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Lexmark's DMCA-Abuse Case Coming To An End 431

Posted by timothy
from the pfui-on-them dept.
Adama writes "Lexmark is dead in the water with their hopes to use the DMCA to force their customers to buy their over-priced toner. Their request for another hearing has been denied. Ars has an especially great write-up on this." (See this earlier story for more background on Lexmark's lock-in attempt.)
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Lexmark's DMCA-Abuse Case Coming To An End

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  • Hopefully... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by InsideTheAsylum (836659) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:23PM (#11740037)
    The DMCA is shot down in the court in other copyright related matters.

    I know, I know, downloading music isn't quite like manufacturing your own cartridge for another company's printer, but at least this proves that the DMCA can't shield everything.
    • by KarmaOverDogma (681451) on Monday February 21, 2005 @08:26PM (#11740849) Homepage Journal
      The EFF was a part of preveting yet another case of the DMCA being used to quash innovation.

      This is a perfect example of what the EFF has been trying to do on our behalf: and by "our" I especially mean the /. crowd: http://www.eff.org/endangered/list.php#toner

      The relevent text from the page:

      Species: Static Control Components remanufactured Lexmark toner cartridge
      Genus: Printer toner cartridge
      Threat averted: Overreaching claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

      What it is: A printer toner cartridge refurbished by Static Control Components, sold more cheaply than new Lexmark-branded cartridges.
      What it lets you do: Toner cartridges are among the most expensive consumables of a laser printer. Lexmark's cartridges include chips with little bits of code that report back to the printer about toner-fill level -- but they also reveal whether or not the cartridge is "Lexmark authorized." The printer will refuse to print if the cartridge isn't "authorized," so Static Control replaced the chips so its refilled cartridges would work in Lexmark printers and report themselves "full of ink."
      Why it was endangered: Lexmark wasn't very happy about competing with Static Control for cartridge sales. It sued, claiming that the cartridge-printer "handshake" was a mechanism protecting a copyrighted work, so circumventing the mechanism violated the DMCA. The copyrighted work in question? The "toner loader program" in the cartridge chip.

      How EFF helped save it: EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Static Control Components. We argued that the software was no more than a lock-out code, and that the DMCA explicitly permits the creation of interoperable software. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

      Have *you* joined yet?
      .
  • by swschrad (312009) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:23PM (#11740040) Homepage Journal
    have recommended AGAINST lexmark products for several years based on their tin-star-sheriff use of the DMCA to support triple-priced magic dust in their printer supplies.

    bet I'm not the only one.

    DMCA = no fans.
    • unfortunately.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:31PM (#11740106)
      One would think that something like this will kill Lexmark. ie. If you screw over the customer, then the customers will shun you and you go out of business.

      Unfortunately it seems that this thinking is flawed. Customers these days are so used to having their rights, privacy, whatever abused that they expect to be ripped off by the Lexmarks, Microsofts etc of the world.

      What happened to the old days when the customer was king and great customer service was the way to do business.

      • What happened to the old days when the customer was king and great customer service was the way to do business.

        Outsourced to India, with everything else.

      • by v1 (525388) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:54PM (#11740254) Homepage Journal
        What's unfortunate about this is Lexmark plays the 'Razor Blade Game', a business model where you "don't make money selling razors - give the razors away. Make your money selling BLADES". Lexmark goes by this business model, selling dirt cheap printers. Not just inkjets - they also make laser printers. And then charge a small fortune for the ink or toner, and give you very little of it in each cart. One salesman I know used to joke that "you get more ink in a ballpoint pen than comes with a Lexmark printer". This business model turns sour when your competition (easily) undercuts your (inflated) ink cart prices. The trajedy of this is the consumer usually realizes they are not getting nearly the deal they thought they were until after they've plunked down the money for the printer and their first few replacement ink carts. At that point you have to ask yourself if it's really worth it to chuck your new printer and go buy another one just to "save a few bucks on ink". But then over time those bucks add up easily to more than the price of a new HP or Epson printer.

        I'm quite relieved that the DMCA has not proven to assist them in their consumer-lock-in attempts.
      • Re:unfortunately.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by joeljkp (254783) <joeljkparker@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:59PM (#11740283)
        The solution from a consumer perspective, of course, is a PPP (price per page) index. I haven't seen any manufacturers advertising this, though. Are reviewers doing it?
      • by zakezuke (229119) on Monday February 21, 2005 @07:29PM (#11740445)
        What happened to the old days when the customer was king and great customer service was the way to do business.

        People are too cheap to *pay* for customer service.

        But don't think Lexmark is unique. Back in the typewriter days it was common place to offer low price typewriters but only supply carbon ribbons and charge an arm and a leg for them rather than the fabric ribbons that lasted longer and could be reinked.

      • Re:unfortunately.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dnoyeb (547705)
        Actually I bought lexmark for myself, and my mother, and a friend whom I build a computer for.

        After lexmark shitted on me, through high prices and poor quality, I have now a Brother laser printer. I also got one for my mother. I wont ever buy Lexmark again. (I still don't buy gas from Shell nor drink Coke due to apartheid)

        Many consumers do not forget. And as a sort of Tech leader to the people I know, they will be loosing more than 1 customer.
      • by Secrity (742221) on Monday February 21, 2005 @08:46PM (#11741000)
        "What happened to the old days when the customer was king and great customer service was the way to do business."

        I believe that there are a number of interlocking and paradoxical reasons that customer service has turned to crap. In many cases customers now have tremendous choices of what to spend their money on, but have lost any real choice of where to spend their money. At one time people bought their goods at a huge variety of mom and pop grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, deli's, appliance stores, radio & TV stores, office supply stores, hardware stores, book stores, newsstands, restaurants, lumber yards, clothing stores, dry goods stores, gas stations, and so on. The owners and management of these mom and pop stores were close to their customers and the loss of a relatively small number of customers could cause financial hardship for the store. Now, most stores are huge operations that sell a very broad range of goods and there is a smaller choice of stores in a given trading area. Home improvement stores have put hardware stores, paint stores, and lumber yards out of business. Discount stores and supermarkets have put many other stores out of business. The sheer size of these mega store corporations cushions the effects of unhappy customers. This cushioning effect caused by the huge size of these corporations and the fact that the dissatisfaction results in customer churn between the available stores, not the net loss of customers. If things get too bad, stores can be hurt (Kmart) and manufacturers can get into trouble (Chrysler). These large, sophisticated , legally savvy stores and manufacturers (or whatever they are, they don't actually make anything anymore) have the ability to declare bankruptcy, close a few stores or warehouses, lay off employees, get new financing; and keep abusing customers. If a mom and pop owned store or factory declared bankruptcy, mom and pop went out of business and lost their livelihood; the desire to survive was a great incentive to satisfy and retain customers. When stores and manufacturers no longer have an incentive to satisfy customers and investors demand that the maximum short term profit be squeezed out of the operation, customers may as well just bend over and smile.
      • What happened to the old days when the customer was king and great customer service was the way to do business.

        The same thing that happened to the days when politicians who sold out to big business would get thrown out in shame. And the days when people would be out rioting in the streets and staging labor walk outs over some bastard piece of legislation like the Patriot Act. And the days if an employer tried to tell people what they could and couldn't do on their own time it would be met with a giant

        • Don't for minute think it's just one of the two major political parties.
          They're both selling us down the river. We need to toss both groups out and elect some of the other parties.
          Between them they've got the people so convinced that thier only choices are tweedle dee and tweedle dum that thier quite happy to share despite the show of partisian politics they put on every few years, and even then it's only the elected officials and those in the public spotlight who pretend anymore.

          Mycroft
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:37PM (#11740142)
      It would be interesting to know which has cost Lexmark more:

      1. Loss of potential future revenue because competitors will now be able to sell replacement cartridges
      2. The cost of paying the lawyers for the case, or
      3. Loss of revenue because of the many people recommending against Lexmark printers ever since the lawsuit began (regardless of outcome).

      I'm betting #3, and that the effect will persist for years from now. I, like you, will not buy Lexmark printers anymore, and have not for several years. I recommend against them when ever people ask, and I explain to them why. Yes, other printer companies gouge you for printer supplies too, but Lexmark has achieved unusual lows by attempting to apply the DCMA to sustain their anti-competitive desires.
      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday February 21, 2005 @07:43PM (#11740548) Homepage
        No offence intended, but going for #3 is blinkered geek naivity. Even if a large proportion of Slashdotters boycott Lexmark for this reason, it's the old "mistaking your peer group for a typical cross-section" mistake. I doubt socially-aware geeks make up *that* much of Lexmark's customer base (*) and the stupid sheep that *do* probably don't even know (or care) what the DMCA is.

        Sorry, but it's #1.

        (*) Especially since the average /.er has probably figured out that Lexmarks are *not* cheap when you factor in consumables, and will avoid them regardless of Lexmark's DMCA abuse.
    • I have used Lexmark products on & off since they first came out (I worked for various dealers/VAR's/etc.) and their products were across-the-board awful. I am not surprised at their actions regarding their toner products. This is not a company interested in quality or customer loyalty. They do, however, have a talent for building junk that borders on admirable.
    • by AstroDrabb (534369) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:43PM (#11740182)
      Actually this is why I personally stopped buying Lexmark. Prior to this, I had three Lexmark printers. When it came time to replace, I went with an HP. Oh, I also picked HP because they have very good Linux support and Lexmark's Linux support sucks or is non-existent.

      Sadly, I don't think the average Joe cares about being screwed over. They have been brain-washed to look for rock-bottom prices. If Lexmark can find a way to sell a similar printer to the competitors for $2 - $5 less, most US drone-shoppers will eat it up.

      • We've got an HP 4MV at work, and I swear, after tens of thousands of (11"x17") prints over 9 years, we *still* can't kill the damn thing. The worst that's happened is it was down 3 days 5 years ago for a drum replacement. To contrast, my company also has a Lanier 36P that has dies basically every 30 days like clockwork. We've given up on using it for production anything & are sticking with HP from now on.
  • Really though (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:25PM (#11740058)
    They need to come up with a new business model other then "lets sell real cheap printers only 1/4 filled with ink, and lets sell ink for $8000 a gallon!" The free market is showing that the people dont like the business plan so they better adopt a new one. If the government interferes here, then it just imposing another form of regulations on the market which never does it good.
    • You really can't defend such a blanket statement such as "just imposing another form of regulations on the market...never does it good". The industries in North America are regulated to hell, whether you realize it or not, but curiously, they haven't gone to hell . . . thing about the free market, it often encourages people and companies to benefit in the short term at the expense of others and of the long term (if you don't, you're beaten out by those who do). Just as laws are vital for our society at la
  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:26PM (#11740064) Journal
    They'll be back next year, this time with a patented cartridge that plays (copyrighted) music (or sound) as part of its printing process, try duplicating that legally?
    • by blueZhift (652272) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:49PM (#11740218) Homepage Journal
      Heh! It doesn't matter because knock-offs from China are going to get into the supply stream no matter what! So legal or not, cheap replacement cartridges are here to stay. In the end, if Lexmark and others want to win, they need to do it the old fashioned way with a quality product rather than product lock in. I actually gave up on Lexmark a couple of years ago because ink was too expensive and refilled or remanufactured cartridges were too unreliable. I ended up buying an HP color printer (a very loud 2500L) which for me at least is cheaper to operate than the Lexmark it replaced. Granted, I still need to deal with quality issues when I hunt for replacement cartridges, but at least I don't have to do it so often and at what I considered to be too high a cost.
    • If you're gonna keep score, at least stay awake! This was one point. Fritz and his team are still ahead by several runs, and they have the bases pretty well loaded.
  • by bigtallmofo (695287) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:27PM (#11740070)
    Expect bad news for Lexmark on all fronts. You may recall that Dell has been using Lexmark printers [eweek.com] for a few years. But now, even Dell is moving away [cnn.com] from them in favor of other printer vendors.

    Not sure if it relates back directly to their frivolous use of the DMCA, but it seems like they are being hit from all sides right now.
  • by xiando (770382) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:30PM (#11740099) Homepage Journal
    Gillette has been doing what the whole printer industry is doing with Razors for YEARS: Give the tool away cheap or for free and charge high for the blades. Some printers are actually sold cheaper than the ink cartages who come with the printer. So the ink cartridges who come with printers now only contain one third of the volume, just to make you go buy a new one a week after purchase. This is just not fair. Boycott the whole printer industry AND save the environment at the same time: Print less. Encourage your friends to do the same. Trees are today being cut down ten times the rate they are being reproduced! This is a fact. Yes, if we keep this up then the planet will be free of trees by the end of the century. So teach the evil printer industry a lesion, print less. And No, switching brand will not help, they are all running the ink scam.
    • I can atleast understand if Gillete want to defend themselves, as techically the razor is the hardest part to manufacture. The grip is just plastic. And even then, i gladly pay the replacements for my Mach3 becasue it's the better shave experience you can get.

      Ink though, is basically water with pigments. They sell you half filled tanks (seriously, i've opened a few Epson and Lexmark ones) for outrageous prices, and actually try to stop the sale of third party ink cartigades, which in my experience wor
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:43PM (#11740185) Homepage
      Gillette has been doing what the whole printer industry is doing with Razors for YEARS: Give the tool away cheap or for free and charge high for the blades.


      Well, I guess that depends entirely on wether or not someone can legally make plugin-compatible razor blades that can be used in the Gillette handles.

      If someone can legally make a razor blade that works with a Gillette razor and you can buy them, then your analogy falls apart very quickly.

      If, however, Gillette has used a copyright law to prevent people from making razor blades which will work in a Gillette razor, then your analogy is good.

      Which is correct? I honestly don't know, I don't recall checking for generic blades to go into a Gillette razor. But like I said, unless they've barred someone from making a compatible blade, saying the razor industry has done this exact thing may not be accurate.

      Cheers
      • Actually, the razor analogy only kinda works. Razors, like the Mach 3, are patented not copyrighted. What lexmark should have done is patent the connection between cartridge and printer. That would have provided far more protection then this stupid DMCA crap.
      • Cheap Generic Blades (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nick Driver (238034)
        The big difference about the Gillette razor is that the cheap generic blades always sucked and didn't last very long, and the genuine Gillette brand blades performed an order of magnitude better and lasted a lot longer... actually giving you your money's worth.

        In the inkjet printer industry, both the genuine brand name cartridges AND the cheap generics (when and if available) all suck in the value area, they just simply cost way too much per page.

        I dearly miss my old beloved original solid-metal Atra razo
    • by Crashmarik (635988) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:44PM (#11740187)
      yep the trees used for paper production are farmed. So if you print less the land will be used for something else and there will be less trees.
    • Thanks for the sensationalism, but what about ink refill kits and generic printer cartridges?
    • Well, I prefer reading things on the screen anyway. It's too much hassle to print them out.

      At work we print a lot, but I can't really recall the last time when we printed something that's not connected with the @#$%^&* bureaucracy.

      Thus yes, boycotting printers is not that bad an idea.
    • So teach the evil printer industry a lesion...

      How do you do that? Make them shave with a rusty razor?
    • I notice that whenever they come out with their latest quad-blade teflon-coated lemon-fresh system that I get more bad batches of blades for my handle that's a few cycles behind. Unless they're making the blades out of old Yugos, I don't see why they'd have sudden quality-control problems making blades that have been fine for years before that.
    • by swschrad (312009) on Monday February 21, 2005 @08:10PM (#11740727) Homepage Journal
      LOL, currently lexmark ads on TV are saying that customers want a printer company that helps them print LESS.

      we gearheads KNOW how printer companies help you print less. their freakin' chunkajunks break down :-D

      so, way I see it, lexmark is now advertising printers that don't work ;)

      spread the word ..............
  • Gameboy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:31PM (#11740103)
    So does this mean that Nintendo can't claim copyright on the bitmap logo that is needed for the Gameboy to accept a cartridge? Does this open the door for third parties to manufacture their own GB cartridges?
  • I know its silly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:32PM (#11740111)
    But is there no contrition or regret on the part of anyone at lexmark ?

    I know its plausible to look at both lawyers and execs as bottom feeding scum, but in the entire case is there no one to say this was misguided and a bad use of the legal system ?
  • Ripoff Pricing.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CCelebornn (829849)
    I don't know how their prices are in the US, but it's terrible here in the UK. In fact, it is actually cheaper to buy a brand new printer with 2 brand new cartridges already in it than to just buy replacement cartridges for your existing one. It's an absolute disgrace. And then they release half priced ones with only half the tank filled, which STILL come out more expensive than all the other brands. I campaign a lot around the friends and familty to NOT BUY LEXMARK. They're all "well, it's so cheap" and "
  • by reporter (666905) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:34PM (#11740124) Homepage
    Wait about a year, and Hewlett Packard (HP) will join Lexmark in using the court system to earn money on their printers and print cartridges. Lexmark is a printer company, and HP is mostly a printer company plus some side interests that barely earn any money.

    How can I be so sure?

    Next time that you visit your local electronics store, walk on over to the section selling computer printers. Find the print cartridges. You will notice that print cartridges from Canon are now about 1/3 the cost of a print cartridge from either Lexmark or HP. No. I am not in error. The Canon cartridges are now super cheap and are as low as $8.

    By the end of the year, you will notice a downward motion on HP stock.

    • Eh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by StarKruzr (74642) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:45PM (#11740198) Journal
      Are you saying Canon is dumping cartridges onto the market?

      This isn't the case, AFAIK. The reason the Canon cartridges are cheaper is because they are not entire cartridge assemblies like the HP and Lexmark ones are. Canon printers have you replace only the ink tank, rather than the ink tank and entire print head.
    • HP isn't lowering prices on the current stock of cartridges; instead, as they are changing to the new sets (56+57+58 and 94/96, 95/97, 99/100 low/high capacity). The new cartridges are just priced for less than what the ones for the old printers cost.

      In fact, the 56 black cartridge only costs around $20 now, versus the $35 that the older black cartridge cost. The 94 black costs $20 also, and the high yield (+90% more ink) 96 black that's compatible is around $30. These are using pretty generic prices from
    • by tootlemonde (579170) on Monday February 21, 2005 @09:10PM (#11741119)

      HP is mostly a printer company plus some side interests that barely earn any money.

      According to the HP's quarterly report [hp.com], it had quarterly revenue of $21.5 billion and earnings (profit) of $1.1 billion.

      The Imaging and Printer division produced $6.1 billion in revenue. The other $15 billion came from what you call the "side interests", personal computers, storage and servers, software, services and financing.

      The printer division is by far the most profitable, contributing about 70% of the profit. But the other divisions contributed about a half a billion dollars for the quarter, which is a long way from barely any money.

      HP claims [hp.com] to be #1 globally in inkjet, all-in-one and single-function printers, mono and color laser printers, large format printing, scanners, print servers, and ink and laser supplies

      However, its "side interests" make it

      • #1 globally in x86, Windows, Linux, UNIX and Blade servers
      • #1 in total disk storage systems
      • #2 globally in notebook PCs
      • #1 globally in Pocket PCs
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:35PM (#11740130) Homepage Journal
    You can't have it both ways. What's the motivation for a printer mfg to continue to make the hardware at next-to-nothing margins if there is not a significant continuing revenue stream from ink. In not endorsing Lexmark's use of the DMCA here, just pointing out that printer mfgs are in business to make money.
    • The problem is that I would rather pay more for the hardware, and less for the consumables. Instead of trying to sell me a cheap printer and recover their costs in ink, charge me a lot for a printer, and give me cheaper ink.
    • Lexmark has just been trying to hide the true price of printing with their printers, using a classic bait-and-switch con. If you don't actually want to do any printing, then I agree that their printers are quite cheap. But not buying a printer at all is even cheaper, in that case. :)

      I'm not interested in just owning a printer. I'm interested in printing. The printer itself is just a tool towards that end. So I don't want it "both ways". I don't care about the price of the printer - I care about the c
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:35PM (#11740131)
    The initial price of printers will increase, and the corresponding cost of cartridges will decrease. This is a good outcome; the razor-markup model has always been a bit dishonest. Now price and cost will be more closely aligned, so partially-informed consumers will be able to make better purchasing decisions.

    It's better for the manufacturers too, because their competition won't be doing it either. They no longer need to "keep up with the Joneses" and engage in shady pricing.
    • The initial price of printers will increase, and the corresponding cost of cartridges will decrease.

      My prediction: things will stay the same. This isn't about maximizing profit - at least not to the extent that Lexmark would have you believe. It's about control. Big business would love to have ultimate control over its products. That's why you see the RIAA et al. trying to crush P2P when signs point to the fact that P2P actually increases their business. There seems to be a fallacy that control=profit.

  • Real simple.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:35PM (#11740133)
    Just void warranty on people/companies who use 3'rd party "ink" unless it's 'certified' to work with the printer.

    And for some uses, I can see why a 3'rd party ink is worse in certain printers..

    I still like the 5 cartridge cheap-o-ink Epson's. The reps actually encourage by saying "We dont do Lexmarks Scheme of lockins".
  • Does this mean (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:38PM (#11740146) Homepage
    Does this mean that HP won't be able to region encode ink cartridges, or at least be a precedent when they are brought to court.
  • by kenthorvath (225950) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:40PM (#11740167)
    , the 6th Circuit US Court of Appeals found that the Toner Loading Program was not a copyrightable work, as it was less a work of expression than of function. Copyright is not available merely to "any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery," but Lexmark's use falls exclusively on the idea side of the fence. "[I]nteroperable devices" may use proprietary security systems to lock out unauthorized interoperability, but a technology developed solely for this functional purpose is not copyrightable. Furthermore, the court noted that even if these programs were copyrightable, SCC's copying of protected portions of the work would likely still enjoy fair use protections, because the courts have ruled that "fair use doctrine preserves public access to the ideas and functional elements embedded in copyrighted computer software programs."

    Does anyone know what the status of the DeCSS lawsuits are, and whether this applies? I would also love to see this applied to other things.

    But wouldn't this have other implications as well? The notion that a work that is designed merely as a means to function is not copyrightable may have implications for the GPL, would it not? How much code is copyrighted and protected under the GPL that was designed only with function in mind, and nothing else?

    What about the code that SCO claims ownership of? Even if it existed, could they in fact have copyright over it, given this ruling?

    • by ewhac (5844)

      Does anyone know what the status of the DeCSS lawsuits are, and whether this applies?

      It does not apply. Indeed, DVD-CCA cannot sue for copyright violation, since they did not write DeCSS.

      DVD-CCA are suing under the auspices of trade secret law, not copyright law. In other words, DVD-CCA's pleading is that DeCSS incorporates technologies that were obtained through "improper reverse-engineering" in violation of the so-called software "license," which claims trade secret rights over the software. As su

    • If "work that is designed merely as a means to function" applies to GPL source code, wouldn't it apply to proprietary source code too?

      If software copyright went away, we wouldn't have (much of) a problem because all that illegal Windows source code floating around would suddenly be up for grabs too...
      • f software copyright went away, we wouldn't have (much of) a problem because all that illegal Windows source code floating around would suddenly be up for grabs too...

        Except that the Windows code would likely be a trade secret type of thing. That falls under another branch of the Intellectual Property Tree.

  • Buy a laser printer (Score:5, Informative)

    by Apreche (239272) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:41PM (#11740171) Homepage Journal
    This is only a problem with inkjet crap printers. Its much more economical to buy a laser printer, even a color laser printer. Sure, the toner is like 100 bucks. But it lasts forever. Especially if its just your house. Plus, laser printers often have network cards making it much easier to network the whole house to use just the one printer. And its higher quality printing that makes copies faster.

    Sure, it's expensive to start out, but you can find pretty good cheap used ones on ebay, especially if you only need black and white. And its cheaper than inkjet over the long run. More reliable too.

    Personally I think apple needs to re-enter the printer market. They used to make great laser printers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As the owner of an HP Color LaserJet 4550N, I can attest to the fact that color is not cheap! A plain black laser printer is a steal compared to an inkjet, but not their colored brethren. I paid about $700 on eBay for the 4550N which had about 30,000 sheets run through it already. Not bad. However, the thing takes four toner cartridges which run over $100 each. Then you have all of the kits that will eventually need replaced; those run around $300 each. Granted, I love the thing to death, but it's exp
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:45PM (#11740197) Homepage
    I got sick and tired of having to pay so much for cartridges because I am still a college student and printing out even 50 pages worth of lecture notes and slides can take out around 1/8 of many of those carts. So I paid $150 for a Brother laser printer and it took me 1.5 school years to go through 1 single toner cartridge. Amazing isn't it?

    The scary part is that I tell people about this, how all they have to do is sacrifice color and they can go at least 1 school year without paying $20-$30 per cartridge. For my HL-1440, not exactly a high end piece of equipment, a new toner cart costs only $70.00. Even if it were $100.00 it would still be worth the cost. What does it say about America that these college kids, many of whom do in fact have to pay for their own supplies can't be bothered to put down $140-$200 now for a new laser printer so that they can save 3-5x that in at least 1 fulltime school year of printing?

    Having had this now for going on 2 years and it still works well, I just don't understand why people who don't NEED color printers opt for the much more expensive inkjet. Most printing is black and white and you can save hundreds of dollars, enough to buy your laser printer several times over, if you get the right model because the toner cartridge it comes with can do at least a few thousand pages. I know I got at around 4,000-5,000 pages out of my first toner cartridge.
  • Lexmark is BAD (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nberardi (199555) *
    This is really offensive use of the Law and even though I like Lexmark products I wish they would fail as a business, because I beleive in punishing companies though the use of the consumers walets. I am not going to buy their products anymore, one person won't matter but if everybody does this or at least all /.ers it will be a big step.
  • by Buran (150348) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:50PM (#11740224)
    The decision includes the phrase "If we were to adopt Lexmark's reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts simply by using similar, but more creative, lock-out codes.". This is interesting.

    Just this past weekend, I had a check-engine light in my 2000 VW Golf diagnosed by a fellow VW club member via the use of a scanner made by ROSS-Tech Inc (which is also working on generic OBDII and BMW scanners) via the use of reverse engineering, similar to the way the BIOS of the original IBM PC was reverse-engineered.

    As discussed in the article Wired News: Drivers Want Code to Their Cars [wired.com], automakers don't release all of the diagnostic codes to vehicles, claiming that releasing the codes "would allow independent parts manufacturers to copy components that cost millions of dollars to develop".

    However, the way I read the Lexmark article is that doing exactly that is legitimate -- by purchasing the car/printer, the consumer is granted access to the proprietary software inside the item that allows it to function, and can use third-party equipment to service it and keep it in a workable condition.

    Perhaps a third-party manufacturer of automotive parts needs to sue an automaker to force release of the diagnostic codes. Or, maybe even the maker of the scanner that was used to reveal why my check-engine light triggered. But even if not, I don't think VW would, say, be able to bring a case against the scanner maker under the DMCA.

    (The code was "fuel mixture too lean" and turned out to have been caused by a snapped vacuum hose; fixed in five minutes at no cost by pulling another hose off a soon-to-be-junked parts car.)
    Oh... and the Ars Technica guy was right: the DMCA DOES need to go away.
  • by serutan (259622) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:51PM (#11740233) Homepage
    One of the paradoxes of Intellectual Property is that the IP industry wants it to be treated like real property, exccept for the fact that you can't restrict how customers use real property once it's in their hands. At least not yet.

    There is a small company that makes a template for routers -- the woodworking kind, not the networking kind -- for cutting dovetail joints. It's basically a piece of plastic that you clamp onto a piece of wood to guide the router. If you wanted to, you could use the template to make an identical template out of another piece of plastic. To guard against this possibility the manufacturer encloses a license agreement with the template, stating that the customer is specifically not allowed to do this. It further says you are authorized to use the template for personal woodworking projects only, not for business use.

    This may be a silly example (although true), but I think there's a clear and present danger that the whacked logic of the IP world could spread like a fungus into the real world, and we could indeed wake up one day to find it illegal to use a Stanley hammer on non-Stanley nails. Frightening -- unless you are Mr. Stanley or his IP lawyer.

    One more reason to find out who your representatives are [house.gov] and write them a short note periodically, once is good but once a month is better, urging them to consider the adverse impacts of IP issues on the public domain.
    • by Migraineman (632203) on Monday February 21, 2005 @08:06PM (#11740704)
      You're talking about the Stots TemplateMaster. [gripe2ed.com] The license is even worse than you indicate - the license attempts to restrict resale of the physical object.

      I've got serious objections to folks who try to "license" me physical objects. If I purchase it through retail channels, it's a "sale." I have certain ownership rights at that point. If I choose to give the object to my slacker brother-in-law, the manufacturer is SOL to do anything about the transfer. If you have a patent on the object, you have legal recourse to pursue me if I make a duplicate item. However, you still can't prevent me from giving the original to someone else.

      Even the First Sale Doctrine [usdoj.gov] in copyright law doesn't apply here. Assuming that you could actually copyright a physical object (i.e. a dovetailing jig,) I've still got the right to transfer ownership under the First Sale Doctrine. You can't take that away from me with some crummy EULA-esque piece of toilet paper jammed in the box.

      The crossover of IP into meatspace is a bad thing. IP is not a physical object that I can bash into the curb if I want to. It deserves none of the ownership protections afforded to hardware. That includes patents. (Don't get me started on software patents being a horrible thing, or why I think IP *is* software ...) Copyright is the place for non-tangible items ... like software and IP. Unfortunately, the software industry seems to be purchasing politicians as fast as the entertainment industry is.
  • by empraptor (748821) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:52PM (#11740239) Homepage

    I would know, having worked as a sales rep at an electronics retailer.

    There are so many nightmarish stories customers walk into the stores with. Dried up ink, cartridges that run out in a few weeks, broken printers, etc. I never recommended a Lexmark once. Many computer packages were bundled with Lexmark by default, maybe because they're so cheap and there are rebates, but you're better off with other brands.

    Oh, and the cartridges. Just as shoddy as the printers. Customers complained of ink drying up after not using the printer for a week. A week. Wee small things too, the ink compartments are. I doubt the ink would last long.

    Lexmark will be dead soon even if they had won this lawsuit. Just as well that they lost. People won't have the stupid choice available to them that much sooner.

  • by gvc (167165) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:53PM (#11740248)
    I guess you could still call it "digital" although not electronic. Lexmark uses a metal tab to prevent you from putting Samsung cartridges in their E210 printer, even though the printer is manufactured by Samsung.

    Of course, the Lexmark cartridges cost 50% more.

    If anybody still has an E210 and is still shelling out for Lexmark cartridges, please visit How to use a Samsung cartridge in a Lexmark [uwaterloo.ca].

    And never buy another Lexmark.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday February 21, 2005 @06:54PM (#11740253)
    What we need is an "pensource" ink formula for both color and black & white categories. Then our kernel hackers can design a chip to exploit the strengths of the ink. Governments round the world can then churn out printers.

    Then we will be free of these greedy companies. How far have we gone with the opensource BIOS?

  • "Lexmark had designed their printers to use a proprietary toner cartridge technology which had the result that only Lexmark branded toner cartridges would work in some of their printers. Lexmark's general tactic was to sell discounted toner cartridges with this technology under the assumption that consumers would have to return their cartridges to Lexmark to be refilled or recycled."

    So you see, they were doing all this for the good of the environment, not to lock people into their products.............an
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by neypo (860979)
    Thats pretty amazing. I have a Lexmark X85 all in one (fax, print, scan, photocopy) and its ok besides that fact the ink carts/ink refils already costs an arm and a leg.
    It gives me the serious creeps like im being watched or something when I print a document and the robot voice kicks in "Printing has started" or "Failed to communicate with printer".... im waiting for it to say "Don't look behind you".
  • Is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed by people who use the words "toner" and "ink" interchangeably? Of course this is nothing new. As anyone who's ever worked in a paint store can tell you, there are always people who come in looking for "brown paint" when they really want stain...
  • Ok, so this is good news.

    But I'm curious about the implications this ruling will have on other company's attempts to do a similar thing.

    There was a story a while ago about HP region coding their printers, and just recently about BIOS approved cards only in laptops.

    I hope this sets some kind of precedent that stops this harmful tactic!

  • Printing Costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sxmjmae (809464) on Monday February 21, 2005 @07:49PM (#11740589)
    I always looked at the cost per page for Black and white and the cost per page for color.

    I did own a HP until the price for the ink was was more than the printer.

    I bought a Cannon S600. From the research I could find on the cost per page it was the the best. It also has good enough quality for things I do at home.

    When I went to purchase a photo printer I looked first at Cannon. The simple fact is that I could reload all the color and black cartiages on the S600 for ~$35 impressed me so much that never even wanted to consider another product.

    Now I have 9 cartiages to change but at I can get all the cartiages at once for about $75 if I catch the sale on the package set for the printer.

    The point is why spend more on cartiages then you do the printer? It tells me the real value they put on the printers.

  • by brilliant-mistake (578880) on Monday February 21, 2005 @10:25PM (#11741552)
    that the DMCA is the RIAA/MPAA's law. If they want the government to protect their market share, they're going to have to buy their own law.
  • War Is Over? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday February 21, 2005 @11:02PM (#11741716) Homepage Journal
    '"[I]nteroperable devices" may use proprietary security systems to lock out unauthorized interoperability, but a technology developed solely for this functional purpose is not copyrightable.'

    So does that mean that DRM schemes in general are not copyrightable? Doesn't that mean that all the standard Slashdot bugbears, like DVD/CSS, the stuff in iTunes/AAC, Macrovision, all of Microsoft and Adobe's stuff - and every closed eBook DRM, and every other copy protection that merely locks in a medium to a mandatory "interoperable" player, is not copyrightable? So they're fair game for reverse engineering and workarounds? I'm pretty happy about all that, but it seems too good to be true.
  • Thanks, Lexmark (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday February 21, 2005 @11:10PM (#11741742) Homepage Journal
    We all owe Lexmark gratitude (and nothing else ;) for their determined effort to prove, at great expense, that their kind of DMCA abuse isn't allowed. Without sleazebags testing the limits of the laws defining our rights, and losing, we'd never know where those limits are, until it's too late. Thank you, and good riddance!
  • Better than Lexmark (Score:5, Informative)

    by mazariyn (525556) on Monday February 21, 2005 @11:44PM (#11741874)
    The Lexmark decision was a nice victory, but the Federal Circuit decided a DMCA case that may well have a bigger impact on the interpretation of the DMCA - The Chamberlain Group v. Skylink Technologies, 381 F.3d 1178 (Fed. Cir. 2004). Opinion on Findlaw [findlaw.com]

    The Federal Circuit basically read into the DMCA an "intent to pirate" requirement - simple circumvention isn't enough to violate the DMCA unless you intend to pirate or facilitate piracy of copyrighted works. What effect the ruling will have isn't clear, but it goes MUCH farther than the Lexmark decision. Lexmark basically said (a) that the code contained in the Lexmark printer cartridges wasn't copyrightable and therefore the DMCA couldn't apply, and (b) that in any event, the code was only protected from one form of access, but was completely unprotected via another - i.e. it was not effectively protected. Meaning the 6th circuit didn't really address the big issue - can the DMCA be used to stifle competition?

    To get a quick idea of where the Chamberlain Group decision went, read the relatively short (2 page) concurring opinion in Lexmark by Judge Merritt (cite: 387 F.3d 522) Lexmark Opinion on Findlaw [findlaw.com].
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @12:42AM (#11742142) Homepage
    How cheap? How about $8.00 US?

    This past weekend I was shopping at a Goodwill (you wouldn't believe the crazy and cheap stuff you can find - and most of it works!), and one of the workers brought out an HP LaserJet 5MP. Not a fast printer, but seeing the "P" said to me "Postscript SIMM" and I prayed it was still in place. A quick check of the printer revealed not only was the SIMM in place, but that 32 meg of RAM was also installed, along with paper and a toner cartridge. It also had an Appletalk adaptor connected. All of the cords, and all of the covers. It was in perfect condition.

    I picked it up, took it over to the electrical testing outlet (each store has one or two for this purpose), plugged it in, turned it on, and hit the test print - beautiful output! A little slow, but nice. No streaks, just crisp 600 dpi black and white. I then had it print the diagnostics page - no probs there, either - and it came up with a page count of approximately 43,000! Just a young'un!

    I powered it off with a crazy grin on my face, seeing the price tag of $9.99, and knowing I had a wallet full of 20% off coupons...

    One sawbuck later and two dollars in change back I was the proud owner of a working Postscript laser printer, perfect for my *nix needs!

    Please note - it is not an uncommon occurrance to see HP Laserjets at Goodwill, though this is the first time I have seen a 5MP - most of the time I run across III's and 1100's, occasionally a 6, and never a 4 (yet) - I also once found a color laser printer (don't remember the brand) for $50.00 - but I didn't take it because I remember one of employers purchasing the same machine and spending close to $200.00/ea for the three color toner cartridges (cyan/yellow/magenta), though the black cartridge was fairly cheap...

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