The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), came out strongly against the recent copyright law that failed to protect retailers and shops who work on cars.
Michael Petricone, CEA Senior VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs called the recent Copyright Office ruling “a perversion of the original law.” He said the CEA is looking at its options going forward. “Clearly, we’re not happy with the decision. Congress never intended the DMCA to be an industrial protection law.”
He’s referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which was originally intended to stop pirating “expressive” material like videos. “Talking to people who worked on the DMCA back in 1988, I don’t think any single person who worked on the law had any vision that it would end up applying to motor vehicles. ….it’s stretched far beyond its original meaning and it’s being used in this case to suppress competition,” said Petricone.
The Copyright Office reviews the DMCA every three years. This year, a dozen automakers argued that the software code in cars falls under the protection of the DMCA. They said consumers shouldn’t tamper with their cars, and by extension, neither should independent shops.
The Copyright Office ruled in October to exempt consumers from the law but said Congress must determine whether retailers who work on cars as an agent for the consumer are also exempt.
“The ones it hurts are third party professionals who want to install aftermarket products for consumers….What this interpretation says is you can do it if you can, but you can’t engage a trained professional to do it, which is absurd,” said Petricone.
He also called the ruling a job killer, and said the CEA will issue an official statement shortly and that the CEA “is looking at next steps.”
We noted that industry members say the car audio industry mainly reads signals from the car, rather than modifying them or repairing them and would thereby be outside the purview of the Copyright issue. Petricone said the CEA is still looking into that interpretation.
UPDATE!! The CEA CEO Gary Shapiro Tuesday morning called on Congress to clarify the law, stating:
“Congress should clarify that the DMCA was not meant to be an industrial protection law. The DMCA must be limited to the intended objective of protecting expressive content from access for the purpose of making infringing copies. This would avoid abusive lawsuits, and would have made most of this round of petitions unnecessary.”
In a news release, the CEA said the serious unintended consequences of failing to do so would be as follows:
- encouraging untrained consumers to reverse engineer their cars to install products, potentially creating performance and safety issues;
- discouraging the use of independent trained servicers and installers who are not part of the auto manufacturer’s selected dealer network, thus
- undermining the aftermarket installation business and killing American jobs,
- limiting, if not effectively eliminating, a career path for installation technicians who have a high school diploma or technical school training.
The CEA also specifically mentioned the MECP.
“CEA runs the Mobile Electronics Certification (MECP) Program, which certifies skilled professionals who install aftermarket electronics. Today 3,500 MECP professionals are certified… The Copyright Office’s ruling effectively bars them from installing equipment unless they work on their own cars or get permission from a car company.”