U.S. Copyright Office Grants Vehicle “Right To Repair” Exemption
Access to Telematics or Entertainment Systems Excluded from Exemption
Mark it up as a modest win for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. Today, the U.S. Copyright office granted an exemption allowing vehicle owners to diagnose, repair, or modify their personal vehicles without fear of prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You may remember reading earlier this year our report about automotive manufacturers asserting that vehicle software was the property of the manufacturers and that any tampering or modification of vehicle software could be prosecuted by the original equipment manufacturers. The copyright office ruled in favor of enthusiasts but perhaps not to the extent aftermarket component manufacturers or SEMA, an enthusiast and aftermarket advocacy association, might have wished.
Specifically protected or exempted from prosecution are individual vehicle owners that circumvent vehicle controls for the purposes of vehicle diagnosis, repair, or modification. Specifically excluded from the exemption is access and protection from prosecution when modifying a vehicle’s telematics or entertainment system. Also excluded from the exemption was third parties doing modifications on behalf of vehicle owners, potentially complicating things for tuner shops and vehicle modifiers.
Auto manufacturers lobbied hard for telematics and entertainment systems to be a protected class of software and hardware. Recent demonstrations of vehicles’ vulnerabilities to hacking were demonstrated, causing many to fear a Pandora’s box of unpredictable problems once those systems were opened up to tinkerers, including a malicious takeover of vehicle control systems such as steering, braking, and throttle controls.