by Mike Masnick

Bad Trends: End User License Agreements On Tangible Goods

from the lock-'em-down dept

It appears that the folks making tangible goods have realized what a sweet deal the makers of digital goods are getting with things like the DMCA and click-wrap EULAs. So, they're doing what they can to set up the same situation for tangible goods so that you never really own what you buy any more. Last week we wrote about the UK looking to ditch the right of first sale on artwork. And now, Copyfight is pointing to a ruling favoring Lexmark saying that they can put an EULA on the side of a printer cartridge box, and if it says you can't refill it, you absolutely can't refill it -- even though you bought the cartridge yourself and should be allowed to do with it what you want. Lexmark, of course, is no stranger to trying to make use of the DMCA to stop you from doing what you want with the printers you thought you owned. However, they kept losing on that front. It appears this new method of limiting your rights is much more effective. Next up will be new DVD players. Engadget is pointing out that you may soon get punished for tinkering with your DVD player -- as the device will call home and cry to mommy that you hacked it, and whoever you bought your DVD player from will have the option of disabling it remotely. It was just a week and a half ago that we worried about when tinkering becomes illegal. We should adjust that, it's already become illegal in many cases -- and companies are loving it. This, despite the fact that each of these moves just makes the technology that much less valuable to consumers.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Binsky, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 4:18am

    No Subject Given

    This news scared me at first, but it won't be long until even those new functions will be bypassed...Silly folks at marketing!

    A strange result will be that most users will become criminals for using a system they bought in a manner they feel like using it...Great job eh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Bob3000, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 4:20am


    Lexmark is known for their crappy printers and poor customer support but this takes the cake. Neevr another Lexmark product shall enetr my house and I will discourage their use at my workplace. I'll voice my opinion with my wallet as it where.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Whosawhat?, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 4:45am


    This seems fairly scary at first but this won’t ever stop me from using a product that I have purchased. A little click through agreement can be shot to hell in court and so can anything that Lexmark puts on the side of there printer cartridge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Bob3000, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 5:02am

    Re: BAH

    "Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit this week ruled in favor of Lexmark, agreeing that the "single use only" restriction contained in the "box-wrap license" on the package could create an enforceable contract between Lexmark and its customers, and that a violation of the contract could be a patent infringement."

    So they could sue you if they wanted and the law is on their side.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rick Sarvas, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 5:03am

    This is only going to get worse

    When is this legal encumbering of sold items going to end? With RFID, this sort of thing is only going to get worse. Are we going to be stuck with cars that only accept gas from certain gas companies unless we purchased the “multi-vendor” option for an extra $2,000 from the auto dealer?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    shrique, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 6:34am

    Re: This is only going to get worse

    Oh christ. Don't give them any ideas!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 7:15am

    Re: This is only going to get worse

    I went to a seminar on Creative Thinking by Dr. Edward DeBono and he talked about the "total value" of a product. One of the values of owning a car is being able to park it. If, say in Japan, Honda were to purchase up every available parking lot and make them "Honda Only" parking lots, then the value of a Honda vehicle in Japan increases without Honda having to actually modify their products. Supposedly in some of the larger cities, they've actually done this...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Sofa King Stoned, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 8:44am

    TQM vs. Lawyers

    One of the first books on Total Quality Management I read had an example of engineers going out into the field to study exactly how customers were using the product in order to figure out ways to make the product better fit customer uses. That's the crazy old-fashoined way! Nowadays it's better to restrict and specify the way the product can be used. Production has moved out of the hands of the engineers and into the hands of the lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    bob, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 9:33am

    What about dumpster diving?

    so, they have restricted the printer cartridges to first use only because the opener has "Agreed" to the shrink wrap.
    What about the person who digs said items out of the trash? they never saw a box or any agreement. so, they never agreed to anything.
    All this will do is push the aftermarket cartridges to flea market benches where there's no box agreement in sight.
    Unless there's a built in self destruct (like the DVDs that didn't sell) there's no way to stop aftermarket use and tinkering of physical goods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    DGK12, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 9:41am


    Imagine you were taken to court for putting the wrong jam on your toast. Suppose you were guilty of a crime for buying a bare-minimum store-bought pizza and added your own topping.

    When I was growing up I used to take apart gadgets to see how they worked. In the modern playing field I would have been a criminal. The courts biggest decision would have been whether or not I was old enough to go to jail!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 1:32pm

    No Subject Given

    From now on, I'm having my minor son open every box I get. Not only will it invalidate shrinkwrap licenses, it may save me from a mailbomb someday.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    TJ, Sep 6th, 2005 @ 5:36pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Interesting concept. Of course even without the mail bomb thing you'll eventually need a new son who is a minor. Wouldn't that be far more expensive a system to maintain than any restrictions in shrink wrap licenses? :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    emichan, Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Imagine

    ... and you thought the prisons were crowded before....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    anne, Jul 3rd, 2008 @ 6:58pm

    Lexmarks are pieces of crap. I've warned friends not to buy these products, and I always end up hearing 'you were right' as they toss the non-working POS into the bottom of the nearest landfill.

    For friends who aren't using a computer for business or high-output printing, I always encourage them to buy an HP. I used to order generic printer cartridges on Ebay for them, but now, they're able to find affordable and reasonable name-brand cartridges on their own at Wallyworld. I've never met an unhappy HP printer owner. Seriously.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Eric Schmidt, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 1:55pm

    What's the matter?

    These EULA's are contracts. Contracts are extremely useful things. They are formal agreements between consenting parties that are enforced by the government. Enforcing contracts is one of the few really great functions of the governments (and therefore police and armies and courtrooms). Without contracts, so much business would be unfeasible. Would you want to buy insurance or other financial product that wasn't based on a contract enforced by the government? Would you trade high volumes of financial instruments without the protection of contracts? No. So if some printer company or anyone else wants to engage in a contract with me when they sell me something, thank goodness they have the right to do that. That said, whether I would accept their contract and their sale is another story. Would I buy an ink cartridge that I am legally bound not to refill? No. Because it's cheaper to refill. Why would I want to engage in that contract?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Eric Schmidt, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Re: What's the matter?

    Should add to be clear: if Lexmark or other companies do that, there will always be some set of printer companies or printer-cartridge companies that don't, precisely so long as there is strong demand for such non-locked-down printer cartridges. Now potentially it's unprofitable (and therefore unfeasible) to sell printers at the current price if the cartridges can't be locked down. In which case a company will either raise the price of the printer, or open up cartridge refill stores. In fact, certainly it is this last option which will eventually generally prevail. Clearly, refilling the cartridge at such a place is more efficient than buying a new cartridge -- we know this because it's cheaper. And it makes sense -- you're saving money on the packaging materials and shipping weight added by the packaging materials. And thus the market will choose the most efficient distribution mechanism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Lol Wut, Jul 4th, 2008 @ 5:45pm

    Re: Re: What's the matter?

    The point was made that printer cartridges are a profitable business. This is true. My last printer cartridge had 7ml of ink and cost roughly US$10. There are 3,785.4ml of ink in a gallon, it roughly translates to somewhere in the neighborhood of US$5,000 to US$10,000 per gallon of printer ink. No wonder why there are now physical stores that focus on ink cartridge refills.

    Problem is that the industry thinks it's okay to markup ink to over 200 times the cost of materials. Under the current scheme, its a great way to "print gold". Thing is, if US Business doesn't pursue creating non-locked-down printer cartridges, some company eventually will petition ISO, EU, or some governing standards authority to do it, then the house of cards will fall. Thousands of ink cartridges doesn't really help an industry or the retailers that have to stock them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Wayne in BC, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 4:38pm

    Lexmark Suck all ink is expensive.

    The only reason they are still around is they catch the computer illiterate shopper making that first purchase and it comes with a free printer. I have only ever had one Lexmark, and never again will i ever purchase another. I tell everyone i know not to. The fact I'm an IT admin and Engineering Technologist carries some weight as well. The whole ink thing on the other hand is still a joke. HP does it as well with their printers. The cartridges will wear out eventually refilling them manually. Toner for laser is better but not by much but it cost more up front. I try to use digital formats(to many to name here) as much as possible. Just don't print hit them where it counts. Ink/toner should be cheap it's the paper that should cost, unless you used recycled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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