The right to repair movement just got a big boost from the US Copyright Office. Responding to proposals from a variety of organizations, including the and , the office on Wednesday recommended new exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as it relates to the repair of consumer electronics. The statute prohibits the circumvention of software copy protection and has been the target of right to repair advocates for years.
As reported by , the Copyright Office recommends additional protections for many consumer-facing devices that rely on software to function. As one example, it adopts a recommendation from Public Knowledge and iFixit that involves video game consoles. It says “the repair of software-enabled consumer devices is likely to be fair use, the Register finds that certain video game console repair is also likely fair use.”
It notes consumers can access the firmware on their systems as long as it’s with the intention of fixing the device’s optical drive and they restore any protective measures afterward. The rulemaking stops short of protecting non-consumer devices. However, the Library of Congress has , paving the way for them to go into effect on October 28th.
The decision is likely to complement the efforts of the Biden administration on the same front. At the start of July, the president to draft new rules to empower consumers and businesses to repair their devices on their own and at independent shops. The executive order marked the first time a US president had ever weighed in on the right to repair movement. Later that same month, the FTC complied with the directive, voting unanimously to . At the time, it said it would work with law enforcement and policymakers to update existing regulations to protect small businesses and companies that would prevent them from fixing their own products.
We’ve reached out to iFixit and the EFF for comment.