Toshiba: You Can't Have Repair Manuals Because They're Copyrighted And You're Too Dumb To Fix A Computer
from the buy-elsewhere dept
Many years ago, one of the absolute worst customer experiences I ever had concerned a Toshiba laptop that never worked properly — which was followed by ridiculous and rude service. Eventually, using the famous Consumerist Executive Email Carpet Bomb process, I was able to get things sorted out (and, despite them asking me to sign an NDA, when I sent it back crossed out the exec called me and said it was fine and that I was allowed to talk about the situation). Since then, however, I’ve stayed away from Toshiba laptops entirely. But having had that experience, somehow it doesn’t surprise me that, among the major laptop makers, Toshiba would be the one using copyright law to try to hide its service repair manuals (story found via Slashdot).
The situation involves an Australian site called Tim’s Laptop Service Manuals, which provides exactly what it says it does. Well, until Toshiba’s clueless lawyers got involved. Toshiba gave Tim a list of excuses for why he needed to take their service manuals down — most of which made little sense. At the end of the list was basically “we hold the copyright and thus you need to take them down.” Legally, they’re probably right. But, this is just one of those cases where it’s stupid to apply copyright law. It’s not as though Toshiba needed copyright as the incentive to produce these manuals. No, the only reason to assert copyright here is to try to limit repairs to authorized dealers, which limits the usefulness of their products to the public. In a sane world, this would be a case of copyright misuse. But, when it comes to copyright, we don’t live in a sane world.
The other excuses Toshiba gave are pretty silly and seem to revolve around the idea that ordinary Toshiba customers are complete morons who should never try to repair their own computer because it might blow up in their face or something. Tim’s response is a good one, noting that none of the other major laptop makers seem to have this problem. So, either Toshiba makes crazy-dangerous laptops… or, they’re just trying to protect dealer/repair shop revenue. It’s likely the latter.
My place of employment puts a massive emphasis on health and safety in the workplace, a policy I am 100% in support of. Safety is an incredibly important issue, and I applaud Toshiba for taking it into consideration, but I think they are a little misguided. I have personally never been injured or visibly endangered by working on any kind of computer system, much less a consumer notebook computer. I have also never heard of anybody else being injured by working on one. While I do understand the drive behind any concern for safety, the reality is that there appears to be no risk to the well-being of myself or any of my readers by providing repair manuals free to download, and so I do not understand Toshiba’s cause for concern here.
It is worth noting that Dell, HP and Lenovo provide service manuals for all of their laptop computers for download, free of charge or registration or membership of any kind, on their various support websites, which would indicate that none of these companies share Toshiba’s concern in this regard. I would not seriously take this to mean that Toshiba laptops are inherently more dangerous to service than laptops of other brands, thus causing them to discourage unqualified persons from doing so, but drawing on my own knowledge and experience I cannot see what risk they are attempting to mitigate here.
In the end, it seems like this is the kind of thing some lawyer thought was a good idea… “because copyright.” You get this with copyright maximalists sometimes, where they think that because a copyright exists, you must exclude people — even if it makes little economic sense. While I’m already not interested in buying a Toshiba computer, it would seem that this little stunt should scare many others away from purchasing their laptops.