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Panasonic patches cameras to block rivals' batteries

DRM-like tech implemented for 'customer safety'

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Panasonic has used a firmware update to prevent punters using batteries bought from other suppliers in its digital cameras.

The update, which applies to 16 cameras which between them use three models of Panasonic battery, was posted this week.

The company claimed the move had been made to protect its customers, though some will argue that the protecting profits was the motivation behind the move.

"Panasonic developed this technology after it was discovered that some aftermarket third-party batteries do not meet the rigid safety standards Panasonic uses," the company said.

It stated these are "imitation" battery packs.

"Some of these aftermarket batteries are not equipped with internal protective devices to guard against overcharging, internal heating and short circuit. If these aftermarket battery packs were used, it could lead to an accident causing damage to your camera or personal injury."

That's undoubtedly true, but not in the case of all third-party batteries. Even if that were the case, is it really Panasonic's job to mandate what power packs customers can and can't use? After all, if a third-party battery is used and it does fail the way Panasonic describes, that's a matter for the user and the battery maker, not Panasonic's responsibility.

Buyers could, of course, opt not to apply the firmware update, but in the case of some models, the update's details do not state that the new software has this effect. No, that's mentioned on a separate page.

This page is present on Panasonic's global camera downloads page, but below the announcements for the software updates. Panasonic isn't hiding the information, but it would be easy to overlook, especially if you went straight to the update download page. ®

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