The U.S. Copyright Office (“USCO”) is expanding the right to repair digital devices via exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”)’s rules governing access to devices and software, which includes automobiles and medical devices. Enacted in 1998, the DMCA works to prohibit people from circumventing technological measures used by copyright owners to control access to protected works. Essentially, the purpose of the law is to protect digital works from piracy.
The USCO’s move comes after years of complaints from consumers that products have a limited lifespan and are typically more expensive to repair than purchasing a new product, which is not only expensive for consumers, but creates waste from the growing number of unused products. At the same time, manufacturers contend that they are now more limited in protecting their ownership rights, including employing the use of anti-jailbreaking features, and there is a concern that consumers might be able to access proprietary information more easily.
The USCO recommends “anti-circumvention” exemptions every three years, so we will likely see developments on the right to repair well into the future as our society becomes more and more dependent on technology. The USCO’s recommendation can be found here.