We have already introduced patents when we discussed the protection of ideas as offered by the community. Patents are not bad per se, as they guarantee a return on an investment (or better, they protect the owner of a patent from the creation of unauthorized clones which would benefit from the author’s efforts without giving anything back. If a patent were enough to guarantee a return I’d patent everything!).
Unfortunately, patents also have a series of drawbacks. Historically, tractor owners (just as an example) have always repaired their own vehicles. Recent tractors are nothing short of small miracles of technologies, which means that a lot of electronics is embedded in them. That means software. And that means Digital Millenium Copyright Act:
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 (source: Wikipedia).
And tractors software definitely is copyrighted work. That means an owner cannot alter the software of his tractor in any way, nor jailbreak it to investigate what the source of a problem could be. That means many unhappy owners. I swear this was the last “that means”.
This morning, the Copyright Office decided which of your own devices are legal to investigate, modify, and hack—bringing a close to a year-long saga brought forth by iFixit of legal gunslinging, negotiating, fact finding, hearings, and deliberating over US copyright law.
They scored a number of significant victories. Along with a coalition of activists, recyclers, and legal clinics, they were able to overcome the objections of manufacturers and secure exemptions for repairing tractors, cars, and tablets. Unfortunately, the Office rejected their request to legalize certain game console repairs and added a number of restrictions. Sigh!
Still, this is a huge achievement. They have demonstrated the legal challenges facing repair, and the Copyright Office agrees that the right of owners to modify their equipment supersedes attempts by manufacturers to limit our freedom to tinker. This is an important precedent.
As they say at iFixit,
You bought it, you should own it. Period. You should have the right to use it, modify it, and repair it wherever, whenever, and however you want. Defend your right to fix.
Read the whole story on their site: We Just Legalized Repairing Tractors, Cars, and Tablets | iFixit.