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North Carolina Fights Back Against Lexmark 412

ngrier writes "Seems that at least some aren't sitting idly by, while printer manufacturers try to assert total control. The North Carolina legislature just approved a measure which guarantees the consumer's right to refill ink cartridges. For history of the Lexmark DMCA-related story, involving the company placing copyright-protected code in their printer cartridges in order to prevent competitors from producing compatible cartridges, there are previous Slashdot posts about it here(1), here(2), and here(3)."
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North Carolina Fights Back Against Lexmark

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  • I like this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:37PM (#6457298)
    It's nice to see some common sense come out of a legislature. I like Rep. Joe Hackney's analogy:

    I think if Ford Motor Company tried to completely control the aftermarket by trying to control the tire you put on your car by some device, I think this Legislature would act.

    There are many areas of the market place that this should be applied.

    The price of printers may go up, but we will still have Choice when it comes to ink. Ink is by far the higher cost in the long run.

    • Ink is by far the higher cost in the long run.

      Very Lexmark z23 cost me about $35...which is also the price for a new black ink cartridge.

    • Re:I like this (Score:4, Insightful)

      by captainclever ( 568610 ) <rj@aud i o s c r o b b l e> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:52PM (#6457397) Homepage
      Quite simple, when your Lexmark printer runs out of Ink, throw it in the bin.

      Never ever buy from Lexmark again, and encourage others to follow suit.

      • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @09:35PM (#6458229) Journal
        when you need them. Because people have exactly this type of attitude. Buy printer... printer sucks down in... find out new ink (colour+b&w) costs nearly as much as the printer, or even more.

        Printer ends up in landfill... I'm sure there are a lot of non-environmentally friendly components.

        So why aren't/weren't the environmentalists all over Lexmark's ass for this... they know it's what happens?!
    • Re:I like this (Score:5, Informative)

      by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @10:44PM (#6458562) Homepage
      think if Ford Motor Company tried to completely control the aftermarket by trying to control the tire you put on your car by some device, I think this Legislature would act.

      Actually, I think this started to happen in the past. Ever heard of the Magnuson/Moss Warranty Act?

      Neither did I, until I started putting aftermarket stuff on my truck and the Dodge dealer started getting pissy. In a nutshell, it says that no manufacturer can deny and warranty claim or make any warrany dependont on the use of any aftermarket parts, UNLESS that part can be proven to have caused the damage.

      The same should apply to any other sane industry, of which computers does seem [sane] anymore.

      We don't tolerate those practices anywhere else, except for computers/software. Nice to see someone pitching an official bitch about it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:38PM (#6457308)
    Are you an employee of a company that manufacturers inkjet printers? Are you an inkjet owner? Have you been thinking of buying an inkjet printer? If so, listen up.

    Now, don't get me wrong. Everyone owning their own printing press is an important leap for free speech, and thus democracy,
    but there's one tidbit the printer manufacturers have neglected...

    The loss leader model in the printing technology business is a failure.

    Sure money is pouring in now, but sooner or later your customers will reel from the pain caused by you ramming their asses.
    Let's face it-- previous inkjet owners would rather print at Kinkos than buy a new inkjet printer. If you put yourself in your customers' shoes, it's not hard to see why:

    1. Ink cartridges are too expensive. Boy, are they too expensive!
    2. The cartridges have a short shelf life before they dry up and jam the print heads.
    3. Printing regularly (or otherwise wasting ink) is the only way to combat the ink drying problem.
    4. Consumers are reluctant to print anything unless absolutely necessary thanks to the artificially high price of ink.
    Thus, inkjet printers are rarely excercised enough to maintain them and rarely work right when they are needed.

    Ink cartridges have a short shelf life and no printer manufacturer has been able to solve that problem. Because of that, Gillette's give-away-the-razor-sell-the-blades-at-a-primium model does not adapt well to the printing consumables industry. In
    the meantime, raping consumers on ink is a business model that will soon die, because consumers will find that inkjet printers are just not worth it. Joe Sixpack will learn soon enough that the printer bundled "free" with his PC is nothing but a money pit.

    Because printers are sold cheaply (presumably at a loss), it's not surprising that printer reliability has gone down the shitter. Manufacturers are cutting corners when producing printers. Inkjet printers today are made out of cheap plastic where metal should be used, resulting in a fragile product likely to jam paper.

    Let's face it, until printer manufacturers change their business model, inkjet printers are just not worth the hassle.
    • When people figure this out, boy will Acme Ink Corp.. uh, I mean Hewlett Packard be in trouble.
    • by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:01PM (#6457460)
      Printers sure have gone downhill. Remember the old HP Laserjet(3,4) workhorses? Those things were stout. Even the new office printers are not the same quality they used to be.

      Normally in the computer market, high end features trickle down into comsumer product features, I was hoping for a home printer that could hold a ream of paper and have separate trays for labels and envelopes and plug and play networking. Instead we have the mess that is the printer market today.

      • My dad has a 10+ year old LaserJet 4 that he replaced with a LJ 1200 for most uses only a couple months ago because it began to jam. He much prefers the old one for short documents that won't jam.
      • Yeah, I still use my laserjet4 to run off my pirated^H^H^H^H^H^H^H project gutenberg ebooks. I've hade it for years, and I'm just about to replace the toner for the first time. They just don't make them like that anymore (and what is everyone's fascination with inkjet... give me more expensive but quality laser anyday).
      • Heh.. how about this. I have a HP laserjet IIP that has gone over 400,000 pages. The thing is a beast! Bought it in '87 with the 1meg memory upgrade. I love the fact that they set the internal page counter to max out at 100k. Not too many products these days that you can roll the odometers on anymore.

        Try getting that from an inkjet :) Or even one of the newer hp lasers (which I still think are great printers... just not the beasts they once were)
        • Try getting that from an inkjet :) Or even one of the newer hp lasers

          The problem with these old beasts is that they stayed powered up and hot to be able to print quickly at any time. OK if you are in an air conditioned office and really doing a lot of printing. However, if you have one one your home system you might not even print every day, but the electricity the thing will cost you to run day in and day out (not counting extra A/C costs) will be a lot more than the cost of a newer lower power printer.

    • Sorry, but I have to disagree with some of your post...

      > 3. Printing regularly (or otherwise wasting ink) is the only way to combat the ink drying problem.
      > 4. Consumers are reluctant to print anything unless absolutely necessary thanks to the artificially high price of ink.
      > Thus, inkjet printers are rarely excercised enough to maintain them and rarely work right when they are needed.


      I have and Epson Stylus Colour 800. It is approximately 5 years old. I purchased it when I worked f
    • Item you missed... (Score:4, Informative)

      by rmdyer ( 267137 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @08:45PM (#6458001)
      Somewhere you've glossed over the fact that companies that create disposable junk increase the wear and tear on our natural environment.

      Consider printer ink which you "could" buy by the liter. Instead, now we've got to buy the box, the plastic sealing, and the heavy plastic ink cartridge.

      Waste, pure waste. Lexmark should be held accountable!

  • Any effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:40PM (#6457320)

    Well consumers have that right already - they are perfectly free to refill their cartridges; of course, it doesn't do them any good, because the chip ignores the new ink. Is this a ban on putting the chips in?

  • So state law... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:42PM (#6457326)
    Supercedes federal copyright law in North Carolina?

    I doubt it, although Lexmark would be a fool to push it.

    • Supercedes federal copyright law in North Carolina?

      I doubt it, although Lexmark would be a fool to push it.

      Good point. Consider the application of Article VI of the Constitution, the Supremacy Clause:

      Article VI

      All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

      This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all

    • The constitution says: The Congress shall have power to . . . promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

      I fail to see how preventing others from making ink cartridges promotes the progress of science and useful arts, therefore this should not fall under federal copyright law.
      • I fail to see how preventing others from making ink cartridges promotes the progress of science and useful arts, therefore this should not fall under federal copyright law.

        Hey- I just happen to be a struggling inkjet cartridge chip author. I've been working my ass off for years, holding down night jobs, working like a slave to support myself so I can write my chips. It's been a living hell, but I still hold on to my dream. One day I'm going to write an inkjet chip that hits the big time. And when I do, yo

    • This isn't superceding federal copyright law. It's an unrelated law to do with consumer protection. Lexmark has no more right to claim federal copyright law overrules it on the grounds it happens to be using a form of ultraproprietry cartridge protected by the DMCA than it does that it sends the printers across the state using the US Postal Service.

      The two laws are not in conflict here. Lexmark can sue people for refilling its cartridges, only it's also open to legal action for making them closed in the f

    • doesn't have to (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity ( 597 )
      They don't have to try to force Lexmark to allow others to use their copyrights (which would be an attempt to supersede federal copyright law) -- instead they can simply say that it is illegal for printer manufacturers to make their cartridges such that copyrighted material is necessary for their operation. Then nobody could copy Lexmark's cartridges, but they couldn't legally sell them in the state either. But their copyright would still be protected.
    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @10:12PM (#6458422)
      So state law ....Supercedes federal copyright law in North Carolina?

      The thing is, it doesn't have to. Copyright law clearly has an exception for useful articles or things that provide a utilitarian function, so exactly the thing that Lexmark is trying to protect under a claim of copyright is likely voided by this exception. See more details of this here. []

      Note also that this same exception might well exclude the "copyrighted" code that Microsoft claims is a copyright violation in X-box mod chips. Copyright was never intended for this sort of thing, and the exception makes it pretty clear that the writers of the law didn't want copyright to be abused this way.

    • Re:So state law... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WCMI92 ( 592436 )
      "Supercedes federal copyright law in North Carolina?

      I doubt it, although Lexmark would be a fool to push it."

      Yes they would.

      The Feds only have the right to regulate INTERSTATE commerce. (much abused, BTW) Not INTRA-state.

      So NC could make it completely legal to produce knock off inkjet carts and sell them *IN* NC.

      I don't really see how the DMCA even protects Lexmark in this case. It DOES have a (weak) "interoperability" clause that would seem to make selling refills and compatible carts legal.

  • by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <tim,almond&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:43PM (#6457335) Homepage
    Not being an American, but presumably this means that people can mail order cartridges from North Carolina to their home address?

    Is there a lot of this in the USA? States which have allowed things that are banned in other states gaining additional 'export' markets? I can think of people travelling to Vegas for one.

    • You'll see that it probably doesn't even apply to North Carolina
    • by generic-man ( 33649 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:56PM (#6457422) Homepage Journal
      Is there a lot of this in the USA? States which have allowed things that are banned in other states gaining additional 'export' markets?

      Yes. Look at all the border stores that sell fireworks -- it's illegal to take them back home, but the store owners don't care because their state's laws apply.

      And in Pennsylvania, until recently all liquor stores were closed on Sunday -- currently 10% of them are open Sundays, as a pilot program. Until that happened, people had to drive to neighboring states to buy hard liquor on a Sunday. This happens in plenty of other states too -- and in some states, it happens at the county level.

      And whatever you do, don't ask people in Greenwich, Connecticut what they think about New Yorkers buying Powerball tickets there...
    • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:58PM (#6457444) Homepage

      There is a lot of it. The states are sometimes called the "laboritories" for legislation. The U.S. was set up with way -- a relatively weak and powerless federal government that provides for the common defense, currency, bankruptcy, and a few other things in the "enumerated powers." The states were responsible for all other legislation, except in areas reserved exclusively to the people. Things like freedom of speech, religion and assembly, and the right to bear arms are in that category (see 9th and 10th amendments). These days, a lot of federal mandates are achieved through the federal government's power of taxation, rather than more direct (and unconstitutional) means.

      I'm not sure if the U.S. federal government is all that constitutional these days. Before FDR, there was a "presumption of liberty" that favors individuals and the states. Post-FDR, there was a "presumption of constitutionality" which favors congress and the president, and disfavors states and individual citizens. This flies in the face of the 9th and 10th Amendments, which are supposed to be part of the "supreme law of the land" that places limitations on the power of the federal government.

      • Post-FDR, there was a "presumption of constitutionality" which favors congress and the president, and disfavors states and individual citizens.

        It was not really due to FDR. In reality, three things came together in the 20'th century to cause this.

        First, the Great Depression needed to be ended and others like it prevented. This required a relatively strong central bank and a variety of social safety nets.

        Next came WW II and the Cold War, requiring massive infusions of money and power into the federal gove

    • Ever drink california wine? there are wineries all over the country - there is even one near me, here in Mississippi - but because of moronic laws leftover from prohibition the wineries cannot EXPORT their product from the state. I have never seen logic in this, but that's the way it is in many states: they let their citizens make wine (or beer) but prohibit them from selling it across state lines. Stupid.

      California has very liberal marijuana laws and many people exploit this. Alaska has even more liberal

  • Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lordfly ( 590616 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:43PM (#6457339) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad someone's deciding to finally act on this. Ink cartridges should not be costing 20,30,40 dollars. It's ink... the technology has been around for several hundred years. Now granted, printer technology has only been around 20 years, but still, it's not like it's rocket science (or rocket fuel, for that matter :)

    • by ugly_a ( 687832 )
      With ink cartridges surpassing the cost of Dom perignon, the rocket fuel just might be cheaper.
    • by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:39PM (#6457687) Homepage Journal
      The whole idea in the current market is to sell cheap printers that become mechanisms to sell expensive ink jet cartridges. The goal is to sell as many expensive cartridges as possible; so you find marketers playing stupid games like not filling the cartridges to capacity, etc..

      The result of this is simply a great deal of garbage that consumers have to pay to haul away.

      I doubt that toner and ink cartridges are really the most environmentally friendly things in the landfills. I suspect the fewer we toss out the better.

      My brain fart du jour is that it would be great if industries had to pick up the tab for the garbage they create. Lenmark and other competitors in the industry would have to pay a disposal fee that could be distributed to landfills to cover costs.

      If industry had to pay for the waste up front, there would be a hope that they would design products that create less waste product.

      As you point out, the industry is really about putting ink (which is relatively inexpensive) on paper. All the extra packaging, cartridge parts, etc., that get produced and sold in this game are waste.
      • This worked well in germany with toy manufacturers. They were required to pick up the tab for any packaging that ended up in the municipal waste stream. Within weeks the companies were selling just the Barbie doll and not the giant cardboard box and plastic. What, was the Barbie doll going to spoil sitting there?

        What many people don't realize is that a lot of our environmental problems are caused by regulatory environments that allow companies to shove costs off onto the government. When a cost is exte
  • Not about choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retto ( 668183 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:47PM (#6457363)

    Oh please....consumer choice doesn't have anything to do with this. A North Carolina company may get shut down, costing 1,200 jobs, which is why there is soon going to be a law protecting it.

    I half expect Kentucky's government to jump in and ban the sale of replacement ink cartridges to protect Kentucky jobs or some other nonsense.

  • For anyone wanting cheap ink cartridges here's a weird place you can check out, called lasermonks [].

    More on topic, if this bill get's signed it'll be interesting to see if similar legislation is passed in other states.

  • by Corvaith ( 538529 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:48PM (#6457367) Homepage
    I always buy my printers based on how much it'll run me to replace the ink afterwards. Not necessarily comparing *just* that, granted, but it's a big factor. These days, my favored brand is generally Epson, and my still-relatively-new Stylus C62 has been good to me. And replacement ink doesn't break the bank.

    If people would *think* before they purchase and realize that Lexmark may have decent printer prices but their ink is absolutely ridiculous, such legislation would be largley unnecessary.
    • If people would *think* before they purchase

      That doesn't always work. I've still got a perfectly good HP Deskjet 500. When I bought it, the cartridges worked fine, lasted a reasonable time. I haven't been able to use it in years because HP's nu'n'inproved cartridges for it SUCK at a much higher price. I no longer buy printers that tie me a single source for ink/toner.

    • There are some Lexmark printers currently on the market that can be obtained for less than the ink cartridges can. Thus, it is cheaper to buy a new printer than to buy replacement ink. There HAS to be something wrong with that.
      • This gets floated as a "solution" to the problem frequently. Unfortunately, the cartridges in these new printers contain less and less ink. They're almost getting to be as useless as the sample packs of paper they come with too.
  • Special exemptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interiot ( 50685 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:48PM (#6457374) Homepage
    Why not fix the whole DMCA? Or at least codify something stating that DMCA doesn't cover cases where the intent was clearly only anticompetitive?
  • Toner vs. ink (Score:5, Informative)

    by My name isn't Tim ( 684860 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:49PM (#6457378) Homepage
    The big money is in toner not inkjet ink. Toner cartridges are the cartridges that Lexmark put anti-refill technology on. Things like counting the amount of times the drum roles restricting the cartridge to so many pages printed (even if there's still toner left in the cartridge!) there are companies out there that can circumvent this. check out Multilaser []
    • A lot of inkjet printers are using similar technology to insure that refilled cartridges are aren't put back in by keeping track of the serial numbers of cartridges put into the printer.. Also, some printers decide a cartridge or one of the colors is too old after a certain amount of time and refuse to use it even if it is full. They claim this is so that they can ensure quality or something, but its obvious the intent is to keep refilled cartridges from being useful.
  • No effect! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 142825 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:49PM (#6457381) Homepage
    IANAL. But, I tend to doubt that local law can overide Federal Copyright Law.
    • Copyright or no copyright, it can force Lexmark out of selling printers that engage in abusing copyright law in North Carolina at all, even though Lexmark treis to use the connivance of the courts (copyright law does explicitly permit reverse engineering for compatibility, even though the court opinion ignores that fact).

      We live in a time and place of judges who ignore and break the law and who break their oaths to uphold the law!

  • Um, So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:52PM (#6457399) Homepage Journal
    The DMCA is federal. No matter how much we wish otherwise, we need to make the change at a federal level.

    Even though California or Oregon voters may be in favor of medical marijuana, the federal prohibition on marijuana trumps that.

    Repeal DMCA on a federal level, or otherwise the efforts are meaningless.

    • Re:Um, So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jonman_d ( 465049 ) <nemilar@op t o n l i n e . n et> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:00PM (#6457454) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunatly, you're right. De jure nullification is dead. But de faco nullification is alive and kicking. Take your marijuana example: locally, Californian state officials generally don't enforce the federal marijuana laws. They don't have to. That's why you get federal officers doing most of the drug-busting in California, which costs the federal government a load of cash and time.

      And what happens to people in California, when they're found guilty of growing or posessing medical marijuana? They get just one day in jail. []

      Now, apply this to ink. Granted, it's a lot different that marijuana laws - but, the state will wind up doing nothing to help the federal government in this matter, which is a big win. And it'll turn a blind-eye to anyone who wants to keep producing 3rd-party ink. Another win.

      The idea of nullification now'a'days is just to be such a pain in the ass that the federal government has to eventually rethink their position. Hell, look at all the anti-patriot act bills floating around.
    • This law only applies IN North Carolina, there's no interstate commerce involved. Hence, no conflict with the DMCA or any other federal law because it's not in their jurisdiction. The law doesn't say anything about what goes on in other states, and doesn't affect federal courts. So, what this means is that a local company - one with offices/plants/etc ONLY in North Carolina can make these refill cartridges and sell them like mad. They can't be tried in federal court because there's no interstate commerc
  • Why not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unixwin ( 569813 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:54PM (#6457411) Homepage
    If Lexmark (or HP or whoever) makes a product and they say that for warranty purposes you have to use their own crappy ink/toner -- all this upfront, I don't see a big deal why it is a consumer victory as touted. I surely agree that a refill helps in cost cutting, but I have also seen tons of printers (both inkjet and laser) with ink/toner spilt all over their innards just because ppl didn't want use a decent cartridge / toner. This is when they bring their product in for warranty "replacement" since their ink/toner is "smudging", "not printing right" , "sucks" or something of that nature.

    As long as they let the consumer know this in advance and you have a choice not to buy this product no one is in trouble are they?

    Ofcourse you may not have much choice for buying from someone besides Lexmark & Canon & HP but then thats a DIFFERENT problem .....

  • by Sean80 ( 567340 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:58PM (#6457436)
    I don't know about this. Every time I walk down the street I'm sure there are about a thousand laws governing my behaviour, most of which I'm not even aware of.

    Is it really the job of government to pass such narrow, precise laws like this? Or, instead, should they be passing higher-level laws which a) most of us can even keep in our heads to start with and b) cover a whole lot of smaller, more specific cases?

    • Its a bit of a tug-o-war on that. Specific laws like this seem to only chip away at the larger problems. But larger, more general laws leave a lot of room for interpertation and or abuse. (insert the name of your favorite blanket regulations here)

      I hear ya though, there has to be a better way than addressing each and every case. Maybe, if law makers would go after the DMCA itself, rather than running around and trying to filter through all of its vast twisting tendrils individualy. This is a good first s
  • I wonder... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by singularity ( 2031 ) * <nowalmart AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @06:58PM (#6457441) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how many consumers get to the point where they realize that buying a new printer each time is about as effective as trying to buy OEM ink cartridges.

    I was in Best Buy yesterday, and they had an inkjet printer on sale for $39. It has been a while since I bought an inkjet cartridge (company supplied laser printer), but I believe it was almost that expensive.

    That is the problem with a highly competitive razor/razor-blade model - as soon as the razors get really cheap due to competition, you get the the point where you start competing with the blades in price.

    I wonder how long before you see "intro" ink cartridges (with only like 25% filled) being supplied with the original printer?
  • Seems like North Carolina forgot about a little thing in the Constitution called the Supremacy Clause. When the Fed Gov't has been granted the power to legislate in an area, conflicting or inconsistent state laws are preempted by federal laws and are rendered useless.

    Simply put, NC can legislate all it wants, but as long as the DMCA (or other conflicting federal statute) is on the books, any laws they write aren't worth the refilled ink they are printed with. (Pardon the bad pun, but I couldn't resist.)

    • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @08:17PM (#6457881) Homepage Journal

      Seems like North Carolina forgot about a little thing in the Constitution called the Supremacy Clause.

      In general, states can't nullify federal laws, but they can make federal laws much harder to enforce. For example, the City of Arcata banned compliance with the "optional" suggestions of the USAPATRIOT act [].

      Federal law, 17 USC 1201 []: "No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title." That is, you can't sell devices that defeat DRM.

      Hypothetical state law: "No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that contains one or more technological measures that effectively control access to a work, as defined in Title 17, United States Code, section 1201, if the device's packaging does not carry a conspicuous label that discloses the restrictions enforced by such measures." That is, you can't sell DRM that isn't labeled.

      I don't see a supremacy problem here. The federal law bans black boxes; the state law merely requires labeling.

  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:04PM (#6457485) Homepage Journal
    What Lexmark is doing seems similar to what Sega did with later versions of their Genesis game console. The Genesis refused to run cartridges that didn't contain the trademarked word "SEGA" at a particular address. Sega apparently even has a patent on that security system (TMSS). When Accolade made cartridges containing that work, Sega sued. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this violated the Lanham act, because Sega deliberately designed the Genesis to require that trademark to be present regardless of the actual manufacturer of the cartridge. Thus Sega was to blame for the abuse of their own trademark.

    The Lexmark inkjet cartridge problem is based on abusing copyright rather than trademark, but it seems quite possible that a court would find that because Lexmark has unnecessarily forced their competitors to use their copyright in order to make a compatible cartridge, they are to blame for the resulting copyright infringement.

    • by unicorn ( 8060 )
      It's actually a case of using a technological means, to enforce a contract.

      The cartridges in question are sold at a discounted price, called a Prebate. You get a cheaper cartridge with the understanding that you will return it when empty, to Lexmark. If you pay for a full price cartridge, you're more than welcome to refill it, at will.

      It's a prefectly legitmate means of enforcing the terms of sale that the consumer agreed to, when he bought the discounted ink.
      • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) *
        What contract? Does the consumer sign a piece of paper agreeing to this? Or is it a shrink-wrap contract? If the latter, is the package well-marked so that the consumer knows that he or she is "agreeing" to these terms by opening the package or using the cartridge? Or is it buried in fine print somewhere? Do the stores actually carry the "full price cartridge" in addition to the ripoff ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H discount cartridge?

        I've never seen these cartridges, but I tend to doubt that Lexmark has gone to a

  • It had to happen in North Carolina, because politics is ultimately about local issues. Static Control Components of Sanford, (close to Raleigh) employs 1200, and might even more if business grows. The Company had enough pull in the State to get the law passed.

    And I think this should be a lesson for other issues too ... Abstractions have to come down to one or few test cases where the rubber hits the road .... guess RIAA's thousands points of lawsuits will also meet such a fate from the localities where the lawsuits draw first blood.

    I would be foolish enough to say to RIAA "Bring 'em on" but I think that they should expect the unexpected when the finally go for it.

  • Just a thought (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wozster ( 514097 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:17PM (#6457573) Journal
    Last time I checked Canon doesn't sue 3rd party competitors
    & uses a seperate tank for each color (less waste)
    & doesn't throw around the DMCA
    & tells you to check your ink level by LOOKING AT THE CARTRIDGE (as it should be).

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but from my recent research I found Canon to be the most reasonable (yes, I hated them as much as everyone else 5 years ago).
    • Re:Just a thought (Score:3, Interesting)

      by EnglishTim ( 9662 )
      I have a Canon S500, and it has a system that detects when the ink is about to run out and when the ink has run out. I'm always surprised at how many prints I get between it telling me the ink is low and when it refuses to print any more, but it does give you some time to get around to getting some new cartridges. When the cartridge has expired, There doesn't seem to be very much ink left, although it is a bit difficult to tell - the cartridges are full of a cotton wool-like substance, presumably to stop t

  • It appears the bill doesn't address the DMCA problem. As the article states:

    RALEIGH, N.C. -- The state House agreed Tuesday to Senate changes to a bill that would give printer owners the right to refill any printer ink cartridge, voiding

    purchase agreements that ban the practice.

    (emphasis added)

    It appears the North Carolina law simply declares void contractual agreements not to refill printer ink cartridges as being against the public policy of the state

  • Still a silly fight (Score:4, Informative)

    by unicorn ( 8060 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:22PM (#6457601)
    The thing that continues to be overlooked by the editors here:

    The chipped cartridges, are NOT the only option for these printers.

    There are 2 sets of cartridges that Lexmark sells. One set, is chipped for single use, and then you're obligated to return the cartridge back to Lexmark for them to refurbish, etc. They call it a "pre-bate" basically they are rebating you for returning the empty, at the time of purchase.

    If you want to reuse/refill, etc yourself, then you can buy the non-prebated inks. And then you can just go hog wild.

    Caveat Emptor.
  • As far as I can tell from reading the description of the law (IANAL), they made it illegal to enforce the ban on cartridge refills, and it probably does conflict with federal law. What they should have done, with no conflict with the federal statute, was to ban the sale of printers with that sort of restriction. AFAIK a state can ban the sale of various items on whatever grounds it feels are correct, and the feds have nothing to say about it.
  • The company I worked for had to pull out of the consumer market(both ink and toner based) because they couldn't keep losing money on lost revenue due to generic cartridges. So now there is less choice in the toner and ink jet printers.

    My last ink jet screwed up because of the damn refillable cartridges. My current ink jet works great with name-brand cartridges.

  • by felonious ( 636719 )
    I understand why these companies want to prevent others from stealing this cash cow. You're talking about huge amounts of money just for ink. I can't remember where I read it but there was a story about ink being 3 times more expensive than a fine wine or something like that. Maybe it was here? It's fucking ink so I don't know why it's so expensive.

    It could be all of the companies in collusion with one another to keep the prices high.

    We should boycott Lexmark and while we're at it boycott Epson for being
  • by magical1 ( 664789 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @07:40PM (#6457697)
    This whole industry is based upon one thing. Everyone knows that these companys literally give you the printer only to make the money back on the refill cartridges. If they were to market the printers differntly, go back to making quality machines rather than things that print for a few years then die, and aren't fixing cause it's cheaper to replace we and the enviornment would win. We would get cheaper ink cartridges, and higher quality ink jet printers, thus lasting us a lot longer and saving our landfills and being green in the same process. If the companys were even smarter, they would have a exchange policy for old cartridges, or offer refill kits themselves.
  • by whatch durrin ( 563265 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @08:13PM (#6457865)
    For a while, people advocated returning copy-protected CDs to the retailer. The same should be done with inkjet printers.

    Get one at Wal-Mart and when the ink runs out - return it and get a new one, complete with a new ink cartridge. Wal-mart employees could care less. Just give some lame-ass excuse.

    If manufacturers want to play this game, let's play! HP & Lexmark will have a new definition for "loss leader."

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @08:28PM (#6457930)
    I have seen printers damaged from using 3rd Party Ink. Because they were using the cheap stuff and the fact that their printer broke. They decided that because their printer keeps on having trouble that they wont buy that printer again. While if they used the real ink the printer could have used for many more years. While there are good 3rd party Ink out their. But there are a bunch of Rip Offs that hurt the printer and this is like slander towards the printer maker.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman