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.