Massachusetts Voters Overwhelmingly Support Expanded 'Right To Repair' Law

from the baby-steps-toward-basic-rights dept

Back in 2015, frustration at John Deere’s draconian tractor DRM culminated in a grassroots tech movement dubbed “right to repair.” The company’s crackdown on “unauthorized repairs” turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM (and the company’s EULA) prohibited the lion’s share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for “authorized” repair, or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.

Of course the problem isn’t just restricted to John Deere. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and countless other tech giants eager to monopolize repair have made a habit of suing and bullying independent repair shops and demonizing consumers who simply want to reduce waste and repair devices they own. This, in turn, has resulted in a growing push for right to repair legislation in countless states.

The movement scored another big win this week on the news that 74.8% of Massachusetts voters (so far) just approved an expansion to an existing Massachusetts law, resulting in one of the most comprehensive right to repair laws in the nation. The original law was the first in the nation to be passed in 2013. The update dramatically improves the law, requiring that as of 2022, all new telematics-equipped vehicles be accessible via a standardized, transparent platform that allows owners and third-party repair shops to access vehicle data via a mobile device.

More simply, that means users can take their vehicle to any repair shop and have easy, transparent access to vehicle data, without running into obnoxious restrictions or having to visit a more expensive dealership mechanic using proprietary tools. The auto industry, as you might expect, tried really hard to scuttle the law, at one point falsely arguing it would “aid sexual predators” (seriously). Apple, Microsoft and others eager to boost revenues via repair monopolies have also, routinely, tried to falsely portray basic repair rights as somehow nefarious and dangerous.

Needless to say, right to repair advocates like iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens were very happy with the law’s passage:

“Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO, is thrilled. ?Modern cars can send maintenance information directly to the manufacturers, cutting out local mechanics. Question 1 makes sure that consumers can continue to fix their own vehicles, or get them fixed at the shop of their choice.?

That means that independent repair shops will have a level playing field with car makers and dealerships, which have turned increasingly to locked-down wirelessly collected repair data, or telematics. Car owners, too, will be able to see their cars? maintenance information through a smartphone app. And it opens the door for innovations, like wireless diagnostic apps for iOS and Android.

The more companies attempt to lock down their systems, bully independent repair shops, and otherwise erode consumer choice (all to detrimental environmental impact) the greater this movement grows. And companies and industries out there trying to frame basic consumer tech rights as somehow dangerous and nefarious clearly haven’t quite gotten the message yet.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Massachusetts Voters Overwhelmingly Support Expanded 'Right To Repair' Law”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
28 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
fairuse (profile) says:

Right on. Except

Cool. A win. What about allow seeing the data but not have the tools to repair?

Wife’s 2020 Subaru is a nightmare of nanny warnings and sensors. The user level manual is 2" thick. So, what is the data on what needs fixed is tied to locked down tech notes that only dealer has. Plus the software to calibrate is locked in trade secrets or other means? I this car as tied to the dealer forever because too much tech is in it. It has crazy update schedule that must be applied – or else I think.

This win is by voters is only a drop in the bucket.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

The Maskless Bandit says:

Re: Right on. Except

Wife’s 2020 Subaru is a nightmare of nanny warnings and sensors.

Well, YOU bought it regardless. Do you have NO volition other than to complain after you took complex steps to get it?

Smart people look for ten year old Mercury or Buick that are near all immaculate condition, a nice ride with relative zoom from 3 liter or so engines, plenty of useless gadgets though rarely need service, and are under 3000 bucks around here.

I’ve read there’s apparently a niche of people in the know who avoid newer cars that just stop with sudden onset of expensive problems.

Buyer beware. (That means "caveat emptor" in Latin.)

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Right on. Except

"Smart people look for ten year old Mercury or Buick that are near all immaculate condition…"

Yeah, and that’s like people looking for Volvo 242’s and old Mazda’s – reliable cars easy to maintain and dead cheap.
Except they’re so old by now even the spare parts need to be obtained from museums and wreckers.

Statistically at least the Subarus and Toyotas are reliable and high quality, with repair and maintenance often not being a regular requirement. But if you ARE in need to get something fixed, DYI isn’t an option, really.

So make sure the car you get is one which doesn’t absolutely demand a "licensed" mechanic to fix it. And never, ever, buy the current years model unless it’s just a chassi change on an older road-tested one.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PNRCinema (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not to mention having to suffer through TWO MONTHS of those obnoxious "Sexual predator" ads that were just so thoroughly bullshit. Gotta love the lobbyists, eh? You’d think mechanics across MA were a bunch of sex maniacs working in the Pizzagate porn ring from the way those ads were…sheesh….

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Hero says:

Re: Re: Re:

For those of you not in MA, the ads suggested that voting YES for right to repair would allow anyone to gain access to "your data" and that sexual predators would use that information to stalk you and rape you.

First, the law is about repair data, not GPS location data. Second…wait a minute, so the dealerships have access to GPS data? Third, um, wait a minute again. If the dealerships have access to GPS data, then can’t they use that to stalk you and rape you?

It was a ridiculous FUD campaign that was funded by the major car manufacturers. They had to display that at the bottom of the screen in the ads, so you could see that the financiers were Honda, Nissan, General Motors, etc, etc. I’m happy that voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts saw through the bullshit.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

The Maskless Bandit says:

So you wish to FORCE corporations to act for Public Good...

…while at same time you assert that mere web-site HOSTS are utterly independent, not subject to any such consideration, "have their own First Amendment right" to absolute control over all speech?

Clearly in the latter case you just DROP all notion of Public Good in favor of corporations. WHY?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The difference is that some people think private property owned by corporations should be public property if said corporations open that property to the general public for whatever reason. Such people would probably say that Walmart has every right to kick someone out for yelling racial slurs, but Twitter should be forced to host the speech of that person even if they used racial slurs. Cognitive dissonance is a hell of a drug.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: So you wish to FORCE corporations to act for Public Good...

Ah, if only you spent the same amount of time reading the points being made as you did attacking what you imagine they say…

There’s a slight difference between allowing corporation to do what they need to manage their own property and allowing them to control your property. Maybe take time in between demanding that the government seize private means of production while pretending you’re not a communist to understand the points raised..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So you wish to FORCE corporations to act for Public Good

As someone in MA that voted for this, one of the most telling questions on the issue came up in a WBUR forum where they had spokespeople from both sides of the question give their case and take questions (support your local NPR stations, folks, they do amazing work to keep people informed). The question that got asked was "Can the tele-metrics system be turned off?" In simple terms, can the car’s owner make it so the car stops sending data to the manufacturer if they want. The answer was NO.

We’ll just have to see what the legislature does with vote, since they often rewrite the will of the people in not so great ways.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: So you wish to FORCE corporations to act for Public Good...

"Clearly in the latter case you just DROP all notion of Public Good in favor of corporations. WHY?"

And once again Baghdad Bob demonstrates he doesn’t have a clue what "private property" means;

When you purchase an item you own that items and the manufacturer should have no claim on what you can or can not do with that item.

The owner of property doesn’t need to look for permission to evict undesired people from their property.

There is no conflict here, Baghdad Bob. It’s just – as usual – you being a complete shitwit.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It makes perfect sense as long as you assume that Baghdad Bob’s advocating from the pov of a 70’s Rote Armee Fraktion zealot.

I.e. corporations are all evil and have to justify their existence to the public but information is hard currency governed by draconian laws backed by government monopoly.

I.e. the only valid property are ideas.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

The Maskless Bandit says:

Can't fit both conflicting views into my tiny little mind!

For hardware items that you could skip buying because are alternatives, corporations should be FORCED to act in The Public interest. … Yet mere HOSTS that are de facto monopolies with hundreds of millions of users you elevate to Publishers and Editors with total arbitrary control over vital First Amendment speech!

How do you manage that double-think?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can't fit both conflicting views into my tiny little mind!

So you don’t think that a corporation that knowingly sells a dangerously defective product should be legally liable? Or one that sells a defective product that breaks within the warranty period should be held liable under that warranty by government agents (like, say, courts)?

On the other hand, do you seriously think that a corporation that has a notice board in it’s public lobby should be required to let any member of the public post anything they want, no matter how scurrilous or defamatory? Should a car dealership that lets you test drive a car be legally required to let you use it as a getaway car in a bank robbery?

You seem to have a little difficulty understanding the difference between a sale, with transfers of money and ownership, and permission to use corporate property with no such transfer of ownership.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Can't fit both conflicting views into my tiny little min

corporation that knowingly sells a dangerously defective product should be legally liable? Or one that sells a defective product that breaks within the warranty period should be held liable under that warranty by government agents (like, say, courts)?

Many products have a get out of jail free card woven into their licensing / ToS contracts called: forced arbitration. The courts will never hear any warranty / defect case when applied correctly.

Should a car dealership that lets you test drive a car be legally required to let you use it as a getaway car in a bank robbery?

Well let’s see: Should a car dealership that has received an NSL or a reverse warrant force a car to automatically lock all of the doors, disable all internal controls, and drive itself directly to the nearest prison?

If you said yes to that, then that says a-lot about you.

You seem to have a little difficulty understanding the difference between a sale, with transfers of money and ownership, and permission to use corporate property with no such transfer of ownership.

Check that "sale" contract. I’m pretty confident that it says that the software in the car is licensed to you for use only in specific circumstances and subject to multiple restrictions. In that case, right to repair laws would be forcing the manufacturer to allow use of their legal property in a way the manufacturer objects to.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Can't fit both conflicting views into my tiny little mind!

"How do you manage that double-think?"

There’s no double-think anywhere outside of your skull. If you buy an item, you own the item and can repair it as you see fit because the manufacturer doesn’t own it anymore.

If you buy a property then you can yourself set the rules on which people should be allowed access to said property.

There’s no conflict unless one happens to not understand the concept of property. And that, Baghdad Bob, is where I’m afraid you’ll just have to face the fact that you don’t live in the Workers Utopia where "property" has been abolished and the interim state governs all.

I must say that most communists aren’t as confused as you are.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Can't fit both views into my tiny little mind!

First, if you remove the word “conflicting” from that subject, I think most people would agree.

Second, when you buy a car, you get private legal ownership of that car. Same with smart devices like smart phones or computers. Neither the manufacturer, designer, or retailer/dealer retain ownership of a car or smart device after you buy it. As such, they should have no say with what you do with it afterwards. When it comes to websites like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, they still have complete legal ownership over the website even after you get an account and post something. One analogy would be that they are lending you their car for free while reserving the right to take it back or place restrictions on what you do with it afterwards. Can you not see how that differs from spending money on a car to transfer ownership to you from the seller, and yet the seller still maintains some control over what you do with it?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...