Saturday, May 30, 2015

How copyright law threatens your right to repair your car; Vox, 5/28/15

Timothy B. Lee, Vox; How copyright law threatens your right to repair your car:
"The DMCA prohibits anyone from "circumventing" electronic locks that prevent copying of copyrighted content, including software. The law was designed for the kind of copy-prevention schemes used by DVDs and online music stores like iTunes.
But the software baked into your car is also copyrighted. In theory, that means carmakers could invoke the DMCA to shut down third-party diagnostic tools, shut out independent mechanics, and prevent customers from repairing their own vehicles. Earlier this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a petition with the Librarian of Congress, which has the authority to grant DMCA exemptions, to allow customers and independent mechanics to repair their vehicles without the permission of automakers.
Most automakers oppose the petition. General Motors, for example, argues that the ban on tinkering with car software is an important safety feature. "The proposed exemption presents a host of potential safety, security and regulatory concerns that proponents have not fully considered," the carmaker says.
They point out, for example, that someone could use software to disable a car's airbag and then sell the vehicle to another customer, who would have no way of knowing the airbag wouldn't deploy in an accident.
This isn't a crazy argument. The software on your smartphone or PC can't get anyone killed. The software in your car can. So it's worth being concerned about the safety risks of unauthorized software tampering.
But people have had the ability to modify their cars in potentially dangerous ways since long before the invention of software."

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