In 2015, frustration with John Deere’s draconian tractor DRM culminated in a grassroots tech movement dubbed the “Right to Repair”. The company’s crackdown on “unauthorized repairs” turned countless ordinary people into technology activists after DRM (and the company’s EULA) banned the lion’s share of tractor repairs or modifications that customers thought they were. These limitations have only helped add to the costs for owners, who either had to pay significantly more money for “authorized” repairs or play around with pirated firmware to make sure the products they owned actually worked.
Of course, the problem isn’t just limited to John Deere. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and countless other tech giants who want to monopolize repairs have made it a habit of suing and harassing independent repair shops and demonizing consumers who just want to cut waste and repair equipment they own. This in turn has led to increasing pressure on the right to repair legislation in countless countries.
The movement scored another huge hit this week in news that 74.8% of Massachusetts voters (so far) have just approved an expansion of an existing law in Massachusetts, resulting in one of the most comprehensive law-repairing rights in the nation . The original law was the first in the nation to be passed in 2013. The update improves the law dramatically, requiring all new vehicles with telematics equipment to be accessible through a standardized, transparent platform starting in 2022, allowing third party owners and repairs stores to access vehicle data via a mobile device.
More simply, this means that users can take their vehicle to any repair shop and have easy, transparent access to vehicle data without encountering uncomfortable restrictions or having to go to a more expensive dealer with proprietary tools. As would be expected, the auto industry went really out of their way to get the law out, falsely claiming that it would “help sexual predators” (seriously). Apple, Microsoft, and others eager to grow their revenue through repair monopolies have also routinely tried to falsely portray basic repair rights as shameful and dangerous.
Needless to say, the Right to Fix lawyers like Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, were very pleased with the bill passed:
“Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, is thrilled. “Modern cars can send maintenance information directly to the manufacturers, eliminating the local mechanics. Question 1 ensures that consumers can continue to repair their own vehicles or have them repaired at the store of their choice. “
This means that independent repair shops will have a level playing field with automakers and dealers who have increasingly turned to locked down wirelessly collected repair data or telematics. Car owners can also view the maintenance information of their cars via a smartphone app. And it opens the door to innovations like wireless diagnostic apps for iOS and Android.
The more companies try to lock down their systems, harass independent repair shops, and otherwise undermine consumer choice (all leading to negative environmental effects), the greater this movement becomes. And companies and industries that are trying to classify basic consumer rights as somehow dangerous and shameful have obviously not fully understood the message.
Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly support the extended right to repair
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