Proprietary Obsolescence

Nonfree (proprietary) software is very often malware (designed to mistreat the user). Nonfree software is controlled by its developers, which puts them in a position of power over the users; that is the basic injustice. The developers and manufacturers often exercise that power to the detriment of the users they ought to serve.

This typically takes the form of malicious functionalities.

Programmed obsolescence is one of the malicious functionalities that may be designed into proprietary software.

Computer technology inevitably has an environmental impact, but proprietary software makes it worse because it is often designed to lead or pressure users to discard devices sooner because support for them has ceased, or to discard defective hardware which could have been made repairable.

Here are examples of proprietary programs that make hardware devices prematurely obsolete.

If you know of an example that ought to be in this page but isn't here, please write to <> to inform us. Please include the URL of a trustworthy reference or two to serve as specific substantiation.

  • 2022-08

    Some Epson printers are programmed to stop working after they have printed a predetermined number of pages, on the pretext that ink pads become saturated with ink. This constitutes an unacceptable infringement on users' freedom to use their printers as they wish, and on their right to repair them.

  • 2022-04

    Today's “smart” TVs push people to surrender to tracking via internet. Some won't work unless they have a chance to download nonfree software. And they are designed for programmed obsolescence.

  • 2021-01

    The personal finance management software “Quicken” has a discontinuation policy, a.k.a. planned obsolescence, which is an injustice to users. A free (as in freedom) program would let users control the software. But when you use a proprietary software, you won't be in control.

  • 2019-08

    ChromeBooks are programmed for obsolescence: ChromeOS has a universal back door that is used for updates and ceases to operate at a predefined date. From then on, there appears to be no support whatsoever for the computer.

    In other words, when you stop getting screwed by the back door, you start getting screwed by the obsolescence.

  • 2019-03

    The British supermarket Tesco sold tablets which were tethered to Tesco's server for reinstalling default settings. Tesco turned off the server for old models, so now if you try to reinstall the default settings, it bricks them instead.

  • 2019-02

    The HP “ink subscription” cartridges have DRM that constantly communicates with HP servers to make sure the user is still paying for the subscription, and hasn't printed more pages than were paid for.

    Even though the ink subscription program may be cheaper in some specific cases, it spies on users, and involves totally unacceptable restrictions in the use of ink cartridges that would otherwise be in working order.

  • 2018-10

    Apple and Samsung deliberately degrade the performance of older phones to force users to buy their newer phones.

  • 2017-06

    Apple will stop fixing bugs for older model iThings.

    Meanwhile, Apple stops people from fixing problems themselves; that's the nature of proprietary software.

  • 2016-04

    Revolv is a device that managed “smart home” operations: switching lights, operate motion sensors, regulating temperature, etc. Its proprietary software depends on a remote server to do these tasks. On May 15th, 2016, Google/Alphabet intentionally broke it by shutting down the server.

    If it were free software, users would have the ability to make it work again, differently, and then have a freedom-respecting home instead of a “smart” home. Don't let proprietary software control your devices and turn them into $300 out-of-warranty bricks. Insist on self-contained computers that run free software!

  • 2016-03

    Electronic Arts made one of its games permanently unplayable by shutting down its servers. This game was heavily reliant on the company's servers, and because the software is proprietary, users can't modify it to make it connect to some other server. If the game were free, people could still play what they purchased.

  • 2016-01

    The “Cube” 3D printer was designed with DRM: it won't accept third-party printing materials. It is the Keurig of printers. Now it is being discontinued, which means that eventually authorized materials won't be available and the printers may become unusable.

    With a printer that gets the Respects Your Freedom, this problem would not even be a remote possibility.

    How pitiful that the author of that article says that there was “nothing wrong” with designing the device to restrict users in the first place. This is like putting a “cheat me and mistreat me” sign on your chest. We should know better: we should condemn all companies that take advantage of people like him. Indeed, it is the acceptance of their unjust practice that teaches people to be doormats.