Claiming that modern vehicles are “too complex” for home mechanics to fix, automakers are seeking copyright restrictions to prevent gearheads from working on their own cars.
The Association of Global Automakers, a lobbying firm for 12 manufacturers, is asking the U.S. Copyright Office to prevent car owners from accessing “computer programs that control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle, including personal automobiles, commercial motor vehicles, and agricultural machinery, for purposes of lawful diagnosis and repair, or aftermarket personalization, modification, or other improvement.”
“In order to modify automotive software for the purpose of ‘diagnosis and repair, or aftermarket personalization, modification, or other improvement,’ the modifier must use a substantial amount of the copyrighted software – copying the software is at issue after all, not wholly replacing it,” the AGA claimed. “Because the ‘heart,’ if not the entirety, of the copyrighted work will remain in the modified copy, the amount and substantiality of the portion copied strongly indicates that the proposed uses are not fair.”
Auto Alliance, which also represents 12 automobile manufacturers, is also asking the agency to scrap exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allow car enthusiasts to modify and tune their rides.
“Allowing vehicle owners to add and remove [electronic control] programs at whim is highly likely to take vehicles out of compliance with [federal] requirements, rendering the operation or re-sale of the vehicle legally problematic,” Auto Alliance claimed in a statement. “The decision to employ access controls to hinder unauthorized ‘tinkering’ with these vital computer programs is necessary in order to protect the safety and security of drivers and passengers and to reduce the level of non-compliance with regulatory standards.”
But people have been working on their own cars since cars were invented.
“It’s not a new thing to be able to repair and modify cars,” a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kit Walsh, said. “It’s actually a new thing to keep people from doing it.”
Interestingly, this attack on the do-it-yourself auto hobby coincides with the current push towards self-driving cars, and who do you think will resist autonomous cars the most?
Auto hobbyists, such as hot rodders, drag racers and home tuners.
“The biggest threat to our hobby is those people in powerful situations who’s idea of a great day out in their car is to spend it riding in the back seat while someone else handles the driving ‘chore’ for them,” a hot rodder said on the subject. “These are the same people who will ban ‘old junk’ from the roads, enforce ’50 miles per gallon’ standards on new, and then older vehicles, and eventually force everyone to drive ‘standardized’ cars that will fit precisely in parking spaces, take up the minimum space on public roads, and follow all the ‘environmentally friendly’ buzz words while boring real car drivers like us to death.”
And the first step to keep people from behind the steering wheel is to keep them from opening the hood.