Carmakers Want to Ban Home Mechanics from Making Repairs

Certain provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have encouraged automakers to request the outlawing of gearheads from fixing their own cars. The copyright law, passed in 1998, has never been applied to cars, but may be applied now that vehicles have digital systems. The US Copyright Office is currently examining whether or not the copyright law covers vehicles as intellectual property and prohibits home mechanics from modifying and tuning their cars.

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Reports said the Association of Global Automakers, a lobbying group composed of a dozen carmakers, has requested the US Copyright Office to ban owners from manipulating “computer programs that control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle, including personal automobiles, commercial motor vehicles, and agricultural machinery, for purposes of lawful diagnosis and repair, or aftermarket personalization, modification, or other improvement.”

The AGA stated the modifier needs substantial amount of copyrighted software to exact modifications, diagnosis, repairs or other improvements to a car. The lobbying group claimed, “Copying the software is at issue after all, not wholly replacing it.”

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Similarly, Auto Alliance, another lobbying firm representing 12 other automakers, has also requested the same. AA reasoned, “Allowing vehicle owners to add and remove [electronic control] programs at whim is highly likely to take vehicles out of compliance with [federal] requirements, rendering the operation or re-sale of the vehicle legally problematic.” AA added that prohibiting “unauthorized tinkering” helps ensure “safety and security of drivers and passengers and to reduce the level of non-compliance with regulatory standards.”

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Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation a nonprofit organization that supports individual rights in the digital world, has pleaded the office to provide exemptions to car enthusiasts who need to access necessary car parts.

The US Copyright Office holds hearings every three years to examine the provisions of the copyright law. Interested parties have until the end of April to file comments on the matter. The office has announced the release of its final decision by the middle of 2015.

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