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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Transportation United States

Three States Propose DMCA-Countering 'Right To Repair' Laws (ifixit.org) 225

Automakers are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to shut down tools used by car mechanics -- but three states are trying to stop them. An anonymous reader quotes IFixIt.Org: in 2014, Ford sued Autel for making a tool that diagnoses car trouble and tells you what part fixes it. Autel decrypted a list of Ford car parts, which wound up in their diagnostic tool. Ford claimed that the parts list was protected under copyright (even though data isn't creative work) -- and cracking the encryption violated the DMCA. The case is still making its way through the courts. But this much is clear: Ford didn't like Autel's competing tool, and they don't mind wielding the DMCA to shut the company down...

Thankfully, voters are stepping up to protect American jobs. Just last week, at the behest of constituents, three states -- Nebraska, Minnesota, and New York -- introduced Right to Repair legislation (more states will follow). These 'Fair Repair' laws would require manufacturers to provide service information and sell repair parts to owners and independent repair shops.

Activist groups like the EFF and Repair.org want to "ensure that repair people aren't marked as criminals under the DMCA," according to the site, arguing that we're heading towards a future with many more gadgets to fix. "But we'll have to fix copyright law first."
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Three States Propose DMCA-Countering 'Right To Repair' Laws

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @12:51AM (#53718973) Journal

    They sound like good laws. I just hope they pass.

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Funny)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @05:25AM (#53719573) Homepage

      As soon as the RIAA goons figure out this law might be used to repair defective CD's, it'll be gone.

      • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2017 @07:05AM (#53719811)

        CDs aren't encrypted and nothing in the
        DMCA prevents you from ripping them and burning your own backups.

        If you'd have gone with MPAA and DVDs for your example, you'd have had a decent comment, but you didn't.

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          The "circumvent" clause is not specifically about encryption, but about any and all technical barriers.
          Many CD's have some sort of laughably stupid or downright evil (remember Sony?) copy protection, which would fall under this anti-circumvention.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Many CD's have some sort of laughably stupid or downright evil (remember Sony?) copy protection

            I still buy CDs and it's been 13 years since I saw one which was alleged to contain a technological measure intended to limit access. Out of my approx 2000 CDs, literally exactly one of them has such a thing (which I didn't realize at the time I bought it). (And then I also didn't realize until after I ripped it and later found out that some people's drives (and car players) were having trouble with it.)

            If you mak

            • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

              DRM simply isn't a factor in the music sales.... Video is where you go to find DRM, which is why I eventually gave up and started just pirating all my movies and TV, whereas I still buy music. Music publishers still want your money; it's the video people who are constantly creating piracy incentives.

              Note that playable music does not have DRM, ever. You can record sound easily, always, since you can do analogue recordings. Video only has the appearance of DRM, in truth it is no different than sound, in that you can record everything in analog, and additionally you have the ability to record it digitally as well, if you're willing to open up your hardware. This would not violate the DMCA in anyway. You can also more simply just use certain pieces of hardware that give you access to unencrypted video/soun

    • I agree!

    • Just remember - Federal law Trumps State law (as users of medical and recreational marijuana are painfully aware). The current administration may see the profit in ignoring recreational substances, but Ford has already got some some political equity with the current administration. It seems quite possible that the Federal government under the current administration could choose to invalidate such laws at the behest of a major American manufacturer - after all, Carrier has already demonstrated how to coerc
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @01:00AM (#53718995)

    Under the DMCA they can lock out jiffy lube by saying the change oil light reset code is under the DMCA and only dealers are to have it.

    But this needs to extended to firmware images, sd card images, etc for embedded hardware.

    Info on old pc based embedded hardware and older video games (arcade) that used custom cards so they can be run in VM's on newer pc hardware.

    Letting people run that hardware in a VM with having to rebuy the software / pay the rights holder again. Yes some like that did have happen in the past and there a free VM system to replace the old pc and custom pci card. That still needed some of the old hardware and they got sued.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Some clarification on the status of emulators and ROMs for things you own would be welcome.

      • Even more so when you have crappy paid emulators that are inferior to the free / open source emulators.

        Even old dos games can use some Clarification on the status of emulators!

  • by zenlessyank ( 748553 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @01:00AM (#53719001)

    Anymore. You just rent it until it breaks so you can re-up on a newer rented item. Greed has no bounds.

    • I believe it's "Greed is eternal". That's the 10th rule if I'm not mistaken.
    • by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya AT gmail DOT com> on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:33AM (#53719349)

      You just rent it until it breaks

      Renting would be ok if it was stated upfront and you paid rental prices.

    • Greed has no bounds.

      Neither does personal image. What you want to repair that old shit iPhone 6? Why? It's scratched and everything. Are you a poor person who can't afford a real phone?

      • Are you kidding? We're heading into a time reminiscent of old Soviet times where used goods cost more than new goods because the new shit is actually WORSE than what you could buy in the good ol' days. We're there already with routers and WiFi equipment, and I dare say that phones will be next.

        Who the FUCK wants phones with the stability of tinfoil due to being of equal thickness?

    • by Fitch ( 584748 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @11:27AM (#53720991)

      When I'm not wearing out keyboards I'm an avid "shade tree mechanic", and it just so happened I experienced a tangent of this type of stupidity yesterday working on a car I recently purchased for my daughter. As it turns out the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in many GM vehicles of it's era were flashed with a configuration that would not allow the system to be reset + relearn the wheel sensors without an expensive scan tool (even these aftermarket ones are prohibitively expensive). I'm going to go to a dealer and beg them to fix the firmware so the product will function as the owner's manual states it should (there happens to be a service bulletin on this particular issue). In my case I simply do not allow anyone to work on my vehicles, so when I rotate the tires at every oil change I have no recourse to make the TPMS system functional and accurate once again except to take it to a tire shop or the dealer.

      Thankfully there seems to be a possible workaround - removing the TPMS fuse and letting it "forget" all it's sensors so it doesn't work at all. But imagine if this wasn't the case, and car owners were unable to get their vehicle to pass an emissions inspection because the TPMS sets a malfunction code.

      I'm generally not one to throw fuel on hyperbolic statements like "No One Owns Anything", but in this case I have to side with this sentiment. How far are we from the day when your car disallows you from driving over some ridiculously slow speed until you take it to the dealership for service? Those of us in states requiring emissions inspections are already beholden to the machines because in most counties of my state a vehicle with a MIL / Check Engine light on automatically fails regardless of whether the code is associated to an electronic ride control component, a burned out heated seat controller, or the catalytic converter efficiency monitoring.

      To further complicate things, many of today's vehicles are equipped with autonomous braking systems and other "convenience" features such as park assist, etc. Who's going to be able to fix these systems when they malfunction, and more importantly who will be responsible for the deaths that will be inevitably caused by such?

      For me, the solution is driving old junk and spending the extra time and money to maintain it until it is simply impossible to keep in a safe condition. I simply will not succumb to the perpetual car payment, rent-a-car culture that American society has all to readily embraced at it's own peril.

      • Stuff like this is one reason why I don't buy GM or American. I have a 2015 Mazda and its TPMS system is about as simple and easy as you can get: there are *no* wheel sensors at all (!), as it just uses the ABS system to look for wheels that are (over some distance) turning a bit more slowly that the others. Resetting it when it alarms is really simple: hopefully you'll check the tire pressures and fix them, but to reset it you just press the TPMS button and hold it for 3 seconds. No special tools requir

  • IDK, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @01:04AM (#53719013)

    Thankfully, voters are stepping up to protect American jobs

    Can't help but feel like my anus is being forcibly greased up whenever "protect american jobs" is being waved around.

    "Right to X" in the title of a new law is also a red flag.

    I mean, I'm aware the DMCA is awful. They should just do something about that. Maybe say, we're going to repeal and replace it? Introduce the All-new Copyright Act, or ACA for short?

    • Re:IDK, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @05:34AM (#53719589)
      I mean, I'm aware the DMCA is awful. They should just do something about that.

      It'd be nice if it were that easy, but the controversal parts of the DMCA [wikipedia.org] are implementations of two treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory. The U.S. would have to revoke the treaty in order to remove the offending parts of the DMCA. To those that say it's the Republicans' fault that we have this law, please note that the DMCA was signed by a Democratic president and passed in the Senate unanimously - all 45 Democratic senators wanted this.
      • Re:IDK, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @06:20AM (#53719705)

        >To those that say it's the Republicans' fault that we have this law, please note that the DMCA was signed by a Democratic president and passed in the Senate unanimously - all 45 Democratic senators wanted this.

        Yeah, but those were the years when the DINOs ran the democrat party with their center-right "suck up to the liberals a little in the primaries then ignore them for 8 years" style of governance...

        Those years are well and truly over, Bernie Sanders and Trump both pretty much shattered that consensus.

      • Well, Trump is telling anyone who wants to listen that he's going to nix TPP, with a bit of luck the other contracts go out the window, too.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Usually these treaties are created and pushed by the USA.

    • I'm pretty sure State governments don't have the authority to actually repeal a federal law.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      I don't even get how "american jobs" are related, are the Ford service stations secretly Mexican embassies?
  • The last time I took my Ford to a dealer they charged $150.00 per hour for labor with a 4 hour minimum. And outrageous parts pricing. A friendly parts man sold me items at 40% off list and there were 50 and 60% off columns in the list. There aren't many repairs that I can do but some independent shops will negotiate costs.
    • Re:Repair Costs (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki@gmai l . c om> on Monday January 23, 2017 @04:10AM (#53719441) Homepage

      The last time I took my Ford to a dealer they charged $150.00 per hour for labor with a 4 hour minimum.

      A 4h minimum is set by what's called the "blue book" which details exactly how much time the repair is supposed to take. Those hours are set by government. That means if they get the job done in 20minutes the book says the job is 30min, they have to charge for 30. On the flip side of that, this also protects you from overzealous pricing charges. That means if the job is listed at 4hr and it takes them 5hr to do it, they can only charge you for 4hr. Some places allow small incremental increases, but most don't. And in those cases there is a hard cap to the limit that can be charged. When you look around the "waiting area" you should also see a sign which states the minimum hourly rate. Depending on the state/province it will right now be between $80 and $140/hr(when I was an apprentice the hourly rate set by the province was around $35/hr). That again is set by the state or province, those are the minimum hourly rates that they have to charge by law. The higher hourly rate above the minimum requirement is called a "rate premium" which any shop can charge. Meaning a independent can charge $80/h or more if they can get away with it. Or a dealership can charge $80/h or $300/h if they can get away with it.

      Now onto the parts, since you were able to buy them through a "friendly parts man" that means you're buying a OEM-non dealership part. Under the old auto-pact treaty, OEM parts suppliers can make these parts and sell them to anyone for as long as there is demand. The automaker themselves must make these parts for your vehicle for a minimum of 10 years -- some will make them for longer if the vehicle sales were amazing. Now, there is no set prices on auto parts. Meaning a dealership don't have to price you out anything other then in their parts from their warehouses unless you request it. You can bring your own parts, and they have to install them though. You can request that they buy the parts from a OEM parts supplier like NAPPA, Pep boys, or whatever else.

  • by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @01:33AM (#53719103)
    i have a 1999 Ford Expedition, great truck for the 2-3k I drive it a year. Had a cracked windshield replaced which leaked (they fixed it) but it got my Gem Module(General Electronics Module) and fuse box wet. Darn truck, kept draining the battery, most of the electric stuff did not work, no lights, flashers, turn signals, dash indicators, windows ;) lol, !. Got it to the dealer. They said my GEM Module was bad, and they would order one.

    It would be 700.00 dollars up front and they had no idea when it would arrive. In fact they had one customer that has been waiting 7 months.

    OK so I talk about getting one from the junk yard. But!!!! it needs to be programmed with the exact options my truck has and only Ford can do that and that is 500.00

    I went home and just charged the battery everytime I wanted to drive the truck. And over time things dried out. All is good now.

    I have been gathering every scrap of info so I can build a jig and write a program to dump the firmware from my electronic modules on my truck, since I am keeping it forever ;)
    • by Versa ( 252878 )

      This might do what you want:
      http://forscan.org/ [forscan.org]
      FORScan is a software scanner for Ford, Mazda, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles, designed to work over ELM327 and J2534 Pass-Thru compatible adapters

    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      Ford cars have always had weird electrical systems. We had a Ford station wagon where if you pressed the brake pedal and pushed the emergency flasher knob in about half-way, the rear window could be opened or closed (without the engine running or the key in the ACC position) I'm sure with the advanced electronics there are even more strange things to be found. I'm glad you were able to fix the problem without shelling out a boatload of money to Ford.

  • Corporate Stupidity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @01:47AM (#53719137)
    I used to work at Dialogic, which was then bought by Intel. In all my time there, new prospects/customers would invariably say: "This is really hard to configure (we had line resource cards, DSP resource cards, and various ways to map these resources together.) don't you guys have a card configuration utility?" Well, for Windows, yes. For Linux, no. "Too hard and no demand" says Engineering. So, taking the bull by the horns, I found the PCI ID codes for the various cards, wrote a utility to configure them, got approval from my manager to release it as open-source and all was well. Until...The head of Engineering at our division found out about it and lodged a formal internal complaint that I had "released Intel proprietary information" and was summoned to Parsippany to face legal. Fortunately, my manager's support and basic common sense prevailed, the Eng manager was sent packing with his tail between his legs and I flew home drunk as a skunk. The legal guy basically said: "when you expose a PCI ID to the OS, it's no longer proprietary - dumbass!". Point is that when information is documented and exposed in any way, it is not "proprietary" in the sense that it cannot be used, just not stolen and used inappropriately.
    • Stolen is an interesting term to use there.

      If I tell you something in confidence then it is protected. If on the other hand tell you something publicly on Slashdot I can put as many disclaimers and wavers on that I want. Anyone else seeing it can't be said to have stolen it.

      Much the same is anything that is exposed to an OS.

  • Federal laws automatically override all state laws. So these laws will have no effect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by x0ra ( 1249540 )
      State legalization of pot is a precedent.
      • by bluegutang ( 2814641 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @02:52AM (#53719275)

        Not really. The Obama administration decided not to enforce the marijuana laws, but they are still on the books. From Wikipedia: "On August 28, 2013, a federal executive agency announced that it would no longer actively pursue marijuana offences taking place in the states that have legalized the small consumption and possession of marijuana." A future president could reverse that.

        • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @04:01AM (#53719417) Homepage Journal

          He did that because he HAD to. Otherwise, he starts a small scale war where the state then makes most activities that might support enforcing the federal law illegal. Next thing you know, there are DEA agents sitting in jail while it all winds it's way slowly through the courts. Worst case (for the president), the legitimacy of invoking interstate commerce to permit the federal laws to exist ends up in court with an opponent that can actually afford to fight it.

    • Presumably that's why these anti-DMCA laws "would require manufacturers to provide service information and sell repair parts to owners and independent repair shops."

      The DMCA might still say you aren't allowed to crack the encryption, but if the car manufacturer is required to give you the unencrypted version for free, you don't need to crack it either.
    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:22AM (#53719333)

      Federal laws automatically override all state laws. So these laws will have no effect.

      I think you may have forgotten the entire point of states maintaining a level of checks and balances with their own laws. A good example is the fact that marijuana is an illegal substance at the federal level, while many states have turned it into a legal industry.

      Enough states get behind DMCA abuse, and it will likely drive modifications into DMCA laws at the federal level as well. That's usually the approach to combating shitty laws driven by greed.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @09:30AM (#53720315)
      I believe the question here is one of scope. The DMCA was created to protect copyrighted works - stuff that's supposed to be distributed throughout the public, but the creator still retains ownership rights.

      These companies (and printer manufacturers with their ink cartridges) have been trying to extend the DMCA to cover what's traditionally considered a trade secret - stuff that nobody except the creator is supposed to know about. The "problem" with trade secrets (from the owner's perspective) being that if anyone figures out or reverse engineers the secret, it's no longer a secret.

      As Congress hasn't made any moves to address whether or not the scope of the DMCA covers trade secrets under the guise of copyright, these states are. That way the conflict between these state laws and DMCA can be resolved through the courts, and case law setting the boundary on whether the DMCA can be extended to protect trade secrets in this manner..
    • The states just have to ban sales of products that do not allow people to fix them. This does not overrule federal copyright law, it just restricts sales. You can be damn sure that if the car companies are only allowed to sell repairable cars in the state of California, car companies will make repairable cars.

  • by jxander ( 2605655 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @03:07AM (#53719307)

    There is a use-case for locked down hardware in an automobile: self-driving vehicles.

    As much as you should have the rights to tinker on the things you own (and you should) things get a lot trickier when we start talking about the software or sensors that actually control your vehicle as it drives down the road.

    It's going to be a complex issue with a LOT of debate, so I won't pretend like I can solve it in a single post. Suffice to say, lets not dismiss the entire concept of non-user-serviceable vehicles, in the long term. (though one thing I will say, that fact would have to be fully disclosed at time of purchase)

    • Re:Not so fast. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @04:05AM (#53719429) Homepage Journal

      Actually, lets.

      It is perfectly legal for me to repair my own brakes or steering. People have done so for decades even though a failure while driving could be very bad. The upshot is simple, if you're going to work on safety critical parts of your car, you'll want to make sure you know what you're doing. If you screw up, you might face significant liability.

      • Had a car 8 years ago that 2 weeks after a State Inspection, the brake lines blew and I nearly died coming down a hill.

        Pros aren't anything special. Doubt most hit triple digit IQs.

      • by flink ( 18449 )

        Actually, lets.

        It is perfectly legal for me to repair my own brakes or steering. People have done so for decades even though a failure while driving could be very bad. The upshot is simple, if you're going to work on safety critical parts of your car, you'll want to make sure you know what you're doing. If you screw up, you might face significant liability.

        Self guidance software isn't the same as brakes.

        In the future, once the market and regulatory environment has matured, the code that is operating a self-driving vehicle will have been certified to operate safely and within traffic regulations. The code you write yourself, or more likely, the firmware some yahoo downloads from the internet, has not. Since the software is in effect the operator of the vehicle, this is like driving without a license, and yes, should be illegal. Civil liability isn't good en

        • Self guidance software isn't the same as brakes.

          I would think that a guidance failure can result in as much damage as a brake failure but probably wouldn't.

          Brake failure: Plow into a group of people crossing the street

          Guidance failure: Head toward a group of people crossing the street or on the sidewalk or in the oncoming traffic lane (etc), but at least you have brakes to stop the vehicle and avoid a collision.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          And since the odds are the guidance software won't break, very few will care to touch it anyway. Much like very few people design their own replacement braking system. There are some who install after-market brakes, but those do go through safety testing so that the seller doesn't get sued into the stone age.

    • Nothing in your post has anything approaching reality. Do automotive repair then come back and post how more complex self-driving cars are....
    • There is a use-case for locked down hardware in an automobile: self-driving vehicles.

      As much as you should have the rights to tinker on the things you own (and you should) things get a lot trickier when we start talking about the software or sensors that actually control your vehicle as it drives down the road.

      It's going to be a complex issue with a LOT of debate, so I won't pretend like I can solve it in a single post. Suffice to say, lets not dismiss the entire concept of non-user-serviceable vehicles, in the long term. (though one thing I will say, that fact would have to be fully disclosed at time of purchase)

      If liability is what you're attempting to justify with DMCA, let me tell you what will happen.

      Can't maintain your own trees on your property because you might do it wrong and it could fall and kill a human. Gotta pay a licensed professional.

      Can't clean your own kitchen because there's a chance you could do it wrong and kill a human via food poisoning. Gotta pay a licensed professional.

      Can't install apps on your phone because you could do it wrong and be part of a botnet that attacks some corporation or co

  • Is anyone actually in favor of DMCA laws and why?
    It looks like big corp buying laws at the expense of the people.
  • Then why 'buy' them at all? Preventing people from repairing cars is going to be a massive incentive for people to switch over to ridesharing services, starting with urban drivers who have been used to keeping a second car. Let Ford and Uber fight over the DMCA.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, 2017 @07:33AM (#53719875)

    I specifically left Ford for motorsport vehicles (Cobra, GT500) and went over to Mitsubishi (Evolution IX, Evolution X) for this reason. Tired of having to pay for $1000+ tuning software just to be able to write the tunes myself, when a crash or new build happens the ECU ID changes and the software locks you out again.

    Where as on the Evo I literally had to buy a $120 cable and I can tune an unlimited number of cars with full control over ever parameter and essentially a fully professional environment to write custom tunes and even sell them if needed. We're not talking about end-user "hit apply" type tunes, I'm talking about changing individual load cells on hundreds of maps over months to dial in an exact tune.

    Besides that the car was built so much better I felt like an idiot for parading the domestic brands for so long. I literally traded a 32 valve V8 Cobra for an Evolution IX that had a four wheel drive turbo 2.0 liter 4 cylinder which pulled *harder* and was easier to get serious horsepower out of. My jaw literally dropped on the test drive of a modded 450whp Evo9. I had driven supercharged 500-700hp V8's but this little car never broke traction and made it's power lower in the RPM range which made it feel many times faster. Plus you could floor it around corners and it was just unbelievable how well it gained traction as boost kicked in around a corner.

    I never went back and almost nothing is locked down on these cars. Stop wasting your time with other brands... *Edit* Captcha was "inducer".

  • Could be an interesting precedent, when my 'right to repair' my computer comes into question.
  • by ColoradoAuthor ( 682295 ) on Monday January 23, 2017 @11:07AM (#53720875) Homepage
    The proposed Nebraska statute says "Sec. 7: Nothing in the Fair Repair Act shall apply to motor vehicle manufacturers." As for other manufacturers, they get to take into account whether compliance would be too expensive, and the maximum penalty is $500. So regardless of whether or not you think these laws are a good idea, it's nothing close to being a Tech Writer Full Employment Act, an Everybody Can Repair Their Own Car Act, or a Put All The Small Manufacturers Out Of Business Act.

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