February 18, 2019 8:30 AM
House Bill 286 was introduced by Representative Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) last week to address an on-going issue of manufacturers limiting the ability to maintain, diagnose, or repair equipment that a person has bought and owns. As more and more things that we buy (e.g., cars, phones, TVs, refrigerators, etc.) come with embedded software, device manufacturers are putting Digital Rights Management (DRM) protections to limit access. This means, folks trying to repair the stuff that they have purchased with their own dollars and own outright could potentially face lawsuits for breaking the DRM.
HB 286 will empower individuals who own (not lease) devices to have access to the same tools, unlocking devices, and passwords that manufacturers make available to authorized repair providers for under “fair and reasonable terms”.
It’s getting a lot of push-back from the industry with concerns about “giving away” intellectual property. There are two myths that are being perpetrated by people opposing the bill: 1.) it’s not the proper role of government to force businesses to 2.) give away their own property.
While it’s true that government shouldn’t force someone to “give away” their property for no compensation, this is not what this bill says or does. Remember the phrase “fair and reasonable terms”? Here’s the definition from the bill:
(5) ‘Fair and reasonable terms’ means at costs and under terms, including terms for convenience of delivery, equivalent to what is offered by the original equipment manufacturer to an authorized repair provider, using the net costs that would be incurred by an authorized repair provider in obtaining an equivalent part or tool or documentation from the original equipment manufacturer and accounting for any discounts, rebates, or other incentive programs in arriving at the actual net costs; provided, however, that when such term is used in relation to documentation and relevant updates, such term means at no charge, except that when the documentation is requested in physical printed form, a charge may be included for the reasonable actual costs of preparing and sending the copy
Further, the bill doesn’t force companies to divulge trade secrets as a part of complying with this Right to Repair bill, nor does it require a manufacturer to make available replacement parts that are no longer available to the original equipment manufacturer.
John Deere, the example folks usually point to when discussing Right to Repair, has (or will have) an online portal where customers pay an annual subscription fee to have access to diagnostic tools, manuals, schematics, and other resources to aid in the maintaining, diagnosing, or repairing their John Deere equipment. It’s a similar measure that auto manufacturers entered into bringing an end to their resistance with “right to repair”.
This bill aims to defend individual property rights, and it does so with respect to the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets of companies.