HP Brings Back Obnoxious DRM That Cripples Competing Printer Cartridges

from the who-wanted-loyal-customers-anyway dept

Around a year ago, HP was roundly and justly ridiculed for launching a DRM time bomb — or a software update designed specifically to disable competing printer cartridges starting on a set date. As a result, HP Printer owners using third-party cartridges woke up one day to warnings about a “cartridge problem,” or errors stating, “one or more cartridges are missing or damaged,” or that the user was using an “older generation cartridge.” The EFF was quick to lambast the practice in a letter to HP, noting that HP abused its security update mechanism to trick its customers and actively erode product functionality.

HP only made matters worse for itself by claiming at the time that it was only looking out for the safety and security of its customers, while patting itself on the back for being pro-active about addressing a problem it caused — only after a massive consumer backlash occurred.

Fast forward almost exactly one year, and it looks like HP hasn’t learned much from the Keurig-esque experience. The company this week released a new software update for the company’s OfficeJet 6800 series, OfficeJet Pro 6200 series, OfficeJet Pro X 450 series, and OfficeJet Pro 8600 series printers. One of the major “benefits” of the update? Printer cartridges from competing manufacturers no longer work. Again:

According to ghacks.net, a new firmware update for HP Officejet printers released yesterday appears to be identical to the reviled DRM update released exactly one year ago. When you try to use third-party ink after installing the new/old firmware, you apparently run into an error that says ?One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove them and replace with new cartridges.? Depending on how many cartridges your specific printer uses, it may be possible to insert one or two without getting an error. But it seems when all of the ink cartridge slots are filled up, the warning message will be displayed again.

Just like a year ago, this restriction is being foisted upon consumers under the guise of a security update, powered by a service HP calls its “Dynamic Security” platform. Fortunately, consumers have several paths to avoid dealing with this nonsense. Customers can head to the HP support website and download an alternate firmware without the Dynamic Security platform embedded (something that HP knows most users won’t do, and which places the onus for remedying HP’s bad behavior on the end user). Users then have to block HP’s automatic update functionality to prevent this firmware from being installed automatically (at the cost of useful updates).

There’s probably an easier, more elegant solution: stop buying HP printers until the company realizes that eliminating device functionality under the pretense of security is obnoxious bullshit.

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Companies: hp

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Comments on “HP Brings Back Obnoxious DRM That Cripples Competing Printer Cartridges”

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75 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Funny

All my HP related cartridge problems come from HP cartridges. They go out of date (for no discernible reason), all of the reviews of customers buying cartridges directly from HP’s website claim many problems including half empty cartridges and out of date cartridges received, so I cannot buy them there. In fact, when only one of my color cartridges is out of date, I cannot use the black only function.

So my multi-function printer is bricked (so to speak) because brand new (to me) cartridges are out of date when installed.

Just how does ink spoil when wrapped in air tight foil packing?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Funny

In other words: DRM screws over legitimate customers, and also HP themselves (as customers having problems may just jump to a different manufacturer rather than play the game the way they want by blindly buying more cartridges).

I wonder if anyone there will notice this aspect of DRM this time, or if they’ll continue to pretend it’s some kind of benefit.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Funny

Given that people likely wouldn’t buy a printer with DRMed ink like that, wouldn’t this firmware patch constitute a materially adverse change?

Granted, anyone who outright bought a HP printer doesn’t have a contract, but those who lease one do. And given the existence of EULAs and such, even those who bought their printer might technically have a contract!

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Funny

Having no contract would mean that if the firmware updates are enabled by default and customers are not informed of that fact, pushing such an update would violate the Computer Fraud & Abuse act – which is one count of a federal felony for each device affected.

Without a contract or some other form of consent to HP, it would be legally no different from hacking random people’s computers and installing malware.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But we have to have the right to keep our business model & kill off any competition. We spent more on innovating protecting our market share than we spent on making sure we had satisfied customers.

Stop selling the printers at a loss that you expect to make up on overpriced ink.

Follow my previous idea, build a universal ink platform & work on making the printer the important thing.

tom (profile) says:

One solution is to trash the ink jet printer and buy a laser. Bought a HP LJ1200 many years ago and it is still working fine. Depending on type of documents printed, get 2000~4000 sheets per toner cartridge. Picked up a Dell CN3100 color laser from their outlet store for $295 delivered. Came with a set of full toners. Years later, still on original set. Big advantage of laser printers is the toners don’t dry out between print jobs. Printer can set there months before the next job and print just fine. Neither printer is allowed access to the Internet so no unexpected updates to foul up the works.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I find the solution touches on many salient points of printer behavior, not just the DRM issue in the article, for which the lack of internet connection is definitely a relevant solution, all other things being equal. (Gawd, why do we connect them to the internet anyway.)

Ink-devouring machines have all sorts of other weird behavior, such as claiming the ink is empty when it isn’t, refusing to print when one cartridge is out, refusing to scan with no ink, milking prodigious quantities of ink via “cleaning”, sometimes repeatedly between continuous print jobs (which also ends up leaving ink smeared all over the head and page due to the gallons of wet ink on the pads and wipers).

Maybe i am truly a nexus of entropy, and i just happen to see the worst behavior possible all the time. I have to imagine, though, that i am not so terribly unique.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Don’t let the printer access the internet” is half of it. You’ll also need to make sure you don’t install drivers that will push “improved” firmware to the printer. The best way to avoid that is to buy something that doesn’t need extra drivers, i.e., something that supports Postscript or PDF over a standard protocol like IPP or the USB printer class.

Atkray (profile) says:

Eco Tank

I needed an inkjet to print some books with lots of photos for a family project.
I bought the Epson Eco Tank. They sell you bottles of ink instead of cartridges and you can even throw in cheap no name ink if you want.

Like supporting an artist you like, buying this printer and the ink from them sends a message that I’ll support this business model.

We have been thrilled with the way it works. Sometimes need to run a clean when it sits for a couple months but when that isn’t wiping out a $35 cartridge it becomes a trivial mater.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Eco Tank

Thanks for the recommendation.

My wife needed a new all-in-one and we went with Brother this time, because I’d seen some positive comments on them here. So far it’s worked well, and cheap generic ink is available. It isn’t perfect (I read reviews saying that the scanner won’t work when it has an empty ink cartridge, which is ludicrous, and that its cleaning process runs automatically and wastes a lot of ink), but it’s a lot better than the ripoff game that HP and Lexmark have gotten into.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Eco Tank

I bought that one and boy I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been running her for almost 3 years on the ink that came with the printer and I’ve already gone through 3 packs of 500 sheets. I’ll have to buy black ink soon but with my last hp I’d have had to buy at least two new cartridges which would cost at about 20% more than one black ink bottle. With the caveat my expenditure on this Epson was zero in the same time frame because I’m still using the original ink.

Other manufacturers are jumping the ink tank bandwagon already (I’ve seen one from HP that I will never buy anyway because they made it to my no-buy list) so ink is gonna get cheaper for sure.

Anonymous Coward says:

look...

HP has a security interest… there is no telling when your printer will act up and deluge you with prints of dickbutt and mind bending sequences of words!

You need to respect your printer and learn to live in fear of it! There is no telling how many people have been mentally and emotionally distressed by printers… Remember office space? These guys had it in for that printer and no one should ever have to experience that travesty ever again!

Anonymous Coward says:

I TOLD you so...

…when this happened last year. They’re not sorry. They were never sorry. All they were concerned about is that they got caught. So they did exactly what I said they’d do: lie, back off, wait, and do it again.

Anybody buying an HP printer at this point is a sucker, a fool, and a moron. They DESERVE to be scammed and ripped off because HP has told them — shouting from the rooftops — that these are their intentions.

Nothing will happen to HP of course. Idiots will still buy their printers. Regulatory agencies will take no action. The BoD will respond by giving executives bonuses on top of their already-obscene salaries. “It’s just good business.”

Ray Wodanson (profile) says:

Funny enough

I just bought a new printer this weekend and had to keep pulling my wife away from HP printers. Even had to avoid the HP rep at Best Buy. After leading my wife away I had explain how HP has, in the past at that point, used their security updates to make you use their ink. Then I see this today and I thank my lucky stars and garters that I was able to convince her we only needed to print in black and white. Bought a Brother after showing her the 3rd party toner on amazon for 18.99 opposed to brothers 52.99.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Funny enough

This…

Not only that, but our Brother printer works quite well with various cloud printing services, which has proven amazingly handy and “secure enough” if you know what you’re doing and consider what you’re printing. Bottom line is that it just works and no shenanigans.

While I love color, I’ve also found it to be expensive and twitchy to do right. We utilize a local service for the few times that color is most appropriate, and we still save a bundle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I once owned a really nice HP oscilloscope, but that was 50 years ago, when they made great electronic equipment.

They sold that division in 1999 and called it Agilent (which still exists and is, last I heard, still good). Then in 2015 HP spun off "Hewlett Packard Enterprises". Which leaves "HP Inc." with probably nothing we want to buy–just printers and desktop/laptop computers.

Oh THAT Brian! says:

A friend of mine does this ...

When the big-box electronics store has a printer sale, he buys 2 or 3 of the “under $30” printers. Yes, the ink cartridges that are in the printer are the ‘starter’ cartridges, he will happily print until the printer runs out of ink. He moves the remaining cartridges to the second printer and adds in the cartridges that ran out (normally, the black one).

Then, he donates the printer to the local thrift store, getting a tax donation for the printer.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love my Brother Laser as there is no DRM. Hell I’ve never paid for 1 new Toner cartridge for it in the years I’ve had it. TH Demo one that came with it I was easily able to turn it into a normal toner cartridge with like a $5 kit. Which is a hardware type thing to let you know when it’s time to replace the cartridge. Instead, you can easily reset it back and then fill it up with new Toner on the cheap. I’ve always used 3rd party toner designed for use with that Brother Laser and printouts look great.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do printers actually have the ability to run code and if so, WHY?

All printers used by microcomputers have always had a processor in them. With the addition of features like Ethernet connectivity, and the printer having a local disk to allow it to act as the print spooler, it has become easier to use a proper OS, like Linux or BSD to provide those features.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do printers actually have the ability to run code and if so, WHY?

Many can print PostScript documents, and PS is a full programming language designed for printers (in the 80s). It’s standard, which means users don’t have to install (potentially hostile) printer drivers–but the printer has to "run" the document. PDF was initially a version of PS with Turing-completeness removed… until Adobe added Javascript to it. I don’t know whether printers run that; but PS and PDF are way too complicated to render in hardware, so printers need code to handle them, and that code can contain security bugs. Ideally there would be no writable filesystem, and they’d reset the CPU between jobs (or run a VM) to make these bugs harmless, but what are the chances they actually did it that way?

Then there are things like USB-stick-printing (needs a FAT filesystem parser and USB stack), Wifi printing, Cloud printing. All too complicated for hardware, and we didn’t even get to the antifeatures yet. Also too complicated to get right (no security bugs) on the first try unless you’re willing to pay double the cost of other printers.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh my. There is a world of research and articles about printers sending rather interesting info out across the net, and exposing any network to which they are attached, among other things.

They wouldn’t need security updates if they didn’t do stupid shit in the first place, no. But they were at the vanguard of the tire fire now known as the IoT.

McGyver (profile) says:

HP has just given me one more reason to never again buy another one of their printers.
Any ink has to be better then HP’s…
Watery food coloring or hamster diarrhea is a step up.
HP has some of the flimsiest printers, worst inks and crummiest papers available to mankind, so it’s no wonder they don’t want anyone using cheaper, better ink in their printers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Understandable short term business strategy

How can HP help themselves? HP is held up as a shining example in business colleges around the country specifically for their practice of selling printers cheap and then make massive piles of money by sticking it to those customers for their supplies. The shortsightedness of this tactic seems to escape business schools, executives and board members. Eventually HP will have such a bad reputation they won’t be able to literally give printers away. HP will follow in the footsteps of many American corporate giants like Micron computers; cash out all the value of the brand for quarterly profits and current executive bonuses. It is what is happening to Apple right now. Dejavu, Apple history repeats itself but Jobs won’t be coming back to change course to a long game. Apple is the ideal example of how much money can ultimately be made if a business does go for a long term strategy though.

Philly Bob says:

I gave up on HP products years back when 6 months after I bought an all-in-one, Windows upgraded to WinXP and of course I needed a new driver for my 6 month old printer. But guess what? Yup, HP said they were not releasing a driver for XP for that model rendering my 6 month old printer useless. Or I had to stay with Windows 2000. I rose hell with them every way possible except nuclear war on their home office but did they give a rat’s ass? Not in the slightest. I tossed the unit in the trash and bought Canons from then on.

appluser (user link) says:

HP DRM free bypass

My printer 3632 updated inself and installed illegal DRM timebom firmware 1750B.

My refilled cartridge was working until on April 2, 2018 it started to show cartridge failed and was refusing to work.

Under EU law blocking the work of 3rd party cartridges and making cartridges inoperable is illegal.

I also fully documented the way on how to bypass easily HP DRM timebomb.

1) Make sure printer is restricted from using internet and WiFi. You can disable printer internet connection before and set up blocking future firmware updates.

2) power off the printer

3) set time on computer connected to the printer as Jan 1, 2018 or the date before your present firmware was relised.

4) Power on the printer.

5) Old cartridge will work as a charm.

6) The fact that simply changing the time makes “Failed” cartridge to work shows that HP using illegal DRM practice which violates EU law.

Lets start petition or legal claim.

pariah417 (profile) says:

Re: HP DRM free bypass

I agree HP is getting out of hand. Like with this Instant Ink BS. I tried that WHAT A MISTAKE. When I realized I was going to print way more than 300 pages a month, a canceled my plan on the 9th of the month. HP informed me however I would still be charged PER PAGE until the end of the billing cycle. The kick in the teeth is the Instant Ink Cartridges (Black and Red) stopped working immediately. I have to print everything in blue.. DOESN’T THAT JUST BEAT ALL YOU EVER STEPPED IN!!!!!!!

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