Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act

I posted portions of the following comment on Schneier’s blog today. Thought it deserved a place here as well.

This is an excellent quote, discovered in a Wired story called “Drivers Want Code to their Cars“:

“‘There is really no time in my schedule for sitting around a car dealership listening to some fat guy in a clip-on tie tell me that the problem is my fault,’ [a 2002 car owner] said. ‘Instead of explaining anything to me they just pull out a warranty sheet with a highlighted portion indicating that they don’t cover Check Engine light problems.’

A bill floating through Congress could help people like Seymour by forcing automakers to share diagnostic codes with car buyers and independent mechanics. The Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act would give Seymour the means to determine whether the Check Engine light signaled another gas cap vagary or a major oil leak. The legislation would also allow Seymour to choose an independent — and possibly cheaper — repair shop instead of being forced to go to the dealership.

The legislation argues that consumers own their vehicles in their entirety and should be able to access their onboard computers.”

I think that’s “own” as in “beer”, not speech…

I know it’s a stretch, but imagine personal computer users making the same kind of demand (ok, forget the clip-on tie part). You would have a legal precedent for a “right to repair”, which could be extended to a need for source, no? How does IP get protected when you give away the details needed to make repairs, or should IP rights be placed above the right to prevent harm or even just maintain value for a buyer? More research required.

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