An advocacy group called The Repair Association has been formed in an attempt to ensure that users always have the 'right to repair' anything from video game consoles to smartphones to watches.
The formation of the group comes after last summer, when the U.S. Copyright Office asked if anyone wanted to defend the rights of video game jailbreakers to repair or modify their systems. At the time, no one had a legal argument prepared, but the new group aims to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again.
The group will focus heavily on reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to preserve the right to repair. It will also aim to pass state-level legislation requiring manufacturers to sell repair parts to independent repair shops, as well as to consumers, ultimately meaning that manufacturers can no longer lock people out of their own products that they might want to repair themselves.
"It's long overdue," said Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of the group, in an interview with Motherboard. "We have all these little businesses trying to repair stuff and running into what they thought were different problems in different industries. We realized it was all just the same problem."
The main issue at hand is that manufacturers are also trying to keep control over the repair market and that issue has two primary sources. First is the fact that manufacturers themselves use copyright law to keep control of the software inside devices, saying that only they or properly licensed repair shops have the right to repair devices. The second issue is that manufacturers won't sell repair parts to consumers, even creating parts that are hard to remove or repair for the manufacturer.
This phenomenon is well-known in the tech world, and has spawned the creation of sites like iFixit, which has, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, been able to challenge DMCA in recent times.
The Repair Association includes members from the EFF, iFixit and other repair organizations. The coalition's first challenge is to remove Section 1201 from the DMCA, which essentially says that it's illegal to "circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the DMCA]." The DMCA was signed into law in 1998.
It is also highlighting New York's proposed Fair Repair Bill, which it calls the first in the nation which would guarantee consumer's right to repair electronics they have purchased. If enough states pass such bills, it argues, manufactuers would find it easier to make parts and manuals available. The proposed New York bill, known as S3998 in the State Senate and A6068 in the State Assembly, requires manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with fair access to service information, security updates, and replacement parts. It has been referred to the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee for study.