The recent right-to-repair smartphone ruling will also affect farm and industrial equipment


Last week, the tech press made a big deal out of a ruling by the Librarian of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office to allow consumers to break vendors’ digital rights management (DRM) schemes in order to fix their own smartphones and digital voice assistants. According to The Washington Post, for example, the ruling — which goes into effect Oct. 28 — was a big win for consumer right-to-repair advocates. 

Big news for vehicles

That promises to save millions of consumers some coin, but it may have a far bigger impact on a much smaller cohort: farmers, construction companies, fleet managers and other companies that now have legal permission to fix their motorized land vehicles (cars, tractors, and so on — owners of boats and airplanes are still out of luck).

As I noted in a Network World post earlier this year, many farmers have been struggling to get full benefits of the IoT technology built into their tractors because of restrictions written into their end-user license agreements (EULA). That can limit their use of the information generated about their own farming practices and also keep them from repairing their own equipment without calling in the vendor, as noted by Motherboard. The most publicized issue comes from John Deere, which argued that letting farmers fix their own equipment could lead to music piracy (no, not a joke).

Also on Network World: Big trouble down on the IoT farm

The new ruling may not give farmers ownership of their farming data, but at least they now have the right to ignore the DRMs and fix their own machines — or to hire independent repair services to do the job — instead of paying “dealer prices” to the vendors’ own repair crews.

Per Motherboard, the new ruling “allows breaking digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software locks for ‘the maintenance of a device or system … in order to make it work in accordance with its original specifications’ or for ‘the repair of a device or system … to a state of working in accordance with its original specifications.’”

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