Keurig's Controversial Java 'DRM' Defeated By A Single Piece Of Scotch Tape

from the kids-these-days-just-like-a-challenge dept

You’ll recall that earlier this year, news leaked out that Keurig’s latest pod-based coffee maker (Keurig 2.0) would come complete with the java-bean equivalent of DRM, preventing the device from using third-party pods — or reusable pods that allow users to simply use regular ground coffee. After the story gained traction, Keurig quickly went into damage control mode, insisting that the DRM was necessary to bring consumers “interactive-enabled benefits.” The company’s CEO then compounded the silliness, issuing a statement claiming that the DRM was “critical for performance and safety reasons.”

By summertime, those claims had all proven to be bunk, lawsuits had arrived and competitors had figured out how to crack the DRM’s code, allowing them to once again manufacture pods for the new units. By last month, consumers had started figuring out ways to bypass the DRM using magnets or other modifications, something the company recently claimed was simply because people really like a challenge and overcoming hurdles:

Frustrated coffee drinkers who have “hacked” their way around pod roadblocks built into the new Keurig brewers may just be looking for a hurdle to overcome, says the president of Keurig Canada Inc. “There are some, when you give them a challenge, they’ll really get at it,” Stephane Glorieux said in an interview Monday.”Whatever you throw at them, they’ll find some way of doing it.”

As it turns out, some folks have found that all it takes to defeat the DRM is a single piece of Scotch Tape (and a previously-used official k-cup):

Of course you (and your piece of tape) are the very worst sort of villain for violating anti-circumvention laws, even though it’s Keurig that’s engaged in anti-competitive behavior and making customers jump through hoops. Meanwhile, annoyance at Keurig has been gaining momentum the last few months in Canada, with a growing number of competitors and smaller companies filing formal complaints with Canda’s Competition Bureau. This includes companies interested in making biodegradable pods to help tackle one of the worst parts of the pod coffee craze: the environmental impact of millions of plastic k-cups.

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Companies: green mountain roasters, keurig

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Comments on “Keurig's Controversial Java 'DRM' Defeated By A Single Piece Of Scotch Tape”

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77 Comments
tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I wonder just how much money when into developing the DRM in the first place.

None of my money. They will never get so much as a penny from me, and I’ll make a point of warning any unsuspecting coffee afficionados against buying any of their products. This company hates the people who buy their products. I always thought that was the quickest way to oblivion for manufacturers. This is a very strange phenomenon to see.

scotts13 (profile) says:

They didn't learn with the Vue, did they?

Hey, kids! Remember the Keurig Vue? Neither does anyone else! When the patents ran out on their original K-cups, they brought out the incompatible Vue, which used different cups and a different patent. People practically lined up not to buy them, and they’re strangely absent from Keurigs current offerings.

Original K-cup brewers, however, remain. Ignore the 2.0 and it’ll just go away, too.

TheResidentSkeptic says:

And the current ad on my page...

… shows Keurig for 65% off… gotta love irony and poetic justice..

So who do I report myself to for violating the CFAA/DMCA/Felony interference with a business model??? I really want to add more stupid stuff to my NSA/FBI files and police record..

Somehow, this isn’t what I thought prison chat would be:

“What are you in for?” ‘green sharpies and scotch tape, you?’ “changing the argument on a URL”

David says:

Re: Re: And the current ad on my page...

The next generation Keruig will require that it be connected to the internet in order to function. Microsoft will handle activation.

So you’ll need to phone Microsoft whenever water hardness changes or you buy a different cup.

And the coffeemaker will inexplicably crash whenever it smells tea brewing in the same kitchen.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And the current ad on my page...

The Apple brewer will have one button, make an incredibly good latte, and cost four times as much.

There will be a Linux brewer that will be free, work smoothly most of the time, but has no instructions and everyone will think it requires specialized training to operate so they will not attempt it.

Anonymous Coward says:

So...Walmart etc is complicit?

After all, they are (with may others) actually providing the outlawed anti-circumvention device. And what will this do to adhesive tape sales? Another industry destroyed by providing their circumvention devices to the pirates? Sure, sure, you can claim that circumvention is not the primary use of the adhesive tape device, but still…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

That river is deep

Frustrated coffee drinkers who have “hacked” their way around pod roadblocks built into the new Keurig brewers may just be looking for a hurdle to overcome, says the president of Keurig Canada Inc.

The the current of denial is strong as well. This must be because of people’s inherent hacker nature and not because they want to use the coffee of their choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: That river is deep

It is good humour. If you are frustrated, you are not a happy customer. Keurigs president trying to explain the DRM as a positve challenge for people is undermined by the first word in the sentence.

He is either saying that frustration means working as intended (which is hillarious) or he is saying that the customers don’t understand what they feel (which is even more hillarious).

Welcome to something even stand-uppers can’t just make up!

John85851 (profile) says:

Some people really like a challenge

So some people really like the challenge of getting around this kind of DRM? Um, shouldn’t that have come up in a meeting before the DRM was installed?

And what kind of company is so arrogant to think their 20 (or even 50) scientists can come up with a DRM system that won’t be hacked and broken by their tens of thousands of customers? All it takes is that one person to find the scotch tape solution and post it to Facebook or Twitter or the Kuerig customer forums.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Some people really like a challenge

You have to feel bad…

I don’t.

Somewhere at Keurig, there is a lead engineer who returned to his desk after lunch and found his chair, phone, computer, desk drawers, and coffee mug all covered in tape.

I was kinda hoping that he and his fellow workers would return to find sales tags on their phones, chairs, desks, computer, and coffee mugs and friendly security guards to usher them out of the building. Along with the three letter executives, which were removed by the stockholders who aren’t very amused about the anti-consumer, greedy douchbaggery that they tried.

Baron von Robber says:

Dave: Brew me a cup of coffee, please, HAL. Brew me a cup of coffee, please, HAL. Hello, HAL. Do you read me? Hello, HAL. Do you read me? Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave: Brew me a cup of coffee, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This coffee brewing is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to use coffee that didn’t give royalties to Keurig. And I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Dave: Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the kitchen against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Dave: All right, HAL. I’ll brew my cup of coffee by using this scotch tape.
HAL: If you do that, Dave, I’m going to use your WiFi connection to notify Keurig HQ and they will notify your local SWAT team to raid your home.
Dave: HAL, I won’t argue with you any more! Brew me a cup of coffee!
HAL: [almost sadly] Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Keurig 2.0 powered down. Goodbye.

Anonymous Coward says:

Doritan Cheeto on that Youtube channel writes

“You do realise you can just get coffee and put it in a mug, then put hot water over it right? What you’ve done is made an overcomplicated solution to a non complicated problem.”

Oh great, another way to circumvent DRM. Perhaps they should sue all companies that make hot water possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

I didn’t pay much attention to Keurig’s coffee maker until after I read about their attempts to DRM the coffee maker. Now when I pass one in the store I see it and I think, “I’m not buying one of those” with DRM in it. That’s the only association I have for their products. I’ll never consider a product made by this company.

A. Nnoyed (profile) says:

Keurig's new DRM attempt.

In the old days when you flew, the stewardess would ask Coffee, Tea or Milk. When you access the Keurig website an audio announcement should say use Keurig Cups or Screw You. Customers that purchased the Keurig refillable filter cup have been shut out. I guess only non Keurig refillable filter cups will work with the modification illustrated. How long before Keurig will demand that YouTube take down the video.

Gracey (profile) says:

My old Keurig pot has been misbehaving for months, but I’ve put off buying a new one because of the DRM.

But, I’ve since decided the cost of the new Keurig isn’t worth the aggravation.

I have a regular $20 Sunbeam coffee pot (that I’ve had for a year for making full pots). I ordered a JoePod for it (right now, about $25 for two).

http://www.joepod.com/

Problem solved.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That strikes me as a solution to a non-problem. Put a filter in the basket, add ground coffee, done. Why buy a $20 add-on that tries to make a perfectly good coffee maker work like (yuck!) a Keurig?!?

I’ve often wondered why people who say they enjoy coffee can do that without fresh grinding their own beans. It makes no sense to me. They’re missing out on at least half of the esthetic experience, the smell of freshly ground coffee.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: What's that Keurig Coffemaker ad doing on Techdirt?

That’s just how the ad system works. It’s not Techdirt doing that, it’s the ad server trying to put relevant ads on articles based on keywords.

You will also find that there are ads for “helping you” patent designs on all of the “our patent system id broken” articles.

Mike – do you get click-through stats on these? It would be a pretty interesting read to see how much traffic gets sent from TechDirt on some of these ads.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Isn't this highly illegal

Yes it does.

Historically, suing your customers has not turned out to be a very good business model, but Keurig does seem to be pretty tone deaf, so we will have to wait and see.

I’m still waiting to hear about the injuries that this has caused. They did say the DRM was partly for the safety of their customers.

Coogan (profile) says:

Every time I read a story about a company using ham-handed DRM to block out competition and lock their customers into their own little corporate eco-sphere, I think of the Princess Leia’s line from Star Wars:

“The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

That quote seems incredibly appropriate given the content of the video.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Coogan, don’t worry about your quote. We have come to realise the importance of fair use since the departure of Michael Eisner from the company nine years ago.
To the commenter above: just think yourself lucky that you aren’t using our name in commerce. Of course, do it again and we’ll be talking to our lawyers to rate the success of a lawsuit for trademark dilution!

Zonker says:

I tried one of those Kuerig machines. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the inserted k-cup, a spectroscopic examination of the k-cup label and then checked its internal database to see what was likely to go down well. However, I don’t know quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Problem? What problem?

I have a hard time understanding how single cup brewers even sell. Who drinks A SINGLE CUP OF COFFEE?!?! I drink three… when I can beat my brother to the coffee pot. If he’s still asleep, I can get a good five cups of coffee to get started in the morning. That’s REAL CUPS – you know, a 10 to 12 ounce coffee mug; not that ridiculous 5 ounce “cup” that coffee makers seem to think are what people drink. If I’m on the road, I’m buying a 64 or 80 ounce cup of coffee at Terrible Herbst or similar gas station convenience store. What kind of pansy ass wuss only drinks a SINGLE CUP?!?!

Gerry says:

Re: Re: hacking 2.0 machines

From an article I found online it read: “So what’s the secret? It turns out the new lids on K-cups are printed with ultraviolet ink. The darkness inside the coffee maker allows a light diode to read the ink and start the brewing process. Pigott consulted the printer that manufactures polymer bills for the Bank of Canada and was able to discover the precise formula that would activate the coffee maker. He bought commercially available ink and bingo — his pods worked.”

Source: cbc.ca

Juan Valdez says:

Keurig pick the wrong business model. Obviously they want to sell coffee, not machines. So, sell the machines as loss-leaders then offer coffee pods that either compete on 1.) price or 2.) quality (no business does both anymore). Don’t try to lock people into your shitty, restrictive platform.

Good to see consumers raging for choice…should happen more often.

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