It’s become increasingly frustrating that when a device breaks or gets damaged it’s almost impossible to get it fixed without going back to the manufacturer. But a new ruling from the US Copyright Office relaxes the restrictions on what can be done with gadgets you own.

Starting Oct. 28, it will be legal to unlock new smartphones, to jailbreak voice assistant devices such as smart speakers, and to repair home devices including smartphones, home appliances, and smart home devices.

The repair exemptions for home devices extend to the ability to root a device during an attempted fix. This is important because it should mean that any device set up to brick itself if tinkered with can still be repaired, as long as it falls under the umbrella of “home devices,” which is good news for repair businesses.

The bad news is, game consoles were denied an exemption, meaning it remains difficult and expensive to get your console repaired. Land vehicles, boats, and aircraft were also denied.

At issue is Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which forbids people or businesses from circumventing the digital locks companies put on their products.

“It shifts control of our products from us, the owners, to the original makers of the equipment. This law has been a significant contributor to the steady erosion of ownership rights,” iFixit explains.

According to iFixit, the Copyright Office’s decision means, for example, that “it’s finally legal to root and fix the Revolv smart home hubs that Google bricked when they shut down the servers. Or pretty much any other home device.”

The Copyright Office reviews proposed exemptions to Section 1201 every three years. This year, a team of nine—including representatives from iFixit, Repair.org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Cydia—were “grilled” by the Copyright Office for three days in Los Angeles. Stanford’s IP law clinic was also on hand to help argue the finer points of the law if needed.

As Kyle Wiens from iFixit explains, the Copyright Office “had done their homework, and asked intelligent questions on a startling variety of topics.” This was important, as was the experience of the team fighting for more freedom, because on the other side of the table were the MPAA, RIAA, and Auto Alliance, among others, who represent the businesses taking advantage of the current restrictions.

The good news is, the Copyright Office understood why there is so much frustration in this area. Its final ruling was accompanied by 342 pages of background material, so there’s a lot of detail in there. Over time it should become much clearer what the new freedoms really mean, with new and existing repair services stepping up to take full advantage of them and wrestle some control back from the major manufacturers

 

Source: pcmag | By Matthew Humphries | October 26, 2018 | https://www.pcmag.com/news/364639/it-will-soon-be-legal-to-repair-your-own-echo-speaker-smart

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