Wednesday, March 30, 2005Never mind the Grokster SCOTUS decision (although if the Supremes side with the entertainment industry on this one, I dare say it'll have a far-reaching chill) - the truly scary invention these days is DRM, or Digital Rights Management (see DRM Watch blog for good info).
Now, I can certainly understand why the ability to control content - who uses your material, when they use it, and where and how long they can use it - appeals to business interests, but I don't think a world where printer toner cartridges "die" on a given date, whether you've used up the ink or not, is a better world. DRM may be good for dairy products; not so good for innovation, consumers' rights, and future of our economy.
The "killer cartridge" is just one example of DRM: so are (after a fashion) Monsanto's "terminator seeds" designed to grow only non-reproductive plants. The concept of DRM isn't new, or unique to information technology. Blade Runner's replicants were DRM'ed, designed to expire after four years of service. For that matter, we could even consider our built-in lifespan limits of about 120 years as a form of "DRM" in the genes. The 1976 sci-fi feature Logan's Run took place in a future society where all people were required to commit suicide at the age of 30 - or be "recycled" by bounty-hunting "sandmen."
More on the "Logan's Run" printer cartridges from InfoWorld's Ed Foster:
I’ve heard from several other readers about similar problems they’ve had due to the chips in the ink supply cartridges for HP’s business-oriented printer models, so I pretty much knew what I’d hear when I asked HP about it. “In some of our printer models with separate print heads and ink cartridges, the ink cartridges expire after a certain period of time to prevent degradation of the printer components and print quality due to changes in ink properties, cartridge properties, and interactions between the ink and the cartridge,” an HP spokesman said. “For quality assurance reasons, we have set a maximum lifetime for the ink supply. The time allowed is adequate for product distribution and in-printer life for even our low-volume users.”As if you couldn't tell, there's a post in the works on the topic...just thought I'd give you a taste of the little graphic I cooked up first. Maybe I'll have it printed on a coffee mug. Every time I think about DRM (Digital Rights Management), an image of those Mission Impossible self-destructing tape reels pops into my head.
The readers who have suffered various difficulties with expiring cartridges suspect the chips are there not so much to protect them against degraded ink as to protect HP from red ink. Why, they wonder, does HP only do this in business printer models? If consumers can decide for themselves when ink is becoming too degraded, shouldn’t business users also get to do so? The lack of a patentable print head to block producers of generic cartridges may have been HP’s real motivation for inserting a chip. Then, by giving the chip a time bomb function, it also effectively prevents reuse of the cartridges for refilling or remanufacturing. [read full article]