Federal Agencies Support Regulations in Existing Law Allowing Right to Repair

Renewing and expanding repair-related exemptions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 would make it easier and cheaper for people to fix things they own.

Right-to-Repair-exemptions-DCMA-1998-FTC-DOJ
Expanding repair exemptions in the law can remove barriers that limit the ability of independent service providers to provide repair services, the agencies said. Image via Shutterstock.

Two federal agencies recently submitted a joint comment recommending renewing and expanding temporary repair-related exemptions to a federal law protecting copyrighted content, to allow consumers’ and businesses’ right to repair their own products.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) submitted the comment to the U.S. Copyright Office, which might recommend the Librarian of Congress renew and expand exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in 1998, which prohibits circumventing measures that control access to copyrighted content.

In their comment, the FTC and DOJ said renewing and expanding repair-related exemptions would promote competition in markets for replacement parts, repair and maintenance services, as well as allow competition in markets for repairable products. Doing so would benefit consumers and businesses by making it easier and cheaper to fix things they own. Expanding repair exemptions can also remove barriers that limit the ability of independent service providers to provide repair services.

According to the comment, software "locks" that protect copyrighted content from theft and infringing uses can also be used to prevent third-party repair, by the owner of the product or an independent repairer.

For example, such measures can restrict access to computer maintenance hardware and software programs, leaving only the OEM able to do maintenance and repair work. The FTC and DOJ said that can be used to squash competition for replacement parts, repair and maintenance, which ultimately limits consumers’ and businesses’ choices and raises costs.

Among the specific DMCA exemptions the FTC and DOJ support renewing is one related to the repair of vehicles. They also support adding a new one to allow vehicle owners or independent repair shops to access, store and share vehicle operational data.

In a statement, Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of Auto Care Association, said his organization supports the joint comment.

"In particular, on behalf of the entire automotive aftermarket, Auto Care Association agrees with the DOJ and the FTC that the Class 7 exemption to allow vehicle owners and repair facilities greater access to vehicle diagnostic and telematics data for monitoring purposes is critically important to lower the cost of repairs, improve access to repair services, and minimize costly and inconvenient delays," Hanvey said.

The Auto Care Association also launched a new video campaign emphasizing the need to pass a new law, the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act, which was unanimously advanced by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce last November.

In the new campaign, shop owners from across the U.S. share their stories and shed light on the increased challenges independent repair shops are facing with accessing repair data to service their customers’ vehicles.

“You can’t do the simplest job anymore without [needing] to get into the computer system,” said Dwayne Myers, co-owner of Dynamic Automotive, an automotive repair business with six locations in Frederick County in Maryland. “If Congress doesn’t take action on the right to repair, it will only increase what it costs to fix your car. The REPAIR Act has bipartisan support because it really ties back to the American dream. It puts everyone on a fair playing field.”

“The impact to the consumer is that they have less choice and pay more for repairs that take two, three or four times longer,” said Kathleen Callahan, owner of Xpertech Auto Repair, a family-owned automotive repair shop in Englewood, FL. “I support the REPAIR Act because I want to protect my legacy, my customer’s choice, and the independent aftermarket that I’m so proud to be a part of.”

Abby Andrews

Editor
Abby Andrews is the editor and regular columnist of Autobody News.

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