Hearing on Move to Ban Working on Cars

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Car AV installernet

Hearings began this week on the right of consumers (and retailers) to work on cars.

The hearings will be held through Wednesday by the Copyright Office at UCLA and then again next week in Washington, with a ruling expected to follow in late September or October.

At issue is whether the software code in the car falls under the protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as 12 car makers claim it should.  The automakers argue that consumers should not tamper with the software code in their car and should be restricted in working on their cars, as should retailers, by extension.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and SEMA have submitted comments arguing against the car companies’ claims and in favor of the aftermarket’s right to access software in cars.

A lawyer representing the CEA told us that what applies to consumers, applies to retailers.   Attorney Robert Schwartz of Constantine Cannon said, “If a consumer has a right to replace a component in her own car or gain access to a system then the law also provides that somebody should be able to assist the consumer in carrying out a procedure that the consumer can do herself.”

If the Library of Congress, which ultimately decides the question after the Copyright Office gives its recommendation, rules against car software being an exemption under digital copyright law, here’s what will happen. Schwartz said, “People would likely continue to work on their cars and seek assistance to do so. Some service providers might rely on the general belief that this activity is legal even without an exemption. Some might be deterred because copyright damages can be very very high.”

So presumably if a car maker sued a consumer for working on his car, a court would then rule on it, and if it ruled against the car company, that would become precedent for the next case.

Directed President Tarek Kutrieh said “Every year there is something new ranging from software to now proposed patent infringements. Having a passion to modify your vehicle is not a crime. We need to all remind our consumers of the Magnuson-Moss Act, and aggressively support lobbying initiatives by CEA and SEMA to ensure we keep our rights.”

The Consumer Electronics Association submitted a comment to the Copyright Office stating, “CEA members invested in the aftermarket for vehicular technology development, repair, replacement, and safety technology products and services have a vital concern in those markets being free of artificial constraints on entry and competition. With more than 250,000,000 registered vehicles on the road today in the United States, it is essential that CEA member companies have access to vehicle software in order to develop and make available innovative solutions that support safe driving. Indeed, technology innovations developed in the aftermarket have in many cases resulted in significantly reducing driver fatalities.”

At the hearings over the next two weeks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) plans to testify that legal restrictions on tinkering with the software in your car are preventing people and businesses from repairing and customizing vehicles as well as conducting needed security and safety research.   The EFF will tell the  Copyright Office  that “restricting access to onboard computers in cars, trucks, and tractors drives up costs for vehicle owners and stifles innovation,” it said.

For more on this topic see:

Wired: http://www.wired.com/2015/04/dmca-ownership-john-deere/

EFF: https://www.eff.org/issues/dmca-rulemaking

Photo via Installernet.com

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5 Comments

  1. Cool. petty soon cars will come with bloatware like a Samsung phone and it’ll be illegal to remove it.

    Hey, wait. They already do. See a thousand forum threads referring to “fake engine sounds”.

  2. Copyright is fine, but as an end user I’m I making illegal copies to sell or distribute? Even when I buy an operating system, am I not able to install programs or apps that enhance my base OS? With this line of thought, installing an aftermarket program that I also buy would be illegal.

    Get real and I hope the courts get a dose of reality and rule in favor of protecting the ECU programming but not against working on one’s own car.

  3. This is all about making money on the car long after the dealership sells it. Most consumers avoid taking their car to the dealership because they get sold parts and services that they do not need and at a much higher premium than what could be done by an independent garage. When it comes to audio/entertainment and phone connectivity the aftermarket industry is moving at a quicker pace than OEMs and can offer what is needed today for that new or slightly used car. Car makers will never adapt today’s phone connectivity/entertainment needs to multiple platforms of 3-5 year old cars but they will sell you an overpriced outdated cluster of crap for your dashboard just like when the car was once new. If the car makers are in ultimate control of all the work that takes place in the car they will only turn into a profit center with no regard for what is needed by their customer!

  4. one problem with the automakers claim!
    when you get a copy of windows your buying a license to use it!
    Same thing with cell phone and so on.
    When you buy a car you own it.

    The problem here is a copyright office is setting laws into motion that the supreme court should be ruling on, and will eventually have to do so. because this is setting up a monopoly situation. The US Patent office was never made to make or govern legal matters its not even the correct branch of government.
    Also if you think about it you can walk into any library and copy a page of a book and its perfectly legal.

    If this office side wit automakers then its going to cost everyone more money for cars and everything else and create a monopoly on repairs. And everyone knows after about 5-10 years auto makers will not offer support for older cars. Try and buy a factory radio or window switch for a 10 year old car.

    Thanks Copy right office for letting GM Trademark my last name! When am I getting paid for its use? A trademark can’t be a household name, its a household name at my house!

  5. I buy it . I own it. I can set it on fire and dance around the flames to a full moon. if I
    so choose.

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