Will Tinkering With Your Own Car Soon Be Illegal?
Have you ever thought that someday you might not even be allowed to tinker with your own automobile? Or how about repair shops? They might not be allowed to perform repairs because they might be infringing on Copyright laws.
Well, all of this just might come true sooner than you think. There have been more than 300 written comments submitted to the Federal Copyright Office. Soon they will decide whether to grant an exemption in Copyright Law that preserves the legal right of outsiders to fix or modify their vehicles.
The opportunity to comment on this issue ended on April 30th, 2015 and in the next week or so, the Copyright Office will release the latest comments, which come from organizations and individual citizens alike. A broad majority of those who wrote in support an exemption.
Ever since internal combustion engines were invented, many American motorists have maintained and personalized their cars and trucks. They do it to save money, to fix a problem, to adjust a vehicle to better meet their needs, or they just enjoy working on their cars.
So what has changed on this issue over the past century you might ask? The difference is that cars aren’t just mechanical in nature anymore. Whether you realize it or not, today’s cars are largely controlled by many small computers called electronic control units or ECM. In this whirl wind of copyright laws, automakers and equipment manufacturers have argued the software and computer codes that run these units, are proprietary and are protected under the copyright laws.
To sum it up, they do not want you or me messing around with that coding, or making unauthorized modifications, which they feel could lead to malfunctions or even car accidents.
What does this mean? It means that the home mechanics may no longer be able to continue working on their own cars. These restrictions not only effect car enthusiasts, but it could also mean you may no longer even be able to choose your own repair shop.
If the Copyright Office denies an exemption to the Copyright Act’s Section 1201, automakers could only authorize repairs at dealerships, or sell the access codes necessary to perform the repairs to preferred shops.
John Deere and General Motors have argued that motorists don’t necessarily buy a car, they merely buy the license to use the car for the duration of its life.
So you pay upwards in the 10’s of thousands for a car and you own the car, but not what controls it. To me, where is the sense in this as a consumer?
This would leave some 6800 aftermarket auto parts makers out of business at a time when the country is trying to bring back jobs. Many of the devices on vehicles today originated outside of the automotive industry long before automakers made them standard equipment. Now they feel they own them.
DMCA, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States Copyright Law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as Digital Rights Management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.
This is readdressed every three years and 2015 it is up for review again. This year there are 27 different proposed exemptions and a half dozen apply to the automotive industry. The report will be out sometime in June or July of this year.