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Canon is encouraging printer owners to break DRM so they can use ink cartridges

Could this lead to Canon getting in trouble for anti-competitive behavior? Possibly.

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Printers that use DRM-locked ink cartridges are the worst. Many of the major brands use them, but things could be changing. Thanks to global chip shortages, Canon Germany is now offering guidance on how to break its own DRM system.

Canon has admitted to customers that it can’t source the chip they use for DRM; which also keeps track of toner levels. That means that even Canon’s own toner cartridges might show up as counterfeit to the printer, as the chip won’t be found. Yikes.

Canon’s solution? A statement on its German website, and emailed to some customers, outlines the issue and then goes into a how-to for bypassing the DRM.

Yes, Canon is advising its own customers to break its DRM, so their printers will accept the toner cartridges. Canon says that this should still only be done with official, Canon-branded toner cartridges.

canon break drm on printer
Image: KnowTechie

That’s fine, we shouldn’t expect anything else from a company that probably makes more on toner than on selling printers, but it’s not the full story.

If it’s that trivial to dismiss the scare tactic pop-ups that either warn or disable the printer when a non-genuine (read: non-Canon) cartridge is inserted – what’s to stop anyone using third-party, cheaper alternatives in the future?

Canon has just invalidated its own argument for why you should be using first-party toner. If the printer will still work after the DRM is disabled, what was the point of the DRM?

We’re pretty sure many of the countries that Canon sells printers in have stringent laws about anti-competitive behavior like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if Canon’s admission that the printers will still work without the DRM is the first step to legislation that strips proprietary DRM measures like this.

That’ll be a win for consumers, and for manufacturers, as if anyone can make toner cartridges for any printer, increased competition should result in better, cheaper toner for everyone.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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