HP's ink DRM instructs your printer to ignore the ink in your cartridge when you cancel your subscription


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/08/inkjet-dystopias.html


Is there also a printer manufacturer that doesn’t put DRM on their ink and simply asks a fair price for it? I know I need to avoid HP, but is there a printer manufacturer that does not use these sort of bizarre tricks?


I’ve told this story before, but I once had an HP printer a former boss had given me. It was all fine and well until the day it refused to print a black and white document… because it was out of yellow ink. Within 45 seconds it was in the dumpster and I haven’t owned a printer since- I can just use one at work or Kinkos if I really need something printed out.

Along the lines of mcv’s comment, why is this still a thing? All it would take is ONE printer manufacturer who made a user-friendly, non-DRM printer with reasonable ink cost and the existing printer companies would be out of business almost instantly. Nobody puts up with that shit because they want to.


So far, so good with my Brother laser printer. it gets the job done without difficulty, which is all we really want, isn’t it?


Similar experience with Samsung.


The subscription idea is perfect for inkjet printers, because they are usually used very lightly. If they only charged for the ink, many users would fill up once to last two… five… maybe ten years. Now they can pay a subscription for all those years! Everybody wins! (Except the owner.)


As a rule, most laser printers work by the business model you describe.

In general: Don’t be a sucker: don’t buy an inkjet printer. A colour laser printer costs more up front, but the toner will never dry out, the printer will never use up half the toner for “cleaning” routines, and the printer will come with enough toner to last several years at the rate most people need to print shit these days. An inkjet printer is destined to become e-waste. A good quality laser printer can and will serve you well until you die.

The only circumstances in which it makes sense to buy an inkjet printer are if you need to print out high quality glossy colour prints of photos on a frequent basis – and for most people, the photo printing kiosk at your local drugstore or supermarket will fulfill your needs there just fine.

Inkjets that are used infrequently get their print heads clogged with dried up ink, which require using up gobs and gobs of ink (sometimes an entire cartridge) to clear the blockage – failure to run the cleaning routines will result in the page coming out streaked or blank. Ink that gets used for cleaning routines ends up in a waste ink receptacle inside the printer, which is not designed to be cleanable or emptyable as a general rule. When the waste ink tank gets full, the printer becomes e-waste.


What about those “ink well” ones? Maybe Epson? (Can’t remember)


I haven’t owned a personal printer for at least 20 years and haven’t missed it once. Same solution as you: Kinko’s or work printer. And even then I’ve really only had to resort to either of those like 4 or 5 times in total.


Canon PIXMA mega tank. A little more expensive, but so worth it if you print a lot.



Amen. I wasted a lot of money on inkjet cartridges. I need printing like twice a year and they always used to dry up. Had to throw my Epson in the trash because nozzles got blocked up beyond cleaning. Lexmark was better but I still threw away cartridges that had been barely used. Finally I got a $50 Xerox mono laser some 5 years ago and still using the same toner. I got the cheapest printer because it’s enough for my needs but a quality color one still costs like a few OEM inkjet cartridges. Lasers used to be expensive but these days it’s like you said, doesn’t really make sense to get inkjet except for specific needs.


Of course, Cory neglected to mention that HP also sells standard, non-subscription cartridges. The subscription is simply an option, albeit a silly one for most users.

There is also the option of third party inkjet cartridges of varying quality.


OTOH, HP’s “lowest priced subscription” is up to 15 pages per month, no charge, they replace the cartridge when empty. Exceed that, it’s $1.25 for up to 10 more pages. With no kids doing schoolwork anymore, my printer is very lightly used, and this, so far, is working for me.


You want chaos, you get chaos. Go to Kinkos for everything else.


Didn’t Kodak try this strategy a ways back - pay for the unsubsidized printer but then get cheap ink.

As I recall, no one bought it.

Poor dead Kodak.


Sounds like classic once-the-founders-were-out-of-the-picture HP to me. My office had one of their all-in-ones, and one day it decided to “expire” a printhead. It wouldn’t even let you scan unless the printhead was replaced.

While Epson has done some shitty things with firmware updates, at least my Epson will merely warn me if a cartridge is low instead of flat-out refusing to print. Still, if it weren’t for the optical disk printing tray, I’d look for something that isn’t HP or Epson.


I feel like it’s one of those items where people assume they need one without thinking too deeply about it- just like some people don’t really need a car, or an internet package that includes landline and cable. For some people it would be really useful (like if you’re doing a lot of eBay selling and use it to print out shipping labels), but for the average person they can just borrow someone else’s or go to a print shop and be perfectly happy.


Wow, even I didn’t think they’d go that far. That’s truly a next level of contempt and naked malevolence for their customers. Might as well have the little digital display angrily flashing “FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU” every time the ink runs out.



This single business model was the first and major true example of how DRM fucks common people directly for the purpose of profiting from them in the modern age, and the perfect and obvious reason that we need a right to repair law nationally written.