In-brief: Proposed legislation to prevent manufacturers from denying owners and independent repair people to fix and maintain software-based products is being sidelined by opposition from private firms like equipment maker John Deere, Motherboard reports.
Consumer-friendly right to repair laws modeled on Massachusetts’ 2012 law (governing automobiles) are on the dockets in five states, as this blog has noted before. Alas, in at least one of those states – Minnesota – the bill appears to be headed to a quiet death, as lobbying by companies like John Deere have resulted in the shelving of the bill, Motherboard reports.
Statehouse employees in Minnesota say that lobbying efforts by big tech companies and John Deere are on the verge of killing right to repair legislation in the state that would have made it easier for consumers and small businesses to fix their electronics.According to two of the bill’s sponsors, the bill, which would have introduced “fair repair” requirements for manufacturers in the state, will not get a hearing that’s necessary to move the legislation forward. Minnesota Senate rules automatically kills any bills that do not have a hearing scheduled by a certain date (this year, it’s March 10).
Last year, tech industry lobbying killed a similar bill in New York.”Unfortunately, it’s not going to make deadline this session,” Republican Sen. David Osmek, one of the sponsors, told me in an email. Osmek would not give additional specifics about his colleagues’ concerns with the bill, but a legislative assistant for the bill’s other sponsor told me that electronic manufacturer lobbying is likely to blame, while another source close to the legislature told me that tractor manufacturer John Deere—a long time enemy of fair repair—helped kill the bill as well.
Bills have been introduced in Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Kansas. In Wyoming, a farm equipment repair bill establishes the same principles, but is limited to the servicing of tractors and other farm equipment.
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With more and more “stuff” running software, the right of technology owners and independent repairmen and women to tinker with, service and maintain software-powered devices is more important than ever. Using sophisticated software lock-out tools originally developed to protect copyrighted material like motion pictures, companies like John Deere have essentially been able to capture ongoing repair and maintenance away from independent service shops.
In its recently released draft framework for security and privacy on the Internet of Things, for example, Consumer Reports cited the right to repair as a core tenet. “Copyright laws are important, but they can also be abused. In general, when consumers buy products, we think they should be able to alter, fix, or resell them,” Consumer Reports wrote.