Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 49 Share on Twitter 2 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/20/16

Lies, Damned Lies, and Hewlett-Packard Printers

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   12 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Thomas Knapp

HP cartridges
HP cartridges
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Pixi, Author: Pixi)
  Details   Source   DMCA

September 13 was an unlucky day for an unknown number of Hewlett-Packard printer owners. Instead of going dutifully to work, their printers displayed the error message "One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove them and replace them with new cartridges."

The cartridges weren't damaged, though. The printers had been sabotaged with, for all intents and purposes, malware. And the saboteur was Hewlett-Packard itself. The company built a digital time bomb into its firmware to stop owners of HP printers from using ink cartridges sold by third parties.

The company brazenly claims responsibility for the cyber attack, saying it bricked its customers' printers to "protect innovation and intellectual property, but also to improve the safety of products for customers."

There's a word for that claim, but I can't use it in a family-friendly column. HP is "protecting" and "improving" only one thing: Its profits from the sale of ink cartridges. A full refill (black and color) using HP-manufactured cartridges can cost about as much as some of the lower-end printers themselves; third party manufacturers sell compatible cartridges for less than half that.

I've heard it said that some printers are sold at, or even for less, than manufacturing cost as "loss leaders." Part One: Cheap printer. Part two: Expensive ink. But of course that only works if you can force the buyer to stick with you through Part Two.

HP has a long record of trying to fool its customers into this kind of bait and switch scam. From patent infringement lawsuits against cartridge competitors to "Digital Rights Management" schemes in its hardware and software (former HP CEO and failed presidential candidate Carly Fiorina announced a "DRM in every product" policy at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show), the upshot is "you don't really own that thing you thought you bought from us."

But this is the first time I'm aware of that HP has resorted to cyber attacks on its own customers to stop them from patronizing other businesses. It joins Sony BMG, which got caught using music CDs to install "rootkit" malware in 2005, on a list of companies which can't be trusted to not screw over customers.

The extinction of state-conferred "intellectual property" monopolies became inevitable with the digital age when information reproduction costs fell to nearly zero. Which is exactly where the profit margins of companies like Hewlett-Packard are headed if they don't knock this kind of thing off.

Valuable 2   Must Read 1   News 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Knapp Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

2020: I'm So Sick of Superlatives

America Doesn't Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace

Finally, Evidence of Russian Election Meddling ... Oh, Wait

The Nunes Memo Only Partially "Vindicates" Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend