Right to repair gaining traction at state level

Right to repair gaining traction at state level

Posted by Ben Baker on Oct 16th 2017

The Economist, a European business mag respected across the world puts it this way, "In its 'License Agreement for John Deere Embedded Software, for instance, the company retains ownership of the software programs. It also refers to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a controversial piece of legislation that makes it illegal for customers to circumvent copy protection. But dodging it can be necessary to develop diagnostic tools for electronic devices."

A while back, we brought you news that the Right to Repair was gaining traction at the national level. This is quite important to anyone who buys modern devices that have software and electronic components.

Here's why.

Pretty much every motorcycle rolling off the assembly lines these days has an ECU, electronic control unit. The ECU has software. Software is covered under the US Copyright Law acts.

This applies to motorcycles too.

Because it is so covered, you cannot modify, change or tinker with the software without the copyright owner's permission. If you do mess with the software and get caught, you can be fined and possibly tossed in the iron bar hotel. Criminal penalties, in general, require that the offender knew that he or she was committing a crime, while civil copyright infringement is a strict liability offense, and offenders can be 'innocent' (of intent to infringe), as well as an 'ordinary' infringer or a 'willful' infringer."

In short, working on parts of your ride without the express written permission from the manufacturer is illegal under current federal law. Here's an article on ECU tuning.


Right to repair started a couple of years ago. The idea is to amend the law to let people work on vehicles and such. When you buy a ride, it is yours completely and the manufacturer surrenders all rights.

Changing the law seemed to have enough momentum in the US for a federal level change. Then, Congress happened. Several bills have stalled out in the capital

As The Economist notes, the idea is still gaining traction. Now state legislatures are taking up the idea., a group dedicated to the right to repair, reports, "This year, twelve states have introduced Fair Repair legislation. These laws would require manufacturers of electronic equipment to sell repair parts and release service information to consumers. So you can fix what you own—and get back to business. Write a letter to your state legislators asking them to support Fair Repair in your state."


You may be wondering why this matters. Price for one thing.

I'm presently getting my 1100 Shadow repaired by my preacher. He's a certified diesel mechanic and has worked on bikes nearly as long as I've been alive. He works out of a shop at his house. I'm not paying dealership rates for the repair work. He is a LOT cheaper.

Breaking the law also matters. If it was a BMW self-balancing ride that needed software updates and work, I could go to shadetree mechanic and get the work done. If the wrench monkey is not certified by BMW, he and I are breaking the law. We're both subject to fines and arrest. (See The Economist article.)

Don't believe this is serious? Here are 5 cases to prove you wrong. This is exactly the same thing as the software in a motorcycle's ECU.


It is past time to change the law. When you buy a motorcycle, it should be yours. DO with it whatever you want to.

Right to repair is irrelevant when working on a '76 Triumph. But anyone who buys that new self-balancing BMW is going to slam headfirst into right to repair when it comes to tinkering with the bike beyond routine maintenance.