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Dymo causes a stir by adding DRM to printer paper

Just when you thought printers couldn't get any worse, they do.
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Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributor on

I can't think of a device I hate more than a printer. They're usually nastily built, the consumables are crazy expensive, the manufacturers load them with restrictions, and they don't last very long.

Fortunately, in the year I live -- which is in 2022 -- I rarely need to print anything. When I do, I'm happy to pay a print shop or my library for the privilege of me not needing to give one space in my life.

But some people do need a printer, and it seems that label printer maker Dymo is giving us yet another reason to hate printers.

It's building DRM directly into the printer paper. Or in this case, rolls of labels.

Yes, that's right, according to author, journalistc, and activist Cory Doctorow writing for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Dymo is putting RFID readers into its latest label printers, and using those to prevent owners from putting third-party labels through their printers.

"The new label rolls come with a booby-trap," writes Doctorow, "a RFID-equipped microcontroller that authenticates with your label-maker to attest that you bought Dymo's premium-priced labels and not a competitor's. The chip counts down the labels as you print them (so you can't transplant it to a generic label roll)."

The idea is that by doing this, users are locked into buying Dymo consumables for the life of the product.

The models that feature this DRM are the Dymo 550and the 5XL.

What's the solution?

Well, since Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act exposes those who might try to circumvent such DRM to the possibility of huge fines (which is why the EFF is suing to overturn Section 1201), it's either live with it or junk the printer and by a printer from one of Dymo's competitors.

"Dymo has lots of competitors," writes Doctorow, "whose comparable printers cost the same as the new DRM-burdened models. Even with the cost of throwing away your new Dymo and buying a Zebra or MFLabel replacement, you will still come out ahead once you factor in the savings from buying any labels you choose."

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