HB 286 – Empowering An Individual’s Right To Repair

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.

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BenevolusbethebalanceMr. BearNoParty4MeWill Durant Recent comment authors
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Mr. Bear
Mr. Bear

Of course, this comes at a time when the typical citizen simply throws out a “broken” item away rather than fixing it because either parts aren’t available or the process of opening up a device is so complicated as to be impossible without special tools. At the same time, the notion of fixing things has declined in direct proportion to the presence of an adequate tool box filled with simple, useful tools. At some point after World War II, a German Army general was asked what major reasons led to the Axis’ defeat. His response? One contributing factor was the… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

The cost of repair approximating buying new, I often have items repaired even when that is not the least expensive overall, i.e. finding a shop, dropping off or shipping, picking up, item will be fully serviceable but not new, etc.

I do so because repair expenses disproportionately go to labor, and people need work. It’s a variation on my buying local and buying American when its competitive but may not be the very best choice.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Times have changed and Emmett’s Fix-It Shop doesn’t exist anymore. Electronics that I could repair myself with the ability to trace out a circuit diagram now use a single dime-sized chip. Cars with carburetors, points, condensors, or even distributors are long gone. Even with the expertise and/or the proper password to work on one you need a computer, specialty program, and connectors to go with them. Short of a shoe cobbler I don’t know much that can be repaired here without a manufacturer’s connection and when was the last time you saw one of those? As far as the other… Read more »

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Our household experienced auto diagnostics failure to great hilarity. The technician could read the error codes but were clueless as to how or what to fix. This happened twice with different vehicles. We switched mechanics.The days of a mechanic taking your vehicle for a spin around the block and instantly knowing the problem from a few clicks and clacks may be numbered. Our 20+ year old stack washer dryer wasn’t heating. A handful of parts and new coils got it working again. I dread the day when I am stuck with a non repairable appliance due to technology overload. Just… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

That happened to me recently too. “Check engine” light came on. Took it to the dealer. He said the diagnostics said it was something to do with the transfer case. I said “what’s a transfer case”. He said it’s part of the 4 wheel drive system.
My car is not 4 wheel drive.

Mr. Bear
Mr. Bear

Repairing things is a “state of mind” kind of thing. Either you do or you don’t. Some of this is just old-fashioned thinking, an attitude that seems hopelessly 20th Century, out of touch with the modern world. But there is a certain sense of pride in being able to get something working again for a few dollars rather than going out and spending thousands of dollars buying something that is not only new but also is so poorly designed that it won’t last five years. Don’t get my lovely bride started on our new washing machine. I still regret not… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

I sure hope this helps. I’ve considered it a bit of a racket that manufacturers compel you to use repair services only they have authorized. An extra step to help out on this issue, if it’s not out there already, would be to mandate a clear and obvious disclosure of such terms with the sale, along with sample special fees for diagnosis or whatnot, so that potential buyers know they could be locking into a lifelong relationship with the manufacturer’s terms of repair. Also, I see a huge opening in the markets for any products that don’t require special access… Read more »

Mr. Bear
Mr. Bear

It doesn’t help when you discover that the manufacturer’s designated representative for repairs can be startlingly incompetent. Great self-esteem. Poor ability to fix things. After five or six visits from these experts, just going out and buying another one starts to make sense.