I was reading the book In The Public Interest
, written (or is it edited?) by Michael Geist and I learned this particular piece of information:
Of even greater concern is the increasing use of TPMs in completely unexpected environments. For example, Hewlett-Packard has begun to install into its printer cartridges. The technology is used to block consumers from purchasing cartridges in one region and using them in another, thereby enabling the company to maintain different pricing structures for the same product in different global markets.
This is contained in "Anti-Circumvention Legislation and Competition Policy: Defining A Canadian Way?" (written by Michael Geist).
First, I was shocked to hear that. Typically, the way I thought of product made for the US vs products made for the world was the "gray market". When you want to buy a Camera, for example, you can buy a "gray market
" model: it will typically be the same as the model sold for the US but with no warranty. Those products are meant to be sold in other countries. Still, most products are identical, whether they come from the gray market or the black market. Learning that cartridges were becoming "region encoded" was quite a shock. But, this got me thinking.
Is it really bad that this is being done? What is the goal? Strictly maximize profits?
For every person that pays more for a cartdrige, there is somebody that is going to pay less. Not everybody on this earth can afford to pay the same price for commodities. This can enable companies to grant access to a greater number of people to technologies we enjoy in the industrialized world. If drug makers could do something similar, would we be against it? Don't we want AIDS medecine to be sold at a more affordable price in countries that cannot pay the same price as the US for medecine?
Some might argue with me: "Well, you are against regional encoding for DVDs, so what is the difference here?" For me, the difference is relatively clear. Preventing you to get a toner cheaper only costs you money. On the other hand, regional encoding also limits the flow of ideas and information. It's very different. Buying a toner meant to be sold in China won't do me any harm other than money, but not being able to take a Chinese DVD movie - one that is not available in the North America - and play it here is harmful.
Finally, there are not that many differences with printers and toners. You don't like HP's policy? Get another printer. On the other hand, every movie is unique and it's impossible to compensate for a movie that cannot be show in the whole world.