chamberlain-opener Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson has posted a great feature story looking back at the famous Chamberlain garage door and Lexmark printer Digital Millennium Copyright Act cases. It takes a “where-are-they-now” look at the companies, updating the cases and their consequences to the present day.

It starts when Anderson happens to notice a clause in his Chamberlain garage door opener’s instruction book that specifically denies authorization to use third-party openers. After doing a little research, he learns that this language was added to the manuals to try to get around a legal loophole.

In one of the most famous DMCA cases to date, the courts threw out Chamberlain’s suit against a third-party universal garage door opener manufacturer on the grounds that since they did not explicitly forbid using third-party products, it was permitted.

The added language represented Chamberlain’s attempt to get around it. However, lawyers with whom Anderson spoke were dubious that it would stand up in court.

Lexmark Printers

Anderson also touched upon another such case, the famous Lexmark Printer dispute. Lexmark makes two lines of printer cartridges: an expensive one that allows third-party ink refills, and a cheap one that does not. Lexmark is suing a third-party ink refilling company that hacked the microchips Lexmark installed to prevent third-party cartridge use.

The case is still ongoing, but the case seems to be going against Lexmark on the basis of the “first sale” doctrine. It is not legal for Lexmark to put restrictions on what the customer can do with a cartridge after a consumer has purchased it.

This is a fascinating article for anyone concerned with the DMCA, its effects, and its limitations. It is interesting to see that years after the original cases, the DMCA continues to be an issue even in non-media fields.


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