The Woz Backs 'Right To Repair' Reform

from the this-isn't-going-away dept

We’ve repeatedly noted how the “right to repair” movement has been gaining a full head of steam as consumers, independent repair shops, schools, farmers, and countless others grow tired of corporations’ attempts to monopolize repair. Whether it’s Sony and Microsoft creating repair monopolies for their game consoles, Apple bullying independent repair shops, or John Deere making it a costly hassle just to fix a tractor, the more companies restrict access to cheap repair, parts, tools, and documentation, the more this movement seems to grow.

We’re now reaching an obvious tipping point. The federal government and more than two dozen states have proposed new right to repair laws. The recent Biden executive order also urged the FTC to do everything in its power (which is limited under the FTC Act) to address the problem.

And last week, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak jumped into the fray to point out that after finally studying the issue at length (he insists his “busy schedule” prevented this until now), he’s now a big fan of meaningful right to repair reform:

Ironically, the company Woz once founded has proven to be the most obnoxious player on this front. Apple’s ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary as are the company’s efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can’t be refurbished and re-used, harming consumers and the environment alike). The company also routinely lies about what right to reform legislation actually does, trying to conflate its desire to protect revenues with altruistic worries about public safety.

After researching the issue, Woz says he now “totally supports” the right to repair movement and that open-source technology and standards were absolutely instrumental in Apple’s early successes and popularity, whether it was their ability to manipulate video input on older TVs, or shipping the Apple I with full design specs so users could tinker with the device once they got it home:

“I do a lot of Cameos, but this one has really gotten to me. We wouldn’t have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.”

A broad coalition of companies like Apple have spent the better part of the last five years demonizing reform efforts. These attacks almost always attempt to dress up vanilla greed as some deeper concern about public safety and security (see claims that reform will embolden sexual predators or turn states into dangerous hacker meccas). But a recent bipartisan FTC report showed how the majority of these claims are absolute self-serving bunk, and the more the public understands the benefits of right to repair, the tougher it becomes for companies like Apple to fight upstream against reform.

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Comments on “The Woz Backs 'Right To Repair' Reform”

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Melvin Chudwaters says:

There is a far simpler policy that would fix this without "right to repair" laws.

The federal government gives away something to large companies. It could withhold that something for products that don’t serve public interest.

That thing is "copyright". If copyright protection was denied to works that include DRM, then all this would go away. Perhaps Apple and Amazon would continue to make products that included DRM, and they are big enough and popular enough that people would continue to buy them… but then various hobbyists would quickly break the DRM systems that cripple those products, and the end result would be the same.

If justification is needed (should it be?) for withholding copyright protection, then then I only need point out that works with DRM defeat copyright expiration and the return to public domain, which is a foundational element of copyright.

If there are other elements of law (likely in the DMCA, if anywhere) that also promote or protect DRM, legislatively bitchslap those too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jimmy Maher on the Apple II:

When you open an Apple II, you see a lot of slots and a lot of empty space.

All those slots were key to Woz’s vision of the machine as a hacker’s ultimate plaything; each was an invitation to extend it in some interesting way. Predictably, Jobs was nonplussed by Woz’s insistence on devoting all that space to theoretical future possibilities, as this did not jibe at all with his vision of the Apple II as a seamless piece of consumer electronics to be simply plugged in and used. Surely one or two slots is more than sufficient, he bargained. Normally Jobs, by far the more forceful personality of the two, inevitably won disputes like this — but this time Woz uncharacteristically held his ground and got his slots.

Lucky that he did, too. Within months hackers, third-party companies, and Apple itself began finding ways to fill all of those slots — with sound boards, 80-column video boards, hard-disk and printer interfaces, modems, co-processor and accelerator cards, mouse interfaces, higher resolution graphics boards, video and audio digitizers, ad infinitum. The slots, combined with Woz’s dogged insistence that every technical nuance of his design be meticulously documented for the benefit of hackers everywhere, transformed the Apple II from a single, static machine into a dynamic engine of possibility. They are the one feature that, more than anything else, distinguished the Apple II from its contemporaries the PET and TRS-80, and allowed it to outlive those machines by a decade. Within months of the Apple II’s release, even Jobs would have reason to thank Woz for their existence.

Had the Apple II been just another boring computer, the company might not exist today. Some of those other machines, after all, were considerably cheaper, and used the same processors.

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

What about car repair?

Whenever I hear repairing is a "safety issue," I think about cars. How long have we allowed "shade-tree mechanics" to repair their own vehicles. 1 /12 tons of metal flying down the highway at 70 MPH after being serviced by amateurs is dangerous. And yet, society has not fallen apart.

Fixing a phone is dangerous? Right.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: What about car repair?

The new thing coming is that your cars are collecting All your data, tracking to where you are going, and Even sending the data wireless.

A person bought a car in the EU, and discovered he could remote to his car, Over the internet. HE posted that he would like to find another person in another area with the same type/model of car. Found someone in Australia. Contacted them, traded abit of info. And did a test on the car, While he was in the EU, on his cellphone to the person.
He had partial control of that persons car. And this is about 5 years ago.
Dont tell me that things like Onstar, and soforth are only for emergencies. IT WILL BE ABUSED and USED against you.

I can see a bank robber, running out and driving away. and someone checks the area for Wireless signals, find the car and tracks it home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hopefully the silver lining of John Deere engaging in this practice is farmers going to their Republican representatives with this issue. Chevy is giving customers a really hard time tuning vehicles too. They are claiming making the Corvette ECU needlessly hard to modify protects customers.

And if we show them how it could allow small businesses to take money out of some big company in California’s pocket and for us to send less money to China because we fixed our phones instead of buying new ones you’d think it could have clear bipartisan support.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A comment iv heard and seen so many times.
"Its made in China and is crap"
"Made in America is the best"

Consider that most corps dont Make in America, they put parts together and the cars still have problems.
The Big companies dont have many people In the office. They design and create a product, send the idea/prototype to China to see who can do it the Cheapest. Verify its Correct in the USA. Then have 1 million sent to the USA to be sold to us Idiots.

Think of all that money. Not much in China. They make something and the cost is cheap, the company over here SAID ok we can sell that. Then doubled, and tripled the price, sent it out to store that Doubled it again(then they can put it on sale and make you THINK you are saving pennies.
AND we buy it, and after 1 year, 1 month 1 day it fails, and we Bitch that it was made in China. CHINA DIDNT SELL IT TO YOU.

But, Now there are ways, If you are smart, that you can buy direct from china and other locations around the world, CHEAP. REAL Cheap.
If you are smart enough, to watch the prices and can buy more then 1-10 at a time, they will deal with you. But prices go up, as more and more people Buy the products. But when you Buy GARBAGE products, you will know it, I hope, Before you get it.

Anonymous Coward says:

A few comments on this subject. First, the initial fault goes all the way vack to the idiotic court ruling un Sony’s favour that it could remove the main alternate readon people were buying the playstation consoles. This then led to companies having it made illegal for buyers to actual own what they had bought, a most ridiculous ruling i could never understand how anyone with an iota of sense could arrive at. I often wondered what the reward was that those on the bench in these cases received for basically screwing over every single person on the Planet for arriving at the verdicts. Next we get to the next illegal ruling for buyers that altering anything threw the warranty out the window, even ehen the alterations made the item ib question at the time more stable, more safe, less prone to stop functioning etc, etc until we get to the final stage where we were/are prevented from repairing an item that we have paid our gard earned cash for not for any reason other than allowing the original manufacturer/seller to screw us over still further, as if once wasn’t enough! I have to admit though, i could bever understand how it as perfectly fine to self repair what is one of the most dangerous inventions ever, using, if the person wants to, after market/refurbished spare parts. That piece of equipment is a motor vehicle! The potential for causing multiple deaths far exceeds what a fucked up repair on a Playstation could ever achieve!
Now 5he ball is well and truly rolling, i hope it continues gaining momentum. If Biden would get his thumb out of his ass and add another Democrate to the FCC, it would help because, hopefully, Net Neutrality would be reinstated, making the finding and purchasing of soares for everything much easier. Remember, it dont take many poor quality components to be sold before the word is spread workd wide, thanks to the Net, so the risk of items failing is massively reduced. The competition instigated then works wonders for customers, reducing prices but not tge quality of spare parts. Should be a win for all concerned instead of only the original makers!

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