Chip Shortage Forces Canon To Issue Workarounds For Its Own Obnoxious DRM

from the something-akin-to-justice dept

For decades now, consumers have been lured into a sour deal: pay for a relatively inexpensive printer, then spend a lifetime paying an arm and a leg for viciously overpriced printer cartridges. As most have learned first-hand, any attempt to disrupt this obnoxious paradigm via third-party printer cartridges has been met with a swift DRM roundhouse kick to the solar plexus. In fact if there’s an area where the printer industry actually innovates, it’s most frequently in finding new, creative and obnoxious methods of preventing cartridge competition.

Unfortunately for Canon, the global chip shortage has temporarily put a kink in the company’s plan to annoy regular customers. The shortage means the company hasn’t been able to buy enough chips used to determine whether a printer cartridge is “genuine” or “authorized,” and therefore has had to start selling cartridges without DRM, and issue guidance helping users do an end around for the company’s own obnoxious DRM warnings:

The company’s various international websites warn users that even “official” Canon ink cartridges could be seen as “counterfeit” across a range of printer products lines (19 devices in total) because they can no longer embed the chips needed for DRM:

“The role the chip plays in the toner cartridges is to communicate information, this includes toner level and to confirm that the toner is a genuine Canon product.”


Canon was just sued last October for disabling all the functions in their multifunction printers if the device’s cartridges ran out of ink (and failing to adequately disclose that to consumers). Basically, Canon did the math and realized that they’d boost their profit margins if they forced millions of customers to buy new printer cartridges — even if they were only using the device to scan. That this might annoy, inconvenience, or drive up costs for its customers, or sour the public on the brand apparently never entered into the company’s thinking.

Of course, none of this would be a problem if the company hadn’t embraced annoying, artificial limitations in a bid to hamper competition and drive up costs in the first place, but it’s obviously unlikely Canon will learn much of anything from the experience.

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Companies: canon

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Comments on “Chip Shortage Forces Canon To Issue Workarounds For Its Own Obnoxious DRM”

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Thad (profile) says:

Calling it "DRM" is a stretch.

While some printer manufacturers have used the chips on their ink to prevent third-party cartridges from working (looking at you, HP), all Canon does when it detects an unauthorized cartridge is pop up a warning that it’s not authorized.

The "workaround for obnoxious DRM"* you describe are to click the "I Agree" button. That’s it. It’s DRM in the same way that WinZip’s nag screen is DRM.

* note: page is in German but screenshots are in English and are self-explanatory

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As far as I gathered from Ars Technica, the cartridges in question are for large format printers with less onerous DRM than home office multifuction printers.

I expect that the business class machine has a much higher price point, justifying the less onerous DRM. I find the articles suggestion that Canon is doing this for all ink cartridges to be the most questionable decision.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Could you explain how WinZip is a "bad 7-zip knockoff" when it was first released 8 years before 7-zip?

Not quite. WinZip was a GUI for PKZip on release. So it dates back to 1989 in public access. Alphas go back about another year or so from the BBS and CompuServe world.
In 95 it switched to InfoZip. Still someone else’s engine.

A stand-alone product of their own didn’t arrive until 2006 with general public release in 08. That was the zipX format variation.

7zip’s 7z definitely predates zipX.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Epson can be counted in with the bad folk. They’ve got the same chips to check that the cartridges are genuine.

What’s worse, they sell identical cartridges under different model numbers in different parts of the world. Moving to a new region and want to take your printer with you? Good luck! You probably have to buy third party chips to get the official cartridges to be recognized by your printer, which also means wading through the "this ink is not genuine" warnings.

Anonymous Coward says:

I long ago gave up on ink printers. Back before DRM in ink cartridges, I used to refill my own. It would cost around $20 to refill them 6 to 8 times, that’s all colored cartridges. I will never again buy an ink jet printer because of the DRM. Instead I now use a laser printer that doesn’t run dry at the printer head, doesn’t require more ink just to clean the heads, and over time is less expensive while being able to wait extended periods of time between prints.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Instead I now use a laser printer that doesn’t run dry at the printer head, doesn’t require more ink just to clean the heads, and over time is less expensive while being able to wait extended periods of time between prints.

I have a laser jet 4, the one with only a parallel port interface, and it still works, and has had one spell of fifteen years, at least, between prints.

Bergman (profile) says:


Given the massive penalties under the proposed SHOP SAFE Act – and its new lease on life being imbedded into other legislation – how would genuine Canon cartridges registering as counterfeit play with the Act? Especially since Canon itself is apparently selling counterfeits directly?

And how would anyone ever know the difference between a well-made fake and the real deal, without those chips?

Vidiot (profile) says:

Shout out, of course, to old Mr. Gillette, who used to give away the razors to keep the suckers coming back to buy blades…

I used to seethe every time my Canon laser printer harassed me about aftermarket/remanufactured toner cartridges… no less annoying than the inkjet thing. And then I realized how crappy the cheap cartridges had been making the print look — streaky, dirty and all the rest. Not the self-righteous outcome I would have hoped for. Luckily, my move to full-price media coincided with a drastic drop in paper printing, and I’m resigned to buying a new set once a year.

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