Right to repair

New exemptions will allow owners to repair everything from iPhones to tractors — without going to jail

New exemptions will allow owners to repair everything from iPhones to tractors — without going to jail

By Tequia Burt
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

Nicholas Percoco, an information security expert and co-founder of THOTCON, an annual nonprofit hacking conference based in Chicago, said that, as a hacker, he welcomes recent changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, that could keep him out of prison.

“DMCA protects the manufacturers, but it really didn’t protect consumers or, especially in my world, did not protect the researchers,” he said. “Before these recent expansions, if you had a passion for doing security research and finding flaws in systems, you could step on the wrong toes and find yourself in jail.”

Last October, the Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office expanded exemptions to the act that lets consumers and independent repair experts “jailbreak” their electronic devices to repair or maintain them. These exemptions to copyright law — which will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars and smart home appliances — enables owners to hack the software embedded on their devices without getting into legal trouble.

“This new ruling means you can’t block people from fixing electronics that they own,” said Nathan Proctor, director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair at consumer-rights organization US PIRG.

Advocates in the “right to repair” movement want people to have the ability to more easily maintain and repair their devices.

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Originally published in February 2019 in Chicago Lawyer

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