California leads the world in environmental policy, and the state agency CalRecycle oversees the nation’s first and largest electronics recycling programs in the world. Fifteen years in, Howard Levenson, Deputy Director of CalRecycle announced that the program has diverted 2.2 billions of pounds of CRT glass and other hazardous electronics from landfills. The program is widely considered a model for sound electronics policy and is vaunted as the most successful program in the country.
And today, at a packed house in Sacramento, CalRecycle released a report mapping out the future of electronics recycling in California. One of their major findings is that Right to Repair legislation is necessary to “provide incentives for repair and reuse of electronic devices, and facilitate collaboration between manufacturers and repair and reuse organizations.”
With the powers of copyright law, the DMCA, and EULA’s combined, manufacturers are doing a bang-up job of killing the non-OEM repair industry. As more companies put digital locks over our gadgets, then—under the DMCA—they’ll be the only ones who can fix that stuff. They can sue anyone who tries to break up a repair monopoly, or anyone who’s shared their diagnostic codes. When you buy something, you should own it. You should have the right to repair it yourself.
Lawmakers in Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina recently introduced Right to Repair legislation—bringing the total number of states considering repair-friendly laws this year up to 11. That’s pretty impressive for an issue that rose to prominence almost exclusively through the grassroots efforts of netizens and tinkerers.
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.