Defend Your Right to Repair!
(and Tinker, Make, Re-use, or Break)
More and more, your devices come embedded with software. From phones to cars to refrigerators to farm equipment, software is helping your stuff work better and smarter, with awesome new features. Cool, right?
Yep... until it breaks and you want to fix it yourself (or take it to a local repair shop you trust). Or you think of a way to make it work better that requires tinkering with the software (or some third party does). Or you want to give it to a friend or re-sell it. Then, you have a problem. Why? Copyright.
Software is subject to copyright, and than means that, as a rule, you might own your device but you only license the software in it. And that license (often called an “End User License Agreement”) is likely to come with any number of restrictions on your ability to tinker with your stuff. Typical clauses forbid reverse-engineering (i.e., figuring out how the software works so you can adapt it), transfer (i.e., giving it to a friend), and even using unauthorized repair sources at all.
Further complication: the software may come with digital locks (aka Digital Rights Management [DRM] or Technical Protection Measures [TPMs]) supposedly designed to prevent unauthorized copying. And breaking those locks, even to do something simple and otherwise legal like tinkering with or fixing your own devices, means breaking the law, thanks to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
And then there’s manual lockdown, which happens when manufacturers refuse to publish crucial repair information (including the manuals themselves, but also things like diagnostic codes for cars)—and then threaten to sue anyone else who tries to do so with a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
The end result: users are disempowered, trained to go hat in hand to the Apple store just to change a battery (rather than doing it themselves). Medical clinics must waste scarce resources on expensive repair contracts rather than patient care. Independent repair shops are driven out of business. And the electronic waste piles up, as users discard their devices rather then fixing them or donating them for re-use.
If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it. From challenging restrictive end user agreements to supporting the fair use of repair manuals and diagnostic codes, EFF is fighting to give owners control over their own devices. Learn more through the links below.
EFF Related Content: Defend Your Right to Repair!
- The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Impression Products v. Lexmark International was a big win for individuals’ right to repair and modify the products they own. While we’re delighted by this decision, we expect manufacturers to attempt other methods of controlling the market for resale and repair. That’s...
- The Supreme Court struck a blow today [ PDF ] for your right to own the things you buy, reversing a lower court decision that had given patent owners the power to sue customers who paid in full for a patented item but then used it in a way...
- In the digital age, a lot depends on whether we actually own our stuff, and who gets to decide that in the first place. In The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Age , Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz walk us through a detailed and...
- Intel’s CPUs have another Intel inside. Since 2008, most of Intel’s chipsets have contained a tiny homunculus computer called the “Management Engine” (ME). The ME is a largely undocumented master controller for your CPU: it works with system firmware during boot and has direct access to system memory,...