When the federal government passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) into law it handed manufacturers a fantastic tool to make repairing or servicing their products illegal. Since bypassing Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes became illegal, tying hardware to software protected by DRM became a convenient way to criminalized repairing products. John Deere was quick to jump on this legal opportunity but certainly hasn’t been alone. Fortunately, after a great deal of begging, our overlords have decided to favor us by proposing to restore a pre-DMCA privilege:
The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office just proposed new rules that will give consumers and independent repair experts wide latitude to legally hack embedded software on their devices in order to repair or maintain them. This exemption to copyright law will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars, smart home appliances, and many other devices.
It almost makes you feel as though you can legally own the goods you pay for… almost.
What gets me about this story and all others like it are the people celebrating the decision as if we’re being granted a new legal privilege by the government rather than having a previously existing privilege returned to us by the very government that took it away. Had the DMCA never been passed into law, this decisions by the Librarian of Congress would never have been necessary.