We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of copyright law and policy, addressing what's at stake and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.
If you bought it, you own it and you can do what you want with it. That should be the end of the story—whether we’re talking about a car, a tractor, a smartphone, a computer, or really anything you buy.
Yet product manufacturers have chipped away for years at the very idea of ownership, using the growing presence of software on devices to make nonsense arguments about why your tinkering with the things you own violates their copyright. It’s gotten so bad that there’s a booming market for 40-year-old tractors that don’t rely on software. We’ve worked for years with advocates with the Repair Coalition, iFixit, U.S. PIRG, and countless others, to get lawmakers to make it crystal clear that people have the right to tinker with their own stuff.
It’s working. The wind is at our backs right now. In just the past two years, the right to repair has won at the ballot box in Massachusetts, received a supportive directive from the Biden Administration, and made some gains at the Library of Congress to expand repair permissions.
Those wins have now built a lot of momentum for taking this fight to statehouses like never before. Advocates have gotten lawmakers to commit to or introduce bills or to affirm the right to repair in ten states. Some of these bills are general right-to-repair bills, while others focus on specific products such as cars or agricultural equipment. These efforts reach all corners of the country—from Massachusetts to Hawaii, from Florida to Washington. And it’s only January. As more states reach their deadlines to introduce new bills, EFF will be working to support those efforts and get our member involved in as many states as we can. Stay tuned for ways you can help at the state level throughout the year.
Change isn’t only coming in the form of possible legislation; pressure from consumers and activists have moved the needle in other ways. Even companies that have historically been the strongest opponents to right-to-repair legislation have made changes that acknowledge how important it is to their customers. Shareholder activism has changed policy at Microsoft to be friendlier to the right to repair. Apple, which has been hugely critical of right to repair legislation in the past, announced a “Self Service Repair” program that makes genuine Apple parts and tools for a handful of products available for do-it-yourself repairs. We’ll be watching to make sure these companies live up to their promises.
At the heart of the matter, the right to repair your own things is pure common sense. Copyright shouldn’t dictate where you can take your cracked smartphone for repairs. It shouldn’t stop a mechanic or a medic from accessing a manual they need to fix vital equipment. It should never interfere with a farmer’s ability to get their time-sensitive work done, while they wait on an authorized repair provider. Copyright has been used for too long to chip away at the very idea of ownership. It’s time for state policymakers to join the growing number of people who know that makes no sense at all.