Do Cars Get An Anti-Circumvention Exemption?
from the old-dog-new-tricks dept
Media formats aren’t the only area where circumvention is a hot issue. Increasingly, auto mechanics are complaining that codes required to use digital diagnostic systems are preventing them from being able to do their jobs. Specifically, they allege that manufacturers intentionally make it difficult to access a car’s computer systems, for the purposes of putting independent mechanics at a disadvantage to more expensive dealer mechanics. In order for the independent mechanics to use the system, they must either shell out for expensive equipment, or subscribe to services that help them decipher what the computers are saying. It seems like there are really two issues here. First, it’s not totally clear that the manufacturers are intentionally adding unnecessary cost. They might be right in saying that mechanics should shell out for the equipment, because it’s a necessary tool at any shop these days. Second, if the manufacturers are trying to throw up hurdles for independent mechanics, then what does the law say about circumvention? If manufacturers were to use, say, the DMCA to prevent mechanics from solving the problem cheaply, then this should be addressed, because it’s clearly a case of the law buttressing an anti-competitive tactic. But if there’s nothing preventing mechanics from finding workarounds, then it shouldn’t be too long for the market to come up with one. If no workaround can be found, then it supports the initial idea, that perhaps the expense of getting access to the computers is a legitimate cost of fixing cars these days.