Fair Repair Legislation
Why is Right to Repair needed?
The presence of technology parts in modern equipment has enabled manufacturers to reduce access to repair by proclaiming that repair might violate their "Proprietary" rights. This is a marketing ruse and not grounded in law. Manufacturers do not have any rights to control property beyond the sale. Limitations on repair have become a serious problem for all modern equipment that also limits how equipment can be traded on the used market. The best primer to this topic is The End of Ownership by renowned law professor Aaron Perzonowski.
Why is legislation needed in states?
Most current limitations on repair are made in contracts - such as End User License agreements ("EULA") that if agreed, limit how equipment can be used. Contracts fall under General Business Law in states. Legislation for right to repair is typically assigned to committees handling general business law .
Isn't repair illegal under Copyright Law?
No. The US Copyright Office ("USCO") concluded in December of 2016 that poor interpretation of copyright law has led to confusion, but that copyright law does not restrict repair, tinkering, customization, security research or resale. The USCO concludes that repair is not an infringement but that manufacturers have been removing existing legal rights through unfair and deceptive contracts which can only be addressed in state law. Find the entire Study and helpful Cliff Notes here.
What would the legislation change?
The bill requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) provide consumers and independent repair businesses equal access to repair documentation, diagnostics, tools, service parts and firmware as their direct or authorized repair providers.
How does this impact consumer choice?
Local repair and resale businesses would not exist without consumers purchasing manufactured products. Right to Repair or "Fair Repair" legislation is for the consumer’s right to choose who, what, where, why, when, how, and for how much their equipment is to be repaired.
What will happen to retailers?
Nothing. The requirements of Right to Repair fall only on manufacturers - not their distributors, retailers, or even franchisees. Manufacturers will decide for themselves how best to deliver parts and information.
What is the impact on product warranties?
Right to Repair has no impact on warranties. Manufacturers will still offer warranty support as part of their marketing. The vast majority of consumers will still take advantage of in-warranty service and turn to independent repair only after the original warranty has expired.
Does this increase the potential liability of manufacturers?
No. State laws already limit manufacturer disclaimers of liability so that harmful defects in design or manufacturing are still the responsibility of the manufacturer. These requirements do not change based on how equipment is used or repaired.
Is it going to be challenging for manufacturers to provide repair information?
No. Manufacturers have already created everything required under Right to Repair for use by the authorized or direct repair organizations. Nothing different or new is required.
How does fair repair improve cybersecurity?
The same firmware settings controls that are essential to repair are also essential to improving device security. The US Copyright Office has determined that users should be able to tinker with their firmware to perform security research, improve security and detach devices from default passwords.
Would this place manufacturer intellectual property at risk?
No. The legislation has been carefully drafted to include protections for copyrights, patents and trade secrets. Intellectual property is not altered or pirated in the course of repair. Licensed software products or media backups can only be restored after repairs are complete. Embedded code (firmware) is either restorable as part of the purchase (under patent law), or legal (under copyright law) to backup and restore for purposes of repair. Right to Repair does not, and cannot, alter IP federal law.
I've heard of Auto Right to Repair. Is this similar?
Absolutely. The template for Right to Repair is current law for auto repairs in Massachusetts (passed in 2012) and the National Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed by the Auto Industry in support of independent repair in 2014. The Auto MOU has been copied by Commercial Trucks in 2015 and has proven beneficial to consumers without negative impact on manufacturers.
The template is ideal because repair of computerized components within vehicles is the same as in any other platform or housing. The more we come to rely upon technology in our daily lives – the more important it is that the technology be readily restored to function easily and locally.
We believe that manufacturers that help their customers enjoy the use of their investments for the long term will be rewarded with higher customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Have you considered pursuing litigation?
It is impractical to seek restoration of repair rights in the courts. We've tried. It costs a fortune and takes too long. Litigation could only be done against one manufacturer at a time—rather than broadly as policy. Policy is the realm of legislators.