we go again. "Official" printer ink is more expensive than heroin, but instead of competitive pricing, they go hand in hand with RIAA's marketing folks (read: more competition equals pricier products).

If they had ink cartridges with aggressive pricing in the first place, people would buy the factory-made ink simply because it would sound like a safe choice. At least I would.

Joke, and problem with joke (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | about 7 years ago | (#19705295)

When I first saw the summary, my first thought was to post a joke about, "... and after that, they're fixing DRM". But then I RTFA'd (which I for some reason do before I post) and noticed CRI will also soon debut a similar copy-protection feature for Blu-ray video discs. So, other than getting a method of circumventing this printer technology (which presumably has value) posted on the Internet, would this have any effect? Somehow, I cannot get my head around whatever technology they are selling.

Oh, but I came up with an alternate joke: Finally, a market for my printer-modding business.

Re:Joke, and problem with joke (1)

Mathinker (909784) | about 7 years ago | (#19705401)

I've already seen at least one announcement of technology which embeds crypto-aware RFID chips into HD disks in order to "prevent piracy". CRI's announcement seems to concern a similar idea (but might not be contactless).

Myself, I wonder how these players will play personally recorded/generated HD content. Without an unbreakable watermarking scheme protecting the content of the media moguls, the only alternative I can see is that the consumer will be unable to get full HD playback of his own content. Makes us customers just drool, eh?

Cryptography Research Inc And Sony In Alliance (5, Informative)

im just cannonfodder (1089055) | about 7 years ago | (#19705381) tography-company-develops-chip-to-lock-out-third-p arty-ink-jet-cartridges.html []
Cryptography Research Inc are also working on blu-ray BD+, the security on new blu-ray discs that will have features like:

1: expiring discs. so the media you own will need continued licence renewals to enable you to use it.
2: the ability for studios to remote disable drives permanently if yours or a line is found to be hacked/venerable.
3. usage reports to the studios of your hardware, including your location and serial number used in the fight against piracy. ay2006/tc20060526_680075.htm [] ray-content-protection-agency-certifies-bd.html []

Re:Cryptography Research Inc And Sony In Alliance (1)

Enigmafan (263737) | about 7 years ago | (#19705447)

including your location and serial number used in the fight against piracy.
including your location and serial number used in the fight against terrorism.

Fixed it for ya.

The loser here? The consumer. (2, Informative)

Kuroji (990107) | about 7 years ago | (#19705383)

When printers are practically given away for thirty and forty dollars, yet the ink cartridges cost eighty to a hundred dollars or more, it's blatantly obvious to anyone who cares to look that it's a racket. They're merely trying to regain the stranglehold they once had before others began to manufacture compatible cartridges of comparable quality at a reasonable market price. This is why I have a laser printer. The initial cost is relatively higher but the cost of replacing cartridges, their lifespan, and the print quality is far higher.

The cost for a laser printer is BARELY higher! (1)

supercrisp (936036) | about 7 years ago | (#19705889)

You can get an inkjet for free. But I got a Brother laser printer that is very nice for $75 after rebate.

Be careful, I wil buy another NEW printer (3, Interesting)

what about (730877) | about 7 years ago | (#19705419)

From the customer point of view, it is not silly, can be called wasteful, but it is economic sound

This is what I did when the four cartridges for my laserjet 2600n did cost more than a new printer

Really, I did buy a second printer since overall I was saving 50Euros over buying the for cartridges...

When they run out I will buy something else (more linux compatible)

What makes me sad is that it is quite difficult for manufactures to actually "convince" a customer that a more expensive printer with a cheaper "refill" is worthwhile.

Maybe they should have a simple page that says "total costo over a year", where you input how many pages you plan to print and it will compare a printer against the others. This would be good for the environment, and the customers, less for sneaky companies that tends to mess up with advertising

Re:Be careful, I wil buy another NEW printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705679)

You do realise that the cartridges you get with a new printer are only half full? So you're actually paying double for your ink by buying a new printer. You do get a new printer though.

Re:Be careful, I wil buy another NEW printer (1)

niceone (992278) | about 7 years ago | (#19705773)

What makes me sad is that it is quite difficult for manufactures to actually "convince" a customer that a more expensive printer with a cheaper "refill" is worthwhile.

This is exactly the problem and I think it's human nature to go for the short term cheapest and to hell with the long term cost. There's nothing the printer manufacturers can do unless they form a cartel and agree not to sell their printers below cost.

What the hell has happened to the printer market? (3, Interesting)

QuatermassX (808146) | about 7 years ago | (#19705451)

I really don't understand the economics and consumer dynamics around the printer market these days. Surely printer technology has reached a plateau for most normal people? Is that why some corporate madman decided to adopt a blades and razors approach to the consumer printing market? I know it's been a fixture of the corporate colour copier / printer market for a long while now ... but ... why not just charge the correct price for the printer and the consumables?

A what the hell are people printing so damn much of that the consumables business is sooooo lucrative?

I've never been all that into generating large reams of paper at home. For my day job, I print documentation, reports, manuscripts, etc at the office and lug it home when I want a hard copy of something I'm editing online.

For my photography, I send files to a lab and have my images printed. I've considered printing at home - but I would expect archival inks and decent papers to be pricey. I really don't know why I'd want to keep a printer in a corner of my room waiting for those three or four colour 4x5's that I just HAVE to print then and there - and which can't wait for Apple / Kodak / Peak Imaging to deliver to my door in a couple of days. Surely iPhoto or Picasa is a hell of a lot simpler than fiddling with inkjet printers?

When I was writing more long-form pieces, I had a Brother laser printer. Cost me $100 at the time and I could print books without running out of toner. The cartridges weren't that cheap, but it took a nice long while before I had to change them out.

Surely it makes sense for most people just to send their photos off to be printed and to keep a cheap laser printer around for text?

No money in printers, then? (1)

Threni (635302) | about 7 years ago | (#19705479)

If this scheme worked, wouldn't there be money in a manufacturer selling printers which operated outside of this system, and allowed ink from any other manufacturer? I certainly won't be buying a locked-down printer if I have the choice, and given that only one manufacturer can own the patent on this scheme that leaves quite a few of them (all but one, in fact).

I bought a printer because I could use refills (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 7 years ago | (#19705487)

I bought a Canon S750 about 3 years ago. It cost me a pretty penny compared to some of the cheaper models but it had the advantage of separate colour cartridges, 3rd party refill cartridges were plentiful and it was easy to refill too. So Canon got their money up front from the sale, and I saved money over the long term on ink. It's not the greatest printer for photos but the quality is just fine for every day printing. I expect I will use it as long as it works.

I think if I had bought some cheaper printer that I would have spent 2-4x the money by now on refills, even assuming the printer even worked any more. I despise devices that have built-in obsolescence or rely on disposable & non-recyclable parts to force upgrades. Someone like the EU should force the industry to define and adopt standards that cover things like chargers, batteries and cartridges.

Re:I bought a printer because I could use refills (1)

ozsynergy (634652) | about 7 years ago | (#19705553)

Sounds like my old HP Deskjet 810, the last of the build-to-last-a-while printers.
Cartridges are on there 5th or so refill, running very nicely. (one of the last non crippled HP printers)

Photo printing sux, but i take my photos down and get them printed professionally for 15-25c AU.
The photo's last, the quality is unmatched in home printers and you can choose glossy or matt finish.
Sure beats paying $1 for an inferior print and supporting crippled products!

Re:I bought a printer because I could use refills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705835)

The EU will not force a lucrative and economically important market to LOSE MONEY since the EU is ALL ABOUT MONEY. They will whine and pretend to act up, but they're not going to damage the industry, especially since said industry pays good tax money and creates jobs.

The EU will rather feed newborn babies to pigs than lose precious money. Get over it.

Stop using printers then (2, Insightful)

bl8n8r (649187) | about 7 years ago | (#19705517)

Why, for fucks sakes, does anyone need to print anything these days? Is emailing pictures not enough? Can you not just purchase a scanner? TEACH YOURSELF how to take advantage of technology and at least make it harder for this kind of crap to keep happening.

Nice business plan ... (4, Insightful)

haraldm (643017) | about 7 years ago | (#19705563)

... for the "pirates". Since this is going to make "official" ink cartridges more expensive, this will firstly raise the "pirates"' revenues, making it more rewarding to produce counterfeit cartridges to begin with. Duh. Each time in history, when something was forbidden or made illegal, the criminals made more money, like during prohibition in the 30s. As soon as the prohibition was cancelled, the alcohol mafia gangs had to look for different businesses. When will people learn.

Counterfeit? (2, Funny)

biduxe (541904) | about 7 years ago | (#19705603)

Ok there's something I don't get. What is exactly a counterfeit cartridge. I'm in the business for ten years and I never heard of it. What I know is:

New genuine printer manufacturer cartridge
Refilled genuine printer manufacturer cartridge
Other brands compatible cartridge (new or refilled)

So I guess a counterfeit cartridge is a cartridge manufactured by some company which brand it with the name of another company for the purpose of ripping off the consumer.

Well that's something I never saw in my career, and it is new for me, which is why from now on a will take a precautionary measure:
Don't buy Genuine printer manufacturer cartridge as thos can be in fact counterfeit, buy instead alternative brands less likely to be counterfeit

Eventually gonna shoot their own foot (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | about 7 years ago | (#19705647)

The more they push ink lock-in with the excessive pricing and having false-negatives with "real" ink cartridges, the more people are going to get fed up with this. Some bright company will come up with the innovative idea of charging real prices for the printers and real prices for the ink (yes, it would take a while for -that- to catch on). Also, laser printers are starting to get real cheap (compared to the past). Methinks that most people use color printing for either work or for printing pictures; well, there are those idiots who have to put out a color brochure about their family each Christmas to 30 other families who could give a shit about it. Work- just use your work printer. Pics- go to Walmart/Cvs/any place that takes digital inputs now. Xmas brochure- just give 1 to your dog.

People got addicted to color printing years ago and now can't even imagine "just" black and white.

Pirate = Terrorist (2, Informative)

FranTaylor (164577) | about 7 years ago | (#19705739)

"Pirate" is the new inflammatory word used by tech writers these days to invoke passion and get page clicks.

Just like "terrorist", it has a fuzzy meaning and can be abused to no end.

I tried several times in private email to get the author of this piece to define the word "pirate", but she would not or could not.

Laser printers (1)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | about 7 years ago | (#19705745)

Thankfully, laser printers (even color laser printers) continue to drop in cost -- even to the point where most consumers can realistically afford one if they need it for any non-trivial amount of printing. And at least today, printers and toner cartridges aren't sold with Gillette-style pricing.

Printers (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | about 7 years ago | (#19705813)

Am I the only person who buys anouther printer rather than catridges? We have two printers in my house a Canon i865 and whatever cheap printer I can get (usually a HP) The Canon cost something like £120 and refilling the catridges is around £6 a go. The sad thing is if we actually compare the total cost of the cannon over the last three years against my habit of buying a new £30 printer (with free ink catridges) The new printer every 12-15 months is still slightly ahead.

When you discover things like this you have to ask yourself why the printer companies haven't been taken to task and yes I'm aware the quality of the cheapy printers is less but then both are only really used to print off uni/school reports the reson why its stayed so close cost wise is because the HP catridges tend to last me around a year, where as each of the 4 Cannon's only last 3-4 months of usuage.

I just can't see this working any company that instigates these measures on catridges is just going to lose customers

With Canon, empty != empty (3, Informative)

BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) | about 7 years ago | (#19705845)

Printer Companies are getting worse at this. My Canon Laser Printer locked up because the 'toner had exceeded it's lifetime'. Note the weasel words. Quite different from being out of toner! I had been using Toner Saver mode so expected a higher page couut, but nope, after I printed the predetermined number of pages it went into lockdown and refused to print anything more. The cartridge still has toner in it, a fair bit by the sounds of it, but a smartchip detects it being reinserted. Buy a new one. Others report on the web that Canon cartridges typically have 10-20% toner in them when they "reach their lifetime."

The message claims that continuing to use the printer would damage it. Rubbish. Remember laser printers and photo copies before the DMCA allowed this smart chip chikanery? They'd get faint, and you'd replace the toner, and all would be ok.

Will your printer do this? It's hard to tell, because reviewers don't print enough pages to find out. This isn't declared anywhere on the advertising material. It's unethical on Canon's part, and should be illegal. But as we saw with the Sony Rootkit, big companies can break the law on a whim and not get prosecuted.

Re:With Canon, empty != empty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19705977)

It's unethical on Canon's part, and should be illegal. But as we saw with the Sony Rootkit, big companies can break the law on a whim and not get prosecuted.

Exactly. "Legal" or "Illegal" is what Big Money says it is. Deal with it or suicide.

Could we please drop the phrase *right now* (3, Insightful)

Qbertino (265505) | about 7 years ago | (#19705861)

Could we please drop the phrase 'printer-ink piracy' and the concept of whatever the f*ck it's supposed to mean right now! Thank you.
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