Paper-towel dispenser with a EULA prohibiting rival brands of paper

John Overholt from Harvard's Houghton Library spotted a paper towel dispenser whose prominent EULA prohibits refilling it with non-Tork brands of towels, with Tork vowing to "enforce its rights under applicable laws and agreements." Read the rest

Americans believe that they should own the mountains of data produced by their cars, but they don't

Your car is basically a smartphone with wheels, and it gathers up to 25gb/hour worth of data on you and your driving habits -- everything from where you're going to how much you weigh. Cars gather your financial data, data on the number of kids in the back seat, and, once they're connected to your phone, data on who you call and text. Read the rest

DRM and terms-of-service have ended true ownership, turning us into "tenants of our own devices"

Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests. Read the rest

HP's ink DRM instructs your printer to ignore the ink in your cartridge when you cancel your subscription

Inkjet printer manufacturers continue to pioneer imaginative ways to create real-world, desktop dystopias that make Black Mirror look optimistic by comparison: one such nightmare is HP's "subscription" printers where a small amount of money buys you ink cartridges that continuously communicate with HP's servers to validate that you're still paying for your subscription, and if you cancel, the ink stops working. Read the rest

Sole and Despotic Dominion: my story about the future of private property for Reason

Reason's December issue celebrates the magazine's 50th anniversary with a series of commissioned pieces on the past and future of the magazine's subjects: freedom, markets, property rights, privacy and similar matters: I contributed a short story to the issue called Sole and Despotic Dominion, which takes the form of a support chat between a dishwasher owner and its manufacturer's rep, who has the unhappy job of describing why the dishwasher won't accept his dishes. Read the rest

Sony's new robot dog doubles down on DRM

It's been 15 years since Sony used the DMCA to shut down the community that had sprung up to extend the functionality of its Aibo robot dogs, threatening people with lawsuits and jailtime for modifying their dogs' operating systems. Read the rest

HP once again caught sneaking code into printers to reject third-party ink

In March 2016, HP sent millions of Inkjet and Inkject Pro owners a fake "security update" that was really a timebomb: six months later, in September 2016 (one year ago!), the "security update" code started rejecting third party ink, prompting nearly 15,000 complaints from HP owners. Read the rest

Tesla's demon-haunted cars in Irma's path get a temporary battery-life boost

Tesla sells both 60kWh and 75kWh versions of its Model S and Model X cars; but these cars have identical batteries -- the 60kWh version runs software that simply misreports the capacity of the battery to the charging apparatus and the car's owner. Read the rest

How DRM and EULAs make us into "digital serfs"

Washington and Lee law professor Joshua Fairfield is the author of a recent book called Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom, which takes up the argument that DRM and license agreements mean that we have no real property rights anymore, just a kind of feudal tenancy in which distant aristocrats (corporations) dictate how we may and may not use the things we "buy," backed by the power of the state to fine or jail us if we fail to arrange our affairs to the company's shareholders. Read the rest

John Deere just told the copyright office that only corporations can own property, humans can only license it

John Deere has turned itself into the poster-child for the DMCA, fighting farmers who say they want to fix their own tractors and access their data by saying that doing so violates the 1998 law's prohibition on bypassing copyright locks. Read the rest

Independent repair guy on the planned obsolescence of Apple products

Louis Rossmann is an independent service technician in New York City who has repaired Apple products for years. Read the rest

Desperate John Deere tractor owners are downloading illegal Ukrainian firmware hacks to get the crops in

John Deere is notorious for arguing that farmers who buy its tractors actually "license" them because Deere still owns the copyright to the tractors' software; in 2015, the US Copyright Office affirmed that farmers were allowed to jailbreak their tractors to effect repairs and modifications. Read the rest

Mark Zuckerberg sues over 100 Hawaiians to force them to sell them their ancestral land

In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg (who insists that privacy is dead) bought 100 acres of land around his vacation home in Hawaii to ensure that no one could get close enough to spy on him. Read the rest