US Copyright Office adds support right to repair

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With the right to repair movements backed by the Biden government, the US Copyright Office extends legal protection to repair technical goods

The U.S. Copyright Office has dug into the Right to Repair movement, which has been gaining traction lately and is now supported by the U.S. President.

The Verge reported that the US Copyright Office is expanding legal protection for repairs to digital devices, including automobiles and medical devices.

It comes after the office tabled new exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits breaking software copyright protection.

Right to repair

The resulting rules now include a revised section on device repair.

According to Verge, the Copyright Register recommends exemptions under Section 1201 “Anti-circumvention” every three years.

In addition to renewing these and several other exemptions, this latest rulebook incorporates repair-related suggestions from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, iFixit, and other organizations.

The Librarian of Congress passed the recommendations in a final rule that will go into effect this week.

The exceptions essentially replace a detailed list of repairable devices with comprehensive protection for all consumer devices that rely on software to function, as well as land and marine vehicles and medical devices that are not consumer-centric.

The Verge says the rulemaking does not rewrite the exception to cover all non-consumer devices, and it does not cover all “modifications” just “diagnostics, maintenance and repair.”

Especially for video game consoles, for example, the repair only includes the repair of the optical drives of the device and requires the reactivation of any technical protective measures that may have been bypassed.

“The petitioners have done a good job of pointing out similarities between different types of devices,” the acting General Counsel Kevin Amer was quoted as saying during a telephone conversation with reporters. “We are also aware of some of the efforts the executive has made in this area,” including an executive order from the Biden administration to support third party and consumer repairs. “We think this exception will be useful and will help make this type of activity easier.”

US President Joe Biden is expected to soon sign an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop rules for repairing agricultural equipment.

It would give farmers “the right to repair their own equipment at will,” the President’s press secretary Jen Psaki was quoted earlier as saying.

And there is an expectation that the rules could go further and include consumer electronics like phones or game consoles.

Global Movement?

And there is evidence that the right to repair movement is gaining traction in countries other than the United States.

In July, the UK government introduced a new law requiring manufacturers to provide spare parts to consumers so equipment can be repaired.

The so-called “right to repair” means that devices such as refrigerators, washing machines and electronic devices should last longer (up to 10 years) and, according to the new regulations, should be cheaper to operate.

It can be said that repairing existing technology and housewares has been an issue for many decades that the opposition of some manufacturers has not helped.

But the pressure has brought about some changes. In August 2019, for example, Apple confirmed that it wanted to supply original parts to independent workshops for the first time.

However, that does not mean that his official position on the matter has changed significantly.

The European Parliament has also voted to introduce stricter “right to repair” laws that ensure goods can be repaired for up to 10 years to reduce e-waste.

Lengthy battle

It comes after years of consumer complaints that goods these days have a limited lifespan and are often more expensive to repair than simply buying a new device.

Some goods are very difficult to repair at best or cannot be repaired at home at all.

And to show that this isn’t a new problem, repair company Comtek launched a petition in 2010 claiming that manufacturers are killing the repair business to get new sales.

This petition 11 years ago called on the government to abolish VAT on IT repairs to encourage users to get the most out of their IT and reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

And the consequences of an increasing amount of old equipment can be severe.

For years, developing countries have been nothing more than dumps for the toxic electronic waste of the western world, putting local children at serious risk of brain and kidney damage, respiratory diseases, developmental and behavioral disorders and even cancer.

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