All posts tagged DMCA

Credit – Cathryn Virginia

We’ve talked about manufacturers limiting their customers’ ability to work on their own machines and devices before. They use all sorts of excuses, ranging from copyright to deep concern for their customers’ safety, when it’s really a deep desire for their customers’ money. Farmers have pushed back by trying to circumvent the measures used to lock them out. An entity called iFixit is working steadily on finding ways to fix everything and share them with the public. There have been small victories along the way.

Now there’s a new atrocity showing itself. The people manufacturing the ventilators essential to saving lives are trying to make it impossible to repair and re-use them. In this time when we’re supposed to all be in this together, they’re in it for themselves. This is what happens when we let them excuse themselves by saying that their only responsibility is to their shareholders.

Medical care providers are fighting back by hacking ventilators to get them working again. A few quotes from the article at Motherboard:

As COVID-19 surges, hospitals and independent biomedical technicians have turned to a global grey-market for hardware and software to circumvent manufacturer repair locks and keep life-saving ventilators running.

You can’t just take the working parts from different machines to make a working ventilator.

… a functional monitor swapped from a machine with a broken breathing unit to one with a broken monitor but a functioning breathing unit won’t work if the software isn’t synced.

These fixers have taken a page from the John Deere tractor owners who had to hack their machines to get their work done.

This grey-market, international supply chain is essentially identical to one used by farmers to repair John Deere tractors without the company’s authorization and has emerged because of the same need to fix a device without a manufacturer’s permission.

It’s getting harder.

… newer medical devices have more advanced anti-repair technologies built into them. Newer ventilators connect to proprietary servers owned by manufacturers to verify that the person accessing it is authorized by the company to do so.

There’s a lot more in the Motherboard article, both infuriating and encouraging. Go ahead.


Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.


… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger


Waring Abbott/Getty Images

Waring Abbott/Getty Images

This is an update on previous posts on Green Comet, one on the John Deere debacle, and one on the champions of fixing our own stuff, iFixit. This one is about a change to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that allows car owners to make modifications to their cars without breaking the law.

The DMCA exemptions were announced in 2015, but they took a whole year to go into effect.

Source: Modders, rejoice: It’s legal to tweak your car’s software now – Roadshow

Fix on!


Last Fall I published an article about iFixit, the activist group trying to make it safe, even possible for people to fix their own stuff. That article referred to a Wired article about the John Deere company trying to make it illegal for farmers to fix their own tractors. Now Modern Farmer has an article about how farmers feel about that.

– This might be hard to believe for non-farmers, but owners of tractors aren’t actually allowed to fix them, thanks to a set of laws designed to protect software intellectual property.

– John Deere, the world’s largest tractor maker, said that the folks who buy tractors don’t own them, not in the way the general public believes “ownership” works. Instead, John Deere said that those who buy tractors are actually purchasing an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

– Farmers are fed up with being forced to endure long, inefficient repair processes.

Source: Farmers Demand Right to Fix Their Own Dang Tractors – Modern Farmer

I’m tired of people using copyright this way. It’s bad enough that copyright has been extended so far that the original creator’s grandchildren will be dead before it expires. Now it’s being used to curtail competition in business. Could someone please throw a pitcher of ice water on our politicians? We need to break their thrall.



By now we’ve all heard of the shameful way Volkswagen has cheated all of us in their manipulation of pollution test results. The software in its emission control system could detect when it was being tested, and change the car’s operations to produce better results. This was not an accident. It was not a mistake borne of ignorance. Officials at VW were warned by Bosch, the maker of the devices, and by their own engineers that misuse of the system would lead to false readings. Their cynical cheating is now bringing harm to their investors, who saw an immediate thirty percent drop in their share values; harm to their customers, who saw the value of their vehicles fall; harm to the rest of us by covert pollution.

How did Volkswagen use the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to help them in this fraud? The DMCA is meant to protect “intellectual property” by making it illegal to circumvent the restrictions placed on it. If a company only wants you to be able to watch their movie, say, in certain parts of the world on approved devices, they put a lock on it and use the DMCA to force you to comply. In their ignorance, the lawmakers extended this protection to software, and VW used the DMCA to keep people from seeing what they were doing. If people had been able to analyze the code, this crime might not have happened. Requests from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to exempt this kind of software were rejected. Ironically, the DMCA also makes it impossible to examine the code of software used to circumvent the programming in cars’ computers. See my previous posts referencing the DMCA here, here, here and here.

How does closed, proprietary software make the situation worse? If the code in control systems in our cars, homes, offices, factories, nuclear power plants and voting machines is not open for inspection, then we’re left to blindly trust those who employ those systems. We simply have to trust that they will do the right thing and protect our interests. Volkswagen has shown that to be a misplaced trust. As Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center says, “Proprietary software is an unsafe building material.”

If this debacle forces lawmakers to reconsider making this software open for inspection, then maybe some good will come of it. If not, then there will continue to be abuses like this, only we should expect them to be better concealed.


edit:  Here’s a thoughtful article by Bradley M. Kuhn of the Software Freedom Conservancy, discussing the issue as it affects Free Software, and how Free Software might have affected the situation.

How Would Software Freedom Have Helped With VW?