On June 22, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a report in which it essentially said they’re tired of having to review exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyrights Act every 3 years and industry by industry. According to The Hill, “This has led to a patchwork set of exemptions where modifications and repairs of some types of technology are allowed, but others aren’t.” The office wants Congress to pass legislations that will permanently give consumers the “right to repair.” If that’s the case, we could be talking about — or maybe just waiting on — the issue for quite some time if the speed at which Congress does anything is any indication.

If you have a whole lot of time on your hands, you can read the full 195-page report here.

From 2000-2012, the Copyright Office never saw more than 750 comments, according to The Hill, but in 2015 received 40,000 public comments on the subject. That’s not much of a surprise when you consider right-to-repair bills have been introduced in 11 state legislatures (Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina and Nebraska) this year. “In the report, the office argued the way companies have used section 1201 is a perversion of the purpose of the provision,” reports The Hill.

The Copyright Office argues, “Section 1201 was not intended to facilitate manufacturers’ use of [software locks] to facilitate product tying or to achieve a lock-in effect under which consumers are effectively limited to repair services offered by the manufacturer.” The argument from manufacturers and dealers of course is, as Natalie Higgins, vice president of government affairs and general counsel for the Equipment Dealers Assn., told us a year ago “improper repairs or modifications can void equipment warranties and/or violate applicable safety or environmental laws. These are serious concerns for our industry.”

EDA’s official position on Right to Repair legislations is:

  • EDA Supports legislation which protects consumers.
  • EDA opposes legislation which allows the widespread release of proprietary equipment repair information to unqualified persons or entities which are not subject to uniform standards including training, safety, engineering and environmental.
  • Such legislation could facilitate conduct which would put equipment operators and third parties at risk and put dealerships who invest in training, safety and liability coverage at an unfair disadvantage.

An article on MapLight.org, a group that explores the influence of money in politics, suggests that right-to-repair advocates may try to bypass legislatures in favor of direct voter initiatives. As a reference, a 2012 Massachusetts ballot measure to give diagnostic and repair information to car owners and repair shops passed with 86% of the vote. I don’t think it would be a huge surprise if a similar measure passed in more states in the future, should it come to that.

We’ve got a poll on Farm-Equipment.com right now on the topic. I encourage you to check it out and vote. But, I also want to hear from you and get your personal take on the issue. Have you had any first hand experience with a customer who tinkered with or modified their equipment? Has it impacted whether or not you’ll take a trade? Leave a comment below, email me at kschmidt@lessitermedia.com or give me a call at 262-777-2431.