Sony, Microsoft Lobby Against Right To Repair Bills (Yet Refuse To Talk About It)

from the this-bad-idea-is-for-your-own-good dept

Last week, we noted how Apple was one of several companies lobbying against a right to repair bill in Nebraska. The bill would make it easier for consumers to repair their own products and find replacement parts and tools, which is generally considered to be a good thing — especially if the only Apple store is eighty miles away from your current location. But Apple tried to argue that Nebraska’s bill would not only make the public less safe (self-immolation everywhere!), but it would also result in Nebraska becoming some kind of “mecca” for nefarious hoodie-wearing ne’er-do-well hackers.

Of course Apple, like most companies, just enjoys a repair-monopoly, which not only allows it to charge an arm and a leg for what very well may be superficial repairs, but helps prop up closed, proprietary ecosystems, hurting customers in a myriad of other ways as well.

It’s not just in Nebraska where this conversation is happening (the Nebraska bill just happens to be the furthest along legislatively). Similar bills are also winding their way through New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois state legislatures. And in most of these states, the companies lobbying against these laws are using the same disingenuous arguments Apple has been embracing. Usually it’s the trifecta of false claims that the bills will make users less safe, pose a cybersecurity risk, and open the door to cybersecurity theft.

Game console makers Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, long at the forefront of opposing the user right to tinker, fired off a letter last week (pdf) under the banner of the Entertainment Software Association that once again trots out all three bogeymen in taking aim at Nebraska’s law:

“We are concerned that legislative Bill 67 would jeopardize consumer safety and security, is unnecessary and compromises intellectual property….Customer safety, security and privacy are fundamental goals in the design of our membership’s hardware, software and services…Our free market economy already provides a wide-range of consumer choice for repair with varying levels of quality, price and convenience without the mandates in this legislation.”

Note they cite a “free market economy” in the hopes you’ll ignore the fact that they’ve effectively monopolized repair to the detriment of price and convenience. Companies like Sony and Microsoft would certainly prefer that you pay them exorbitant fees to repair what’s often their own manufacturing errors that they charge upwards of $200 to fix, but could have been repaired for notably less. Both Sony and Microsoft have also long placed tamper-proof stickers on their game consoles claiming removal of the sticker violates the warranty, even though this technically violates the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

Justification for repair bill opposition is so flimsy, none of the companies opposing right to repair legislation want to really talk about it:

“After referring me to several different press representatives, Microsoft declined to comment. Sony did not respond to a request for comment. Apple has ignored repeated requests for comment. The ESA declined to comment. In two years of covering this issue, no manufacturer has ever spoken to me about it either on or off the record.”

“We won’t make as much money if independent, local repair shops can help customers” isn’t a very compelling argument. But as usual, buying or hoodwinking a campaign-contribution-soaked Congress with a fleeting understanding of technology isn’t particularly hard:

“It’s very easy for the manufacturer to stand up there and say no we’re the only ones who know how to do it,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told me. “Lawmakers get spun stories by lobbyists who say the sky is falling, and it’s very easy to kill legislation.”…”This is not a case of right vs. left or a fringe interest group pushing it,” Wiens added. “Everyone wants to be allowed to fix their stuff, and there’s only a few organizations that don’t want them to be able to. It’s very transparent why manufacturers are against this.”

In Nebraska, the right to repair bill was driven by John Deere’s “authorized” repair requirements, which forced many regional farmers to pay John Deere an arm and a leg for, again, what in many instances may be relatively inexpensive and simple repairs. It’s not only a monopoly over repair — it’s the cornerstone of an adversarial and utterly non-transparent relationship with the consumer. And the fact that the companies taking aim at these legislative proposals aren’t even willing to publicly talk about them speaks volumes in and of itself.

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Companies: esa, microsoft, sony

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Comments on “Sony, Microsoft Lobby Against Right To Repair Bills (Yet Refuse To Talk About It)”

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31 Comments
DannyB (profile) says:

Monopolists

IBM discovered the "lock in" phenomena of software decades ago. Once a customer has their software tied to your product, it isn’t exactly easy to move it to a competing product.

Microsoft discovered that this works for the OS as well as the hardware. Software written to the OS is not easily portable to another OS.

Similarly, Apple.

Enter Intellectual Property. Using IP laws, by merely putting a computer, and some technical obscurity, into a product, like farm equipment, or how a printer works with ink cartridges, you can suddenly create monopoly lock in of your customers where no natural lock in previously existed. Previously, anyone could just make knock off ink cartridges. Or anyone could build compatible parts for farm equipment.

Every part that you can add technology to becomes a part that cannot be produced by a third party. The original manufacturer becomes the exclusive supplier.

Prediction: even trivial parts like head light bulbs, or side panels, will soon have high tech parts to ensure that only the original manufacturer can supply replacements.

Now, is it so difficult to understand why companies look for every possible excuse to fight right-to-repair laws? If there were a right to repair, you might be able to circumvent technical restrictions. You might be able to obtain parts from alternate suppliers, just as has been (and still is) true for many auto parts today.

What is in common with all those who are against right to repair: They either are now, or want to be monopolists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Monopolists

If my car was capable of identifying an OEM vs after market part, even for trivial things like light bulbs or side panels I think that would be a great consumer protection feature.

The car should still allow the use of non-OEM parts tho.

If I take my car to a mechanic and he says he will use OEM parts for a higher fee it sure would be nice to have my car verify that he did indeed use OEM parts.

If I wanted the cheaper non-OEM parts to save money that should be allowed and I’d be OK with my car informing me “non-OEM oil filter installed!”

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Monopolists

The replacement oil filter is relatively low risk.

Fully self-driving cars are on the horizon. It’s generally accepted that an accident caused by a fully self-driving car is the responsibility of the manufacturer, not the owner/passenger.

But suppose the owner replaced a sensor with a non-OEM part. Even OEM-authorized repair shops use non-OEM parts, and that will soon include sensors. When an OEM manufacturer investigates an accident – the investigation starting with the car generating a quick inventory of part numbers – and a non-OEM sensor is found – you can bet the OEM will refuse responsibility.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Monopolists

If my car was capable of identifying an OEM vs after market part, even for trivial things like light bulbs or side panels I think that would be a great consumer protection feature.

I’ll bite.

How is it a "great consumer protection feature" to check whether light bulbs and side panels are OEM? Especially since you admit that these things are "trivial"?

The car should still allow the use of non-OEM parts tho.

Damn right it should.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Monopolists

Prediction: even trivial parts like head light bulbs, or side panels, will soon have high tech parts to ensure that only the original manufacturer can supply replacements.

Or, as is happening, make access to such parts difficult unless the car is on a car lift, and special tools required to remove and replace obstructing parts. Some headlight bulb changes are now a garage job because of this.

ECA (profile) says:

What happened?

Consumer laws long ago FIXED this..
Even back in the Atari vs Activison days..we had RIGHTS..
The RIGHT to fix/augment a product AFTER sale..
Personal OWNERSHIP..gives us the RIGHT to ADJUST/FIX a product.
Im waiting for the removal of the NO-RETRO ACTIVE laws..
WHICH is funny, as the movie and music industry has been doing this for YEARS..

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: What happened?

Just wait. Soon we won’t even be allowed to own the physical things we buy. The cancer of intellectual property, licensing, patents, trademark, forbidden reverse engineering; these will all come to invade all physical products.

You cannot take apart nor repair your dresser, because its colors are copyrighted, and its design is a trademark. (I’m deliberately using a non tech item as an example. An everyday thing.) If the knob on your dresser drawer broke, then please buy another dresser. Or for a substantial fee, we can send a repair technician and drawer consultant who will be able to identify what repairs are necessary, and supply any necessary parts.

It’s all for the consumer’s protection. Imagine the danger to someone untrained and unauthorized who might attempt to replace a broken knob on a dresser drawer.

Anonymous Coward says:

what's often their own manufacturing errors

Error?

That’s putting it mildly. Both of these companies have a long history of intentionally subverting compatibility and interoperability in their products.

And even that is putting it mildly. There are dozens of moves made by these two companies over the years that should have resulted in serious jail time.

Lets try again: Nebraska is hearing a soliloquy by the frathouse rape train of the consumer technology market.

Yep. I’d say that probably captures the spirit of the event adequately.

Anonymous Coward says:

Years ago your electronic devices would actually have a wiring diagram inside them. So if you had any skill you could fix it, or take it someplace and they can see it and fix it. That’s no longer the case. People want ever smaller things and so things getting smaller and more complected.

Still I’ve been fixing iPod’s, iPhones for a number of years. replacing screens and buttons, etc. So I’m not sure what the point of this law is? I just did a TouchID home button that wasn’t working on a iPhone 5S. Swapped a new one and it worked as a Home button without TouchID. I knew that before hand. It’s part of the Security and 3rd party people, business shouldn’t have access to that type of thing as it would make the security worthless.

So what’s the problem again? I replaced a battery in a old Garmin GPS device a few months back. Amazon had a listing for it, even though it’s not really something most people would replace. Parts are already out there for all kinds of devices.

You think getting parts and stuff on Phones are hard. Try Industrial Machinery. Where they might make a few hundred products a year at most. Where you get the Wiring Diagrams but you have PLC’s (Computers) which get outdated pretty fast. It’s no easy upgrade. You don’t have the program for it. Any parts you need are quite costly because it is such low numbers. Need a part, may have to get custom made. I deal with this daily. A car, a Smartphone, they sell Millions of them in a year. You can get 3rd party parts for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hypocrites

You have to understand that those companies have to milk their customers as much as possible. They can’t allow small independent repair shops to take a single cent away. So they keep circuit diagrams, service manuals and spare parts hidden inside their empire. The high service fees are meant to motivate customers to throw away the old gadget and to buy a new one. At the same time those companies tell the public that they are ‘green’ and protecting the environment. By enforcing more e-junk?

The funny thing is that the whole mess is an opportunity for other companies. How many times have you dropped the key fob of you car? The car dealer or garage will sell you a omplete new key fob including the electronics and the service to pair the new fob. It’s expensive. Some Chinese companies produce the plastic cases and sell them for a few bucks.

Chuck says:

Nebraska a Hacker Mecca?

Ok, there’s plenty to say about the actual thrust of the story. I will just point out that, all things being relative, it’s always funny to me to see the “pure capitalists” in the Republican/Tea Party being so pro-patent. Adam Smith would spin in his grave if he knew the government was issuing monopoly permits, aka patents. “Free Market” isn’t free without competition, and patents are, by design, anti-competitive.

But way way more importantly…Nebraska the Hacker Mecca of the world? Seriously? I just can’t even.

And the funny thing is if they had just stuck with the “it might make your tractor explode” line, this totally would’ve worked. But Hacker Mecca? In Nebraska? I think someone in Apple PR is actually TRYING to lose this fight.

DannyB (profile) says:

A Letter from 2020

Have you read: A Letter from 2020? I saw this a long time ago. I’m sure it was over a decade ago. Probably closer to 2000 when the DMCA and other atrocities were being considered.

https://news.slashdot.org/story/00/09/18/1531224/a-letter-from-2020

It’s no longer on the web. But here it is on the Wayback.

https://web.archive.org/web/20111212211557/http://www.wolffit.net/~mark/2020Letter.html

I’m quoting it here for posterity.

The original web publication of this letter can be found osOpinion.com

Dear Me,

I’m not sure if reading this letter is illegal. I thought it only fair to warn you; it might be better to just destroy it.

The actual writing has been a bit of a chore. Word.NET isn’t what it used to be. Even Microsoft.NET couldn’t afford to patent everything, so whilst I can do Find, there’s no Replace anymore. One good thing about having only one legal operating system is that it’s very stable. I’m glad they never update Windows.NET; anyone can live with three or four crashes a day and the hourly rent is less than I pay for my apartment.

I try to remember what it was like when I was a kid but it’s really difficult; the world has changed so much since then. I found a paper book the other day that described the rise and fall of something called the “Internet”. It started out with people putting up links on computers so that they could follow the link and read things on other computers for free. After it got to be popular, companies started to create machines with lots of links that you could search to find things of interest. But someone put up a link to something illegal and got sued and had their machine shut down. This happened a few times and people started to take the links off their machines. The search engine companies were the first to go and without them, you couldn’t find anything. Eventually no one put up links anymore because the legal risk was too great. The important thing is that it reduced terrorism. I’m not sure how it could have worked anyway. Anything I write on my computer or any music I create gets stored by Word.NET and Music.NET in encrypted formats to protect my privacy. No one but me, Microsoft.NET and the National Corporation can read or hear my stuff even if they could link to it.

I shouldn’t admit it, but sometimes I go to certain places and speak to the subversives. I know its wrong but their warped views on things have some kind of morbid fascination. For example, I spoke to someone who claimed to be a historian the other day. She had courage all right, admitting to an illegal activity like that. I hadn’t understood why it was illegal until she explained. History, she told me, gives you context. You can compare today with some time in the past; ask questions like, “are people better off”, “look at the different forms of doing business”, “compare corporate records or the rights of citizens” (I think she meant employees).

But what interested her was that future generations will know nothing about us; all our records and art are stored digitally, most of it will simply disappear when no one rents it anymore — remember the sadness when the last digital copy of Sgt. Pepper was accidentally erased? And the data that does survive will all be encrypted and in proprietary formats anyway — even if there were historians they’d have no right to reverse engineer the formats. I can vaguely remember that people used to have physical copies of music and films, although I’m not sure how that was possible, or what the point was when we can rent whatever we like from the air interface. I don’t think it matters that those who come after us can’t read our writings or hear our music or see our films; these things are temporal anyway, if no one rents them then they can’t be worth keeping.

The saddest subversive I met claimed to be a programmer. He said that he was writing a program using Basic.NET. He must have been insane. Even if his program worked he wouldn’t be allowed to run it. How could one person possibly check every possible patent infringement in a program they wrote? And even if he hadn’t infringed he couldn’t sell it without buying a compatibility license from Microsoft.NET and who could possibly afford that? He had said something about gippling the software, which apparently means giving it away, but mad as he was, even he knew that under WUCITA that would be illegal.

These subversives really don’t seem to understand that a few restrictions are necessary for the sake of innovation. And progress has been made. We don’t have spam since most people can’t afford an email license due to the expensive patent royalties. Our computer systems all have the same operating system, user interface and applications so everyone knows how to use them, and although they crash and don’t work very well, we all know the limitations and can live with them. We have no piracy of intellectual property since we rent it as we want it and have no means of storing it.

It was the USA that showed the world the way of course. First the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, then more and more software patents. The Japanese followed suit. The Europeans were a problem, which is only to be expected, with their anti-business un-Christian socialist tendencies. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, helped along by the good old dollar I’ve no doubt and they accepted both software patents and a redefinition of copyright to suit global corporations. Once the USA, Japan and Europe had uniform intellectual property laws to protect our corporations and our way of life, everyone else had to play ball or they couldn’t trade. The result has been that every algorithm and computer program and every piece of music and film (after all music and film can be put into digital form and are therefore a form of software) have been patented. No more variations on Beethoven (unless you’ve got the patentees approval). No more amateur participation in music or film which might risk lowering standards. No more challenge to established business and business practices.

I’m crazy to have written I know. But I am so happy in the world and I remember how unhappy I used to be. I wanted to somehow pass back to you the knowledge that its all going to be okay, that the world really is getting better.

Sincerely,

Mark.

Considering the age of this letter, how much of it is coming true?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140917/06061528548/only-surviving-recording-very-first-superbowl-is-because-fan-recorded-it-you-cant-see-it-because-copyright.shtml#c545

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110923/12361216076/is-creating-same-software-feature-copyright-infringement.shtml#c209

Anonymous Coward says:

Fold this in with other stories wrt IoT (the original owner of the car’s apps still control said car’s functionality long after their selling it), and ya gotta wonder why anyone ever trusts their money at all these days. What’s it good for? Screwing you, and that’s pretty much all it can do these days, or all it’s allowed to do.

Yet again, I feel like a slave in Imperial Rome. Meet the new boss, …

That’s including cash, btw, which is thought to be safer & more secure than the alternatives extant today. Ha. BS.

I really despise this century.

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