'In a new essay at EFF.org
, Cory Doctorow re-visits HP's anti-consumer
"security updates" that disabled third-party ink cartridges (while
missing real vulnerabilities that could actually bypass network
Doctorow writes that it was just the beginning:
HP's latest gambit challenges the basis of private property itself: a
bold scheme! With the HP Instant Ink program, printer owners no longer
own their ink cartridges or the ink in them. Instead, HP's customers
have to pay a recurring monthly fee based on the number of pages they
anticipate printing from month to month; HP mails subscribers
cartridges with enough ink to cover their anticipated needs. If you
exceed your estimated page-count, HP bills you for every page (if you
choose not to pay, your printer refuses to print, even if there's ink
in the cartridges). If you don't print all your pages, you can "roll
over" a few of those pages to the next month, but you can't bank a
year's worth of pages to, say, print out your novel or tax paperwork.
Once you hit your maximum number of "banked" pages, HP annihilates any
other pages you've paid for (but continues to bill you every month).
Now, you may be thinking, "All right, but at least HP's customers know
what they're getting into when they take out one of these
subscriptions," but you've underestimated HP's ingenuity. HP takes the
position that its offers can be retracted at any time. For example,
HP's "Free Ink for Life" subscription plan offered printer owners 15
pages per month as a means of tempting users to try out its ink
subscription plan and of picking up some extra revenue in those months
when these customers exceeded their 15-page limit. But Free Ink for
Life customers got a nasty shock at the end of last month: HP had
unilaterally canceled their "free ink for life" plan and replaced it
with "a $0.99/month for all eternity or your printer stops working"
For would-be robber-barons, "smart" gadgets are a moral hazard, an
irresistible temptation to use those smarts to reconfigure the very
nature of private property, such that only companies can truly own
things, and the rest of us are mere licensors, whose use of the
devices we purchase is bound by the ever-shifting terms and conditions
set in distant boardrooms. From Apple to John Deere to GM to Tesla to
Medtronic, the legal fiction that you don't own anything is used to
force you to arrange your affairs to benefit corporate shareholders at
your own expense. And when it comes to "razors and blades"
business-model, embedded systems offer techno-dystopian possibilities
that no shaving company ever dreamed of: the ability to use law and
technology to prevent competitors from offering their own consumables.
From coffee pods to juice packets, from kitty litter to light-bulbs,
the printer-ink cartridge business-model has inspired many imitators.
HP has come a long way since the 1930s, reinventing itself several
times, pioneering personal computers and servers. But the company's
latest reinvention as a wallet-siphoning ink grifter is a sad turn
indeed, and the only thing worse than HP's decline is the many
imitators it has inspired.'
-- source: https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/20/11/09/0221226
Dept. of Computer Science
University of Waikato, NZ
+64 (7) 577-5304