Massachusetts May Be The First To Get A Right To Repair Law

from the about-time dept

For quite some time now there have been reports about how carmakers have been forcing car owners to take cars to the dealers for (expensive) repairs, by using special software to diagnose problems in the computer system, and only giving the necessary software to dealers. This is actually one of many nasty consequences of the DMCA's anti-circumvention rules (pay attention Canada), whereby it should be perfectly legal for anyone you ask to work on your car -- but thanks to digital locks placed on your car's computer by automakers, other mechanics would be breaking the law just to figure out how to get around the locks. Every year for the past decade, there are attempts to pass a national "right to repair" act at the federal level to take care of this, but it never goes anywhere.

However, it looks like at least some states are trying to take matters into their own hands. jjmsan points us to the news that Massachusetts is apparently close to creating just such a statewide law, and many are hoping it will drive other states to follow suit. The automakers, of course, are fighting it, but their logic doesn't make much sense:
A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an association of 11 vehicle manufacturers including Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., said aftermarket parts companies are seeking information that would enable them to make inexpensive parts in foreign countries without incurring research and development costs.

"This is a thinly veiled attempt by parts manufacturers to lower the cost of remanufacturing original equipment of manufacturer parts," alliance spokesman Charles Territo said. "Once this information is released, that intellectual property will be in China by the end of the month."
So? If you can't compete with other aftermarket companies, that's your problem. You shouldn't be able to unfairly lock them out of the market and jack up prices just through some software code.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Richard, Jul 20th, 2010 @ 11:06pm

    Power Spiral

    "that intellectual property will be in China by the end of the month."

    BWAHAHAHA, as if China would have any laws preventing the acquisition of that data in the first place. Remember, they don't have IP lawyers lording over every single industry.

    What a mess the Clinton administration made of the whole global initiative to replace property with ideas. It's a shameful mistake that should have been reversed years ago. The problem is, when you give powerful entities more power, they don't give it back without a fight. So now we have little recourse.

     

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      identicon
      JEDIDIAH, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 9:16am

      The China "problem".

      All China needs is to reverse engineer the device.

      For this they just need to buy a copy of the relevant product and let their geeks run wild with it. DRM isn't going to stop a planet full of hackers, hostile governments or foreign corporations operating in an environment that most resembles early American manufacturing.

      DRM generally only hurts the paying customer.

      No one else abides by it anyways. This is especially true for scofflaws and serious criminals.

       

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    Aerilus (profile), Jul 20th, 2010 @ 11:19pm

    lol

    umm fords and other "american" cars are not as made in america as they would have you believe

    "Ford has major manufacturing operations in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, the People's Republic of China, and several other countries, including South Africa where, following divestment during apartheid, it once again has a wholly owned subsidiary. Ford also has a cooperative agreement with Russian automaker GAZ."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Motor_Company

    i'm sure a little more research will find that the other "American" car companies are not made in America either

    meanwhile nissan has major manufaturing facilities in the U.S.

    "Nissan North America - U.S. Manufacturing
    Nissan has three production plants in the United States - in Smyrna and Decherd, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi. Production at Nissan's Smyrna Plant began in June 1983. The vehicle assembly plant has an annual production capacity of 550,000 vehicles and represents a capital investment of $2.5 billion. The plant produces the Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Xterra, Nissan Frontier and Nissan Pathfinder.

    The vehicle assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, began producing vehicles in May 2003. The $1.4 billion plant now produces the Nissan Altima, Nissan Quest, Nissan Armada, Nissan Titan and Infiniti QX56. The plant has an annual production capacity of 400,000 vehicles.

    Nissan's powertrain assembly plant in Decherd, Tennessee, began production in May 1997. Today the plant manufactures all the engines for the complete lineup of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles produced in the U.S. The plant also forges crankshafts, and cylinder block casting operations will begin in the spring of 2008."

    http://www.nissanusa.com/about/corporate-info/nissan-in-north-america.html

    I get tired of hearing "american" car manufacturers complain about american made when what they mean to say is american owned which means the profits go into trust funds and the workers wages go to other countries. of course with the global economy its not that simple but something to think about

     

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  •  
    identicon
    bob, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:10am

    DMCA

    The DMCA is somewhat supported by the US Constitution where copyright is addressed.
    That covers the DMCA under the Tenth Amendment.
    So any states nullifying the DMCA will most likely be shot down by the courts.
    It's a sad thing to say. but I think I will be proven correct, much to my dismay.

     

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      abc gum, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:56am

      Re: DMCA

      "The DMCA is somewhat supported by the US Constitution where copyright is addressed."

      Care to elaborate?

       

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      abc gum, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:57am

      Re: DMCA

      "The DMCA is somewhat supported by the US Constitution where copyright is addressed"

      Care to elaborate?

       

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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:01am

      Re: DMCA

      No, it's not. What have you been smoking?

       

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      identicon
      Danny, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 9:38am

      Re: DMCA

      We'll see how that works out for you when buy a car then have to move to place that is a very long drive away from the nearest dealer (and past several other shops only because they aren't "official") everytime something goes wrong.

      I myself live at least an hour from any dealerships. I'm supposed to take that long of a drive to a dealer to get a repair done that could have been done by the shop down the street because of some little piss ant piece of software that is there only to stop unofficial shops from working on it? And mess around and its something that needs to get checked but the car is undrivable....

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:38pm

      Re: DMCA

      The legal doctrine you are searching for goes by the name "federal preemption". Of course, if any state enacts provisions in its law unequivocally in conflict with federal copyright law, the federal law will prevail under the noted doctrine.

      Having noted this, it is also appropriate to note that the factual situation presented in this matter is at the margins of why the DMCA was enacted in the first instance. It is one thing to use the DMCA to protect a digital product that stands by itself in the marketplace. It is, however, not clear the extent to which the DMCA can be relied upon when the net effect of its usage extends far beyond merely the digital product.

       

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      identicon
      Sam, Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 5:27am

      Re: DMCA

      It wouldn't necessarily nullify or contradict the DCMA if it was worded properly to state that software locks cannot be used in a certain manner on vehicles sold in that state.

       

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    Sneeje (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:22am

    Parts is parts

    This would be great, but if the shop that you want to use can't get the parts, well...

    For example, I tried to get my 2003 Mini Cooper transmission repaired at two different non-dealer shops that service BMWs and neither could get the parts.

     

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    identicon
    Michial Thompson, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:45am

    What gives non oem dealers any right

    Too fucking bad little mikee, the auto manufacturer spends billions developing their products why should they have to compete with someone else who decided to take their product design and build it cheaper???

    You seem to overlook the time that goes into the design and development of products just because mommy kicked you off the nipple at 9 years old and said no more free lunch.

     

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      identicon
      abc gum, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:01am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      "Too fucking bad little mikee"

      - Michial Thompson, keepin it classy as usual.

      "the auto manufacturer spends billions developing their products why should they have to compete with someone else who decided to take their product design and build it cheaper"

      - This argument makes no sense ... a company should be given special treatment because they spent lots of money.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:21am

        Re: Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

        Are you saying people don't have a right to repair their own property anymore?

        I hope you buy a house and that it comes with electronic locks, electronic monitoring and I want to see you getting stuck outside and having no way to unlock your house because it will go against the DMCA. Remember if you try to disable the lock you are breaking the law.

         

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          identicon
          abc gum, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 6:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

          "Are you saying people don't have a right to repair their own property anymore?"

          - Absolutely not. Possibly you should re-read the post.

          "I hope you buy a house and that it comes with electronic locks, electronic monitoring and I want to see you getting stuck outside and having no way to unlock your house because it will go against the DMCA. Remember if you try to disable the lock you are breaking the law."

          - I hope your reading comprehension gets better.

           

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    •  
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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:03am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      So you go to a dealership for all of your repairs and maintenance, right? Since you're so grateful that the auto manufacturer spent alot of money developing your vehicle?

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:12am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      Too fucking bad that, that information was supposed to be free for all already you dumbass.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-Board_Diagnostics

       

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    •  
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      Brian (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:36am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      And? If all your competition does is copy what you already have instead of innovating to try and be better than you then the most they can ever do is struggle to try to match you while the company who makes the products will already be working on innovating the next big thing.

       

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      ChrisB (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 7:24am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      > why should they have to compete with someone else who
      > decided to take their product design and build it cheaper?

      Reverse engineering is legal you f**kin moron.

       

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        Cynyr (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 9:11am

        Re: Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

        but not if you have to circumvent a copy protection measure. according to the DMCA, and that the whole point.

         

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      Free Capitalist (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 7:52am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      Michial,

      Do you honestly think locking out every mechanic on the face of the earth except those that work for the dealer is a good idea?

      It's not just that the car companies are locking out aftermarket parts, they are locking down the repair process using patented tools. More and more basic service (for instance an oil change on a new Mercedes) on new cars must be performed at the dealer, which pretty well means you are locked in to working with one shop, regardless of reputation, in your area.

      I'm not saying every dealer is shady, but one would think, considering the value of the car you purchased, and the value of repairs performed, that we would want to keep the market honest and competitive.

       

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      The Infamous Joe (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 9:36am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      Too fucking bad little mikee

      Is this how you've raised your daughter and son to behave, as well?

      As a side note, you put an alarming amount of personal information online, especially since you seem to act like quite a jackass on this blog. Normally it is the other way around. Very curious.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Skippy, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:54am

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      What gives "US" manufacturers the right to charge whatever they want for a piece that costs them

       

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 26th, 2010 @ 5:21pm

      Re: What gives non oem dealers any right

      "You seem to overlook the time that goes into the design and development of products"

      Perhaps the carmaker could incorporate that into the price of the car. And then, after someone buys the car, it would be THEIR car, and they could repair it as they see fit.

      Or do you seem to overlook the money that the customer spent to buy the car and make it their property.

       

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    Vincent Clement (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:59am

    @Michial Thompson: The cost of that R & D is covered in the price of the car. What next? People will not be able to fix their own car because of DMCA?

     

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    Vincent Clement (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 4:59am

    @Michial Thompson: The cost of that R & D is covered in the price of the car. What next? People will not be able to fix their own car because of DMCA?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:20am

    But the right to repair wasn't in the Constitution! BRING BACK TEH SLAVES!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:48am

    IP where?

    OBD(On-Board Diagnostics) is mandated to be available already no? I saw legislation somewhere.

    Why do they do standards if they are not willing to follow them?

     

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    identicon
    sysadmn, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 5:57am

    Same old Same old

    These are the same companies that have used trademark, copyright, and patent law to block OEM body panel manufacturers. The DMCA is just another arrow in their quiver.

    Interestingly, some of the participants in challenges to those barriers have been insurance companies or insurance industry trade groups. They pay many, many of the bills for body work and the lack of competition costs them dearly.

    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/03/design-patents-and-repair-parts.html

     

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    identicon
    Jesse, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 6:47am

    I don't understand what they are copyrighting? They can't copyright a car..right? And do you have to copy the software just to interact with it? I mean, if you made a similar program with different code that could read the car software...what would you be violating? I didn't think anti-circumvention applied outside of copyright infringement...where is the infringement here?

     

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    Rosedale (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Linked to Immigration?

    It was reported in the Metro in Boston that apparently one group coming out against this bill tied the issue to immigration. Basically saying that by passing this bill they would be giving illegal immigrants access to jobs. It was so absurd I sort of ignored it, but now that I'm thinking about it that would fit. Anything to keep your IP protected.

    I hope this gets passed.

     

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    Beta (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 10:56am

    dumb question

    How can a state law make it legal to violate a federal law? I was under the (perhaps naive) impression that laws forbid things, and that a given act either violates a given law or doesn't (grey areas and bad language notwithstanding), and that a law applies until it is amended or repealed.

     

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      Cipher-0, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 12:12pm

      Re: dumb question

      How can a state law make it legal to violate a federal law?
      Happens all the time in an attempt to get the case through the court system to determine which law is constitutional. Hell, take a look at homosexual marriage and Massachusetts.

       

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        Beta (profile), Jul 21st, 2010 @ 3:17pm

        Re: Re: dumb question

        I'm still confused. Let's leave marriage out of this, since it's an abstract entity and it raises a lot of other questions (e.g. the difference between forbidding and not recognizing: "How can you say that we've broken the law without admitting that we are married?").

        If the point is to challenge the first law's constitutionality by bringing the case through the court system, then somebody must violate the first law and go to trial. What does the second law have to do with it?

        If there's a law against eating fruit, and I want to make it legal to eat oranges, what's the point of passing a second law that forbids eating bananas (but does not, itself, ban oranges)?

         

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      Rose M. Welch (profile), Jul 22nd, 2010 @ 1:00pm

      Re: dumb question

      Well, there is some grey area as to what the federal government can make laws about. So, in that grey area, they can both make laws and wait until some sucker violates one, and then take that to court. Or one of those entities can decide not to prosecute those kinds of cases.

      As an example, see the feds vs. the states battle over marijuana.

       

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 26th, 2010 @ 5:26pm

      Re: dumb question

      "I was under the (perhaps naive) impression that laws forbid things"

      Laws are hardly limited to this. Think of seat belt laws, the draft, laws that say you have to pay taxes.

       

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    identicon
    Tony, Aug 4th, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    1Sounds like a monopoly to me. Good luck Massachusetts

     

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