The right to open up your stuff is under attack, but DIY fixers are keeping the art of repair alive.
iFixit is spearheading an attempt to make it not only easier, but in some cases legal, to repair your own stuff. The John Deere company tried to use copyright law to make it illegal for farmers to repair their tractors. Fortunately, a lawsuit pushed by iFixit recently resulted in a victory for farmers against this immoral behavior. Apple corporation began using an oddball screwhead to make it difficult, if not impossible, for their customers to even open their devices. If you can’t open it, you can’t repair it.
“That Apple and other electronics manufacturers don’t sell repair parts to consumers or write service manuals for them isn’t just annoying, it’s an environmental disaster,” (Kyle Wiens) says. “Recent shifts to proprietary screws, the ever-present threat of legal action under a trainwreck of a copyright law, and an antagonistic relationship with third-party repair shops shows that the anti-repair culture at major manufacturers isn’t based on negligence or naiveté, it’s malicious.”
John Deere told the copyright office that allowing farmers and mechanics to repair their own tractors would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.”
“We decided as a result of our research in the developing world that what the world needed was an open source repair manual for everything,” (Kyle Wiens) said. “There’s two ways of doing that—you get the manufacturers to open source their documents, or you write a new one. We have not given up on the first one, but we have focused our efforts on the second.”
Small victories give hope that progress will be made in this area, but the manufacturers still seem more intent on locking their customers out than on treating them with respect. Fortunately, we have people like Kyle Wiens and organizations like iFixit watching out for us.