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Printer Cartridge Debacle Forces Canon to Tell Customers How to Break DRM

Because of the ongoing chip shortage, the printer maker now has to show customers who use its official ink how to bypass DRM warnings.

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Canon printer
Photo: PhotoPlus Magazine/Getty (Getty Images)

We’re all aware of the chip shortage, but while you might have read about its impact on PC and cars, countless smaller industries are also struggling to operate due to ongoing supply issues. One of those is the printer business, and now a popular brand has been forced to take an aggressive action that’s bound to piss people off—and satisfy others.

Unable to procure enough chips, Canon is being forced to sell cartridges without a Digital Rights Management (DRM) chip, or the copy protection component that discourages you from using third-party printer ink.


Lacking a tag to identify as legitimate, official Canon ink is now being flagged as third-party components by the company’s own printers. Owners of the affected printers (here is a list of models) will see an error message from Canon explaining that the ink they installed can’t be recognized.

Canon doesn’t prevent you from using third-party inks, so you can bypass these annoying “use only our stuff” notices and continue printing without any loss in quality, but now you’ll have to do so even when using genuine Canon ink.


The error messages were first report by Twitter user @Mariowitte who wrote (translated from German): “thanks to the lack of semiconductors, Canon is now apparently producing toner cartridges without ‘copy protection’ and sending out emails to customers with instructions on how to workaround error messages about counterfeit cartridges.”

In an unconventional notice published to its German-language website, Canon gives customers instructions on how to bypass the same erroneous error messages consumers have long condemned as being anti-competitive. In what feels like an embarrassing self-own, Canon tells customers to simply close out of any messages that claim the ink their using can’t be identified, and in doing so, tells them the steps needed to use third-party ink.

Canon promises that despite the strange workaround to get printers to operate, the quality of the prints are unaffected if you’re using its ink. However, remaining toner levels won’t display properly, and might drop from 100% to 0% when they’re completely empty. It’s the equivalent of having a broken fuel gauge, and while you might not be left stranded on the side of the road, your printer may run out of ink without notice and lose functionality.


Giving customers the keys to using third-party ink might suggest a broader policy change, but Canon will return to using scare tactics to push away third-party ink cartridges once chip supply normalizes, meaning customers looking to save a penny will continue to see these error messages and should hope Canon doesn’t brick non-Canon cartridge options altogether as HP famously did in 2016.