14 States Are Now Considering 'Right to Repair' Legislation
from the this-train-is-rolling dept
Five years or so ago, 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 spent years bullying independent repair shops and demonizing consumers who simply want to reduce waste and repair devices they own.
Fast forward to 2021, and roughly fourteen different states are all considering pending right to repair legislation that would put power back in the hands of consumers and independent repair shops. Some states, like Montana, are considering different types of legislation that would cover both consumer hardware and agricultural equipment.
COVID is also pouring some gasoline on this fire, highlighting how manufacturers frequently enjoy a stranglehold over tools, documentation, and replacement parts, which can literally put human lives at risk by causing repair delays:
“Covid has changed our relationship with technology and it’s obvious that laws need to catch up,? Proctor said. ?We need devices to work and learn, but manufacturers won’t provide tools or information even when their stores are closed.”
Throughout this whole movement, companies have tried to cling tightly to nonsense in a bid to derail momentum. Usually this involves hallucinating nonexistent harms that threaten public safety and security.
Such as when Apple insisted that passing a right to repair law in Nebraska would turn the state into a “mecca for hackers.” Or more recently, when the auto industry tried to claim that expanding Massachusetts’ existing consumer tech law, to make sure that independent garages could access tools and diagnostic gear, would result in a “boom in sexual predators.” The multi-sector quest to demonize the right to repair movement is relentless, and almost always involves making up bogus harms related to security and safety:
The problem is nobody believes them, in large part because their motivations couldn’t be more obvious. And the more outlandish attacks giants like Apple make on this genuine grass roots coalition, the more attention — and momentum — it receives.