Digital Millennium Copyright Act & Your “Right to Repair”

By: | March 6th, 2015

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Image Courtesy www.artslaw.co.au)

IndustryTap has written about a former fusion engineer turned farmer, Marcin Jakubowski, who experienced just how expensive it was to buy and repair farm machinery, so he sat down and designed 50 Do-It-Yourself Open Source & Sustainable Farming Machines.

It looks as if Jakubowski may have been prescient, anticipating that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) could one day be used to impose criminal penalties on farmers for repairing their “own” machinery. According to a report on Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow, Kyle Wiens, who runs IFIXIT.com, has petitioned the US Copyright Office for an exemption from the Act so that he can continue publishing “fixes” for common machinery and consumer appliances on his website.

According to 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.”

According to Wiens “It’s high time we demand the right to open, tinker with, and repair everything we own.” Wiens believes consumers should have a right to the same manuals and diagnostic tools that dealers use and have the ability to unlock “jailbreak” software on devices we use, including smartphones.

If this is true that farmers can’t service their own machinery, Jakubowski is likely to get more business. We’ve all heard of “planned obsolescence,” a frustrating development over the past few decades that means your newly bought stuff is likely to begin falling apart the moment it reaches home. But this is a bit different, kind of like Monsanto, but for equipment and machinery. It’s not “you must use our seeds or else we’ll sue you” it’s “you must allow us to repair your machinery or we’ll sue you.”

Of course, manufacturers have a lot to say about this issue. They want to protect patents and recoup money spent on R&D that has resulted in new and better products for consumers. This only seems fair, but there are deeper issues involved, and a healthy discussion going on about where to draw the lines of ownership. We’ll take a deeper look at these issues in a future article on IndustryTap.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys research and writing about cutting edge technologies that hold the promise of improving conditions for all life on planet earth.

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