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.
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.
Good news, everyone! The Federal Communications Commission just clarified that it has no intention of locking down your devices. The announcement comes after the FCC proposed new rules for routers (and other devices that emit radio frequencies) earlier this year. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking met with significant resistance from actual users of said devices.
On Monday, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens will participate in a round table discussion with Representative Bob Goodlatte, Members of the House Judiciary, and other stakeholders to discuss the future of US copyright law. The listening session is part of an ongoing effort by the House Judiciary Committee to reassess the intersection between copyright law, ownership rights, and modern technology.
This morning, Copyright Office decided which of your own devices are legal to investigate, modify, and hack—bringing a close to our year-long saga of legal gunslinging, negotiation, fact finding, hearings, and deliberation over US copyright law. Along with a coalition of activists, recyclers, and legal clinics, were able to overcome the objections of manufacturers and secure exemptions for repairing tractors, cars, and tablets.
The federal government just dropped EPEAT from its green electronics standards. The policy change—made without warning—was part of an updated executive order issued last month, which simply omitted EPEAT from the government’s previous language. When it comes to evaluating a device’s effect on the environment, EPEAT is the gold standard. The tool ranks products as either Gold, Silver, or Bronze—depending on adherence to a set of green criteria. No word if another standard will take its place.
Strap in, folks—because we’re about to talk copyright law. I’m aware that as soon as I string the words “copyright” and “law” together, eyes start to glaze over. I get it. Copyright law doesn’t break the internet. But important things hardly ever do. Believe it or not, copyright law is shaping up to be the next big battleground in technology. And it’s fundamentally redefining ownership.
The new unlocking law in the U.S. only covers cell phones. Other devices—like tablets, consoles, and even cars—remain locked down. What’s more, our world is becoming ever more computerized. Everyday items, like fridges and thermostats, are just as much computer as they are plastic and metal. Shouldn’t consumers be able to unlock them, too? That’s what we think. And so does the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit civil liberties organization.
Today, President Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. This signing comes almost two years after the Internet rose up against the archaic process that first made unlocking a cellphone illegal. Since then, iFixit has been working relentlessly with other activists to shepherd a solution through the Senate. The President’s signature is a testament to the collective power of netizens, who stood up to powerful, entrenched corporate interests and won.