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EFF dinks HP Inc finks in rinky-dink ink stink

Rights warriors demand reverse-ferret on printers snubbing unofficial cartridges

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has written to HP Inc demanding it reverse its attempt to prevent any third-party ink cartridges or refilled cartridges from working in its Officejet Pro printers.

HP Inc, and many other printer makers, have traditionally sent users a Doomsday warning message when anything but their own expensive cartridges are detected. These warn you of possible damage to the machine and that normal high standards might not be maintained by your use of cheaper products.

But HP Inc’s latest firmware upgrade masquerading as a security update appears to stop any printing happening at all.

The EFF objects that HP is depriving its customers of a useful feature – to use any ink they choose.

It further accuses the ink giant of abusing the security update process by introducing doubt into the update and patching process.

The EFF said: “Customers need to feel confident that they can accept security updates without compromising basic functionality. By co-opting the security update mechanism to deliver an anti-feature – that is, something that works against your customers' interests – you have introduced doubt into the patch process.”

The EFF also claims that the update was distributed in March but not “switched on” till September – leaving consumers to buy printers, and third-party ink, which is now useless.

The letter, signed by Cory Doctorow, demands that HP:

  • Reverse the firmware update.
  • Apologize to customers.
  • Promise not to abuse the update process again.
  • Publicly disclose the impact of future software updates.
  • Warn customers if it again intends to remove useful product features after they’ve bought the product.

The full letter is here.

HP INc sent us a statement:

"Beginning in 2015, HP implemented updates to the firmware related to the security chip in HP OfficeJet, OfficeJet Pro and OfficeJet Pro X printer that maintain secure communications between the cartridge and the printer.

"The purpose of this update is to protect HP’s innovations and intellectual property. These printers will continue to work with refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an Original HP security chip. Other cartridges may not function. In many cases this functionality was installed in the HP printer and in some cases it has been implemented as part of an update to the printer’s firmware." ®

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