The State of Play in an “Architecture” Fight: Printer Cartridges

How your printer tricks you into buying ink and toner when you don’t need it.

There’s also a long-standing war between printer makers and third-party cartridge companies that sell cheap knockoff ink packs. In 2003, Lexmark claimed that a company that managed to reverse-engineer the software embedded in its printer cartridges was violating copyright law. Opponents of overbearing copyright protections were alarmed at Lexmark’s reach; copyright protections have traditionally covered intellectual property like music and movies, not physical property like printer cartridges. A federal appeals court dismissed Lexmark’s case, but manufacturers have recently been successful in using patent law to close down third-party cartridge companies.

I will recommend the following paper to those of you who can access it: “Materializing Morality: Design Ethics and Technological Mediation;” Peter-Paul Verbeek; Science, Technology and Human Values; v 31; 2006; pp. 361-380; doi: 10.1177/0162243905285847. The notion of technological mediation is particularly apt, as is its implications for design ethics.