Right to repair fight nearing end

Right to repair fight nearing end

Posted by Ben Baker on Jul 1st 2016

If the phrase “right to repair” doesn’t mean anything to you, and then you’ve never tried to work on a modern bike or tried to get an independent mechanic to do something.

The problem is in the computer software that so many modern vehicles have.

Automotive News sums right to repair up in two paragraphs:

“For more than a decade, independent car repair chains such as Jiffy Lube and parts retailers such as AutoZone have been lobbying for laws that would give them standardized access to the diagnostic tools that automakers give their franchised dealers.

“Automakers have resisted, citing the cost of software changes required to make the information more accessible. But when Massachusetts legislators passed a law last year (2013) that automakers saw as a decent compromise, they decided to cut their losses.”

That promise to “cut the losses” hasn’t completely happened. The automotive repair industry is still waiting for a decision by the US Copyright Office on right to repair. At issue is who owns the controlling software now found in modern vehicles. Does the company that created the software own it? Does the person who bought the ride own it?

This is an issue because software is written information and covered by US and international copyright law. That law means the person who wrote the software has the exclusive right to decide how and where it can be used. A US Copyright Office decision could give riders more freedom to work on their scooters or could leave things as they are.

The vehicle industry is fighting it. John Deere tractor company spokesman Ken Golden told, “As with an automobile or personal computer, ownership of equipment does not include the right to copy, modify or distribute computer code that is embedded in that equipment.”

The right to repair crowd is trying to get the Copyright Office to change the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 to allow vehicle work.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a report on a New York bill guaranteeing the right to repair, except for cages and bikes. “We believe that car owners have just as much a right to pop the hood as computer owners,” the web page says.