Following Printer DRM Fiasco, HP Needs To Do More To Fix Reputation, Says EFF

Recently, HP pushed a firmware update, which would verify whether its Officejet Pro printers were using third-party or official HP ink cartridges. If the printers were not using HP cartridges, then they would stop printing. Last week, the EFF called on HP to fix this and allow its now DRM-locked printers to once again print using third-party cartridges. HP eventually responded, saying it would push an update to make the cartridge verification optional.

Although pleased with the quick response from HP, the EFF believes the company needs to do much more to repair the damage this action did to the image of HP’s printer business.

No More Sneaky “Security Updates”

The EFF wants HP to promise that it would never do “security updates,” which is what HP called its firmware DRM lock, to remove features from users' printers. 

This is a problem for the real security of HP’s printers, though, because we’re now living in a time when such devices are infected and made part of botnets that can do terabit-per-second DDoS attacks. Users should want to update their printers as soon as there is a bug in them, not try to avoid the updates because HP might sneak in some DRM code. This is why software companies should never betray the trust of their users by calling something a security update, unless it actually is one.

Promise Not To Sue Security Researchers

Because HP is now adding DRM to its printers, the EFF believes the company should at least promise not to sue security researchers that uncover vulnerabilities in the printers’ code. Section 1201 of the DMCA allows companies to sue security researchers that tinker with their code, and HP could do that as well if it so decided.

The EFF is currently in a lawsuit against the U.S. government to try and invalidate Section 1201 of the DMCA.

Full Transparency

The EFF said that HP should come clean on which models are affected by the DRM issue. HP may be fixing the printers that everyone knows were affected by its update, but were there other models that were also affected? If so, does HP plan to tell users that they need to get the new update so their printer can print again?

The last time the EFF called out HP about this issue, only 10,000 signatures were needed to get the company to quickly reverse its position and promise a fix. The EFF hopes you’ll sign its petition to HP again to implement its latest requests, as well.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • Jake Hall
    Horrible company
  • chicofehr
    Reminds me of DRM on coffee makers. The pirating groups should release a firmware that removes the DRM. Always update manually if you can :P
  • clonazepam
    Epson went through similar issues almost two decades ago, with having electronic chips built into their ink cartridges, in an attempt to block the use of 3rd party inks. They all try to get away with whatever they can.
  • anbello262
    I don't know about a few decades ago, but Epson is definitely doing this exactly now. They block by DRM unofficial ink systems.
  • HEKT1K
    HP printers have always been notoriously unreliable, something I can not tolerate when I need to print a report for the next days. Most HP printers I've had have broke in 2-4 months.

    My Canon and Brother printers are rock solid after years of service.
  • Hydrotricithline
    You want people to buy your ink.. either make it economical or superior. Cannon for example. People don't buy their lenses printers and ink (being overpriced) because they're shitty. You want people to use your ink, make better ink, or make it cheaper. Don't sell some 25$ printer with 400$usd a year maintenance in ink then think you can just lock them into your run of the mill over priced ink. Glad this ruling went down. I personally don't use 'refills' myself because the ink sucks.. but you know what.. I'd like that option.. especially for blacks where provided it's not faded or 'blueish' it's pretty hard to get completely wrong.
  • tommatthews1951
    This article would be far better if the author expanded all of these abbreviations the first time they were used. Not everyone is familiar with these and the article would have been far more meaningful to me had an attempt been to use the unabbreviated version first.
  • captaincharisma
    they haven't done anything to fix it in over a century so why would they start now?
  • cheesemanx
    On this particular case I am siding with HP, we have lost 2 printers in my company for 3rd party ink that have destroyed the devices and when I have a site out in the middle of nowhere and I have to drive 4 hours each way to replace a broken printer because some scantily clad woman talked the site manager into buy crummy 3rd party ink, then yes I would have liked the device to not print with anything other original HP ink.
  • ikaz
    Cheesemanx Sorry you work for a company that has crappy employees I work in IT for a large company (mutli site, region, ect) any time the department "Breaks" equipment because of misuse it's charged back to the department. Then they have to explain why they are over budget at the end of the year.

    I have no problem with HP say warning that using non-HP ink can say void warrentee but that should be up to the end user who purchased the device to make the decision.