back to article EFF dinks HP Inc finks in rinky-dink ink stink

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has written to HP Inc demanding it reverse its attempt to prevent any third-party ink cartridges or refilled cartridges from working in its Officejet Pro printers. HP Inc, and many other printer makers, have traditionally sent users a Doomsday warning message when anything but their own …

  1. DonL

    Word of the month: anti-feature

    "Something that works against your customers' interests"

    Brilliant!

  2. Ron 10

    They leave out some points I consider an important factor - breaking and entering, destruction of private property, theft of the money spent on non-HP cartridges, time and effort lost to cause the machine THEY OWN to fail.

    Much of these things also need to be slapped up against Microsoft by federal regulators. MS has decided you computer no longer belongs to you by depriving owners of control and access to their own property and use of the property as they choose.

    Much as I dislike Federal meddling, HP, MS, and many others need to be stopped. We are having our rights stomped on every day by usurping and altering the manner in which we use our private property.

    It is essentially breaking and entering and the taking of property. The idiotic law preventing people from seeing manufacturers code for any purpose, seems to be decidedly oriented to companies rather than consumers (wow, what a surprise that lawmakers only seem to favor big money).

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @ Ron 10 - Since it is the user's kit, they have the right to use any compatible supplies with it. This is a variation of using DRM to prevent users from using third party supplies. Now if the feral prosecutors were really doing their jobs they would be hammering Slurp and HP on various criminal charges.

      1. SotarrTheWizard

        The precedent of Auto Repair. . .

        . . . . likely holds here, that you cannot be forced to use a dealership for repair or service, or OEM parts for your car. . .

    2. Suburban Inmate

      Indeed. In fact years ago I remember these sort of things were passed off as bugs. How times change!

      It is also insane from an environmental point of view. I have a Deskjet D5160 so HP have almost certainly not released a firmware update for that in aeons, let alone since I last fired it up to print something. In fact I so seldom print that my worry isn't the refilled carts being detected but them drying out so far that even an isopropanol paddle can't revive them.

      Where was I? Oh, right, yes, the environment! Selling equipment as a 'loss leader', such as an inkjet for £20 encourages waste, i.e. unnecessary upgrades. Skewed markets are rarely any good for the consumer or the environment.

      IMHO, HP and chums should be regulated to sell the goddamn printer and make a profit there by having a competitive product for the price. Then they are free to sell their carts and try to make a profit there by having a competitive product.

      HP, If some folk aren't too bothered by slightly 'downmarket' inks and re-used print heads then perhaps your cartridges are just a smidgen overpriced? By all means gouge the hell out of corporates on a service contract, until a competitor comes and outcompetes....

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
    WTF?

    If an individual did this, they go to jail.

    Now how is this different from me gaining entry to a computer system under false pretenses and disabling it's functionality? I believe in the US, I'd be sent to the pokey for violating some combination of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) 18 U.S. Code §1030, the Access Device Fraud Act 18 U.S.C. § 1029, and the Communication Interference Act 18 U.S.C. § 1362, and a few others I'm probably overlooking.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: If an individual did this, they go to jail.

      I believe that, once they've finished jamming other major offenders in the arse in the courts, the EU will crack down on this as it is anti-competitive at the very least. Ford cannot mandate you only use tyres they supply or petrol etc. The actions they undertook by activating the "feature" 6 months after releasing it (and I believe transferring ownership of the division) makes me think more than a fine could be in the offing here.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If an individual did this, they go to jail.

        "the EU will crack down on this as it is anti-competitive at the very least"

        Didn't the EU already do this? Something about Epson IIRC.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: If an individual did this, they go to jail.

      "and a few others I'm probably overlooking."

      Interstate Wire Fraud seems to be the catch-all de jour. HP delivered the "update" over the interwebs.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are printers special?

    If you bought a replacement cartridge for a water filter that did not work because it was too small and the water flowed around it or a cartridge for a plug in air freshener that evaporated within a day because it had a different chemical make up you would just put that down to buying third party counterfeit refills but for some reason that does not apply to printer ink cartridges which I guess are at least an HP trade secret if not covered by patient and other legal protection.

    1. Olivier2553

      Re: Why are printers special?

      But once you have found a compatible water filter cartridge that works with your filter, the manufacturer of the filter will not come to your home at night to change their system so that you cannot use the compatible cartridge.

      I think it would be no problem if the printer was meant to work only with genuine supply from day one. But applying a modification, in a deceiving way, so something that was working, and that was not advised as not possible, suddenly stop working, is another matter altogether,

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    We own a multifunction HP Laserjet Color printer.

    Which makes me wonder how long this printer will remain exempt from HP's policies. Luckily I haven't updated its firmware in ages, and will block firmware updates to this printer as I don't trust HP any more.

  6. Metrognome

    EFF Misnomer?

    Isn't EFF the Electronic *frontier* (as opposed to freedom) foundation?

    1. Goopy

      Re: EFF Misnomer?

      ElReg mucks up again.

    2. Saigua

      Re: EFF Misnomer?

      It could be Electronic Amnesty Foundation, out opposing the bricking penalty for printers and freeing PS4 from the obligations of PS2 or stopping systemic cruelty to odd version dot releases.

      And it's not about advancing the bar or engineering per se, but more the people trying to live paperless and choose their own shared multi-head console without first shaking NIST (NBS?) .

  7. FuzzyTheBear
    WTF?

    err .. WAIT !

    Did they say..." secure communications between printer and ink cartridge " ?

    Has there ever been an exploit where a " rogue " ink cartridge actually infected computers ?

    Sounds total bull to me .. but what do i know ..

    1. Goopy

      Re: err .. WAIT !

      Good point!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just sign the EFF petition

    Take Action button..

    https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/09/what-hp-must-do-make-amends-its-self-destructing-printers

    or

    Just procrastinate as usual..

  9. Valerion

    They deserve a mega-slap

    Imagine if this was, say, Ford, and they somehow pushed out an update that prevented you from filling up your car unless you were at one of their own petrol stations. Which happen to charge 5 times the price for fuel.

    The uproar would be debated by the government within days.

    Same should apply here.

    1. Goopy

      Re: They deserve a mega-slap

      Does the Tesla charging system have a proprietary plug? Does another company wanting to spread electric love across the land, like Apple, have a proprietary jack they are willing to keep for their future cars?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: They deserve a mega-slap

        "Does the Tesla charging system have a proprietary plug?"

        Yes, but you can use adaptors to charge from "standard" charging points or from a standard mains socket too. But you can't plug a non-Tesla car into a Tesla charging point.

        So , quite similar to pre-update HP, ie you can use non-HP ink carts in an HP printer but you can't use HP ink carts in a non-HP printer.

        This HP change would be like Tesla sending out an OTA update stopping their cars from charging unless it identifies a genuine Tesla charge point is connected up.

  10. ianmcca

    Illegal and unfair practices

    IiRC, the EU dropped it's unfair practices case against IBM when IBM agreed after much resistance to publish interfaces between products, allowing competitors to compete fairly at a product level rather than only at the solution level, and allowing customers to create the solution that suited their needs.

    The same rule ought to apply to printers and ink cartridges. Today, when you think you are buying a printer you are in fact buying a printing solution because you are locked into a single supplier who can overcharge (as IBM used to do) for other parts of the solution.

    I would love to see the printer companies fined enough to affect their bottom lines for this blatantly illegal practice, but I don't see any sign governments want to take this on.

    My own reaction has been to stop using inkjet technology. I use print shops for photos and an ancient HP B/W laser printer (ink cost .3pence per page) for the occasional business letter and document I need to print.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vintage Champagne

    When I was told the HP printer ink was more expensive than vintage champagne I bought a bottle of that and filled the cartridges with it. I can confirm that it makes a crap ink. Stick to ink cartridges OEM or otherwise.

  12. ComedyIsn'tPretty

    Pay Later, Not Pay now.

    As an alternative point of view. I just had to purchase a new printer/scanner/copier and decided on an HP model partly because it cost $60. $60 was much cheaper than any other brand. Now the fact that this model is locked to use $25 HP ink cartridges is probably one reason why the printer could be offered at $60.

    1. Goobertee

      Re: Pay Later, Not Pay now.

      My wife is a elementary teacher. When she moved to a new school and went to set up her new room, her administrator told her to look at the weekend newspaper ads (this is the USA) and pick the cheapest color inkjet she could find. My wife then called me and asked me to look at the ads for her. I'd bet the whole school could hear me screaming, "Noooooo!!!!" from six miles away.

      I sent my wife an email to take to the administrator that I would buy a reasonably priced (found a Dell for $120) color laser which would remain mine forever, if the school would buy the replacement toner cartridges. The administrator agreed. I put several quite visible tags with my name (not my wife's) on the printer and everybody was happy, My wife retired and we have a nice low-mileage color printer.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    code of conduct in the making?

    maybe everyone selling "auto-update" stuff should be required to do this sort of thing:

    • Reverse the firmware update (should the customer choose to do this, they go back to functionality available at the time they purchased the item)
    • Apologise to customers.
    • Promise not to abuse the update process and use it for security updates only
    • Publicly disclose the impact of each future software update
    • Warn customers if supplier intends to remove useful product features after they’ve bought the product.

    and then offer a refund if an update removes functionality or features that the customer purchased - such as the freedom to use 3rd-party ink cartridges ...

  14. Saigua

    HPE has bug bounty cheering; get those MITM cartridge cozzies sent 'round!

    Well, they have a bug bounty program https://firebounty.com/bug-bounty-program/4/hp so it the next log that hits 120 pages before INK OUT for a cartridge color you don't even love should let one take it out on a variety of select 'secure cartridge-printer communications.'

    For example, can the printer tell that the cartridge inside it used to carry specialty inks used in vaccination labs, has a large family of colors (BEIGE 89257, BEIGE 89119, BEIGE 89740...) that have recently radicalized and traveled to color labs that also do human trafficking, eaten the chips out of several stockroom neighbors, and then trained for 3 months to put bows on replacement supplies with notes 'Please change ink when it whinges {top secret intelligence emoji}?'

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