Corporate Ethics, Digital Rights Management and Restraint of Trade


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Let us be clear – being an innovation enthusiast does not mean that technology firms that sell you hardware or software or any product (i.e. a pacemaker) can take away your rights or violate your privacy. And firms that abuse or defraud their customers should be severely fined and their executives should be prosecuted. Why would an abused Wells Fargo customer who was unwittingly signed up for unwanted accounts want to stay with the bank? WFC shows you how to report fraud right here. Did you know that this fraud dates back to 2008, CBS reports, when clients had 15 debit cards taken out in their name? At least, California and Illinois are taking action…Why would a Yahoo email account holder who was subjected to a two year blackout on a 500 M (!) customer identity theft (much less with their OWN NSA spyware) maintain that account? How in the heck can Verizon offer $5B for a compromised franchise when the patents are even stripped from the company?? Where is the Justice Department, the SEC or all the other regulatory bodies that claim jurisdiction. Failure to enforce the law evenly undermines confidence and trust in these institutions! So, we’re off the soapbox now…

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains that DRM is being exploited by many companies: “HP is just the latest of many companies to use DRM technologies to place artificial limits on what customers can do with their products. U.S. copyright law incentivizes tech companies to use DRM: under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, manufacturers claim that it’s illegal to bypass DRM in your own property, even if you’re doing it for completely lawful purposes.”

Well, the latest outrage is the abuse of digital rights management (DRM cessation petition here) by Hewlett-Packard (IAI has owned many HP printers and understands the ‘razor and blade model’).  Suddenly last summer (like the old Motels’ song that was a tribute to failed romance), HP printers failed to operate with non-HP print cartridges. This increasing hostility of HP towards its customers really dates back to the days of former CEO Carly Fiorina who materially overpaid for Compaq Computer and ordered HP to increase printer cartridges sharply and warn customers that their printers might not work with HP manufactured cartridges.  In 2012, respected tech journalist John Dvorak wrote about price gouging on ink cartridges, the fraud of “starter ink” sets, and other manipulations of the hardware built into firmware… and consumer tech forum disinformation. “No printer or ink company would want the public to know this, so here is another assertion: I am convinced that many of the rumors about head-clogging attributed to clone ink are planted in the forums to confuse people trying to do research on the Internet. You simply cannot find an honest forum.”


So, here is another example of a bad corporate practice, BAKED IN to your software and firmware. Cory Doctorow explained in Fortune recently:

The software update that prevented the use of third-party ink was reportedly distributed in March, but this anti-feature itself wasn’t activated until September. That means that HP knew, for at least six months, that some of its customers were buying your products because they believed they were compatible with any manufacturer’s ink, while you had already planted a countdown timer in their property that would take this feature away. Doctorow added that HP’s customers should be able to choose the ink they put in their printers in much the same way Cuisinart toaster owners can choose their bread. He criticized the company for sneaking the functionality onto printers via what purported to be a security update, arguing that if people mistrust security updates, they might leave their product vulnerable to attack.

“You must be aware that this decision has shocked and angered your customers,” wrote Cory Doctorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in an open letter, in which he suggested steps HP should take to “begin to repair the damage it has done to its reputation and the public’s trust.” Tell HP to say NO to punitive DRM:

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