If you’ve read Lance Ulanoff’s new Mashable article about Right to Repair, you know one thing for sure: Ulanoff thinks you’re too stupid to fix your own phone. Ulanoff argues that ordinary people (and third-party shops) shouldn’t be allowed to attempt consumer electronics repair. He thinks it’s possibly dangerous, and definitely too difficult to be practical. “Right-to-Repair? What a ridiculous thing to say,” Ulanoff scoffs. The only ridiculous thing here is Ulanoff’s argument.
The dominos keep tumbling. Last week, two more states—Illinois and Tennessee—introduced Right to Repair legislation, bringing the total number of states considering pro-repair laws this year to eight (up from three last year). But don’t break out the victory dance; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride from bill to law. According to Motherboard, Apple is gearing up to oppose the legislation in at least one state.
2017 could be a very good year for repair. More US states than ever are proposing Right to Repair legislation this year. So far, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming have all introduced versions of the pro-repair bill in their legislatures—and more states could follow suit. If passed, the laws would make it easier for consumers and independently-owned repair shops to fix far more products.
Over 3 million men and women work in America’s repair and maintenance industry. Maybe I don’t have a lot of faith in politics, but I think those 3 million people have more tangible impact on our lives than the squabbling politicians in Washington. And yet, a copyright law written by Washington insiders nearly two decades ago is threatening the livelihoods of those 3 million people.
Hoist your wrenches into the air, folks. As of today, October 28, you can now hack, repair, and conduct security research on your own car—or tractor!—without risking jail time for copyright infringement. Exactly one year ago, the Copyright Office granted exemptions for repairing, modifying, and conducting security research on your own vehicle. And those exemptions go into effect today.
The Swedish government is considering legislation that would give tax breaks to people who repair stuff instead of throwing it away. According to The Guardian, the proposal—which is scheduled to be introduced in parliament today—reduces the VAT rate (a consumption tax) on the repair of shoes, clothes, and bikes from 25% to 12%. The government is also considering a measure that would partially defray the cost of repairing appliances, like refrigerators, washing machines, and ovens.
Apple Insider’s Mike Wuerthele released some compelling research last week examining the prevalence of what we’ve so lovingly labeled Touch Disease. Their analysis covers six days of service data—before and after the Touch Disease headlines—from four highly-trafficked Apple stores. The results? Based on the numbers, Apple’s techs were seeing a significant number of Touch Disease stricken iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses—well before the story broke. In fact, Mike Wuerthele reported that the Touch Disease problem “eclips[ed] all other individual issues dealt with by retail personnel on a day-to-day basis.” After the increased media attention, Apple stores saw an understandable surge of reports—because a minor annoyance was now something endemically wrong with their phones.
A tinkerer, a security researcher, and a digital rights watchdog just filed a lawsuit against the United States government, challenging the country’s most embattled copyright law: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Passed nearly two decades ago, the law governs the space where traditional copyright and modern technology collide. The lawsuit, filed today, contends that Section 1201 of the DMCA violates free speech under the First Amendment.
We talk a lot about why it’s getting harder to fix electronics. Not just because of how those devices are designed, but also because a lot manufacturers don’t want anyone to know how to fix them. And those companies can issue legal threats to keep repair information out of public view. It looks like Louis Rossmann, an independent Apple repair tech from NYC, is fending off a legal attack from one of those companies.
Nest Labs, pioneering overlords of our smarthome future, is about to do something pretty inhospitable to customers. On Sunday, they will pull the plug on Revolv—a home automation hub that Nest acquired almost two years ago. If you own a Revolv, your home will shut off. Your lights will turn off. Your doors will stay locked—or unlocked. All that automation that you painstakingly set up? It’s quitting. On Sunday, Nest will brick people’s smart homes—and owners can’t do a thing to stop it.
People don’t want to own anything anymore. They much prefer licenses that let them use it. At least that’s what lawyers from The Software Alliance and the Motion Picture Association of America told the Copyright Office. Through an unlikely sequence of events, I found myself sitting across the table from them late last month at a series of “roundtables” on copyright law. Unlikely, because I’m a repairman. Copyright law should have nothing to do with me. But it does.