California has become the 20th state to push for the right to repair, as it reintroduced a modified Right to Repair Bill to its state congress again five days ago, which was killed on the floor. But what does right to repair mean? And does it really affect the average person?
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Think about your cell phone, car, headphones- anything you have that runs on any kind of machinery, electronic or otherwise. When it breaks, you might try and fix it. But if you don’t know how to, odds are you’ll take it in to an expert or simply replace it. For a while now, manufacturers of those products you buy- companies like Apple- have cut off your access to repairing your broken phone or headphones by claiming that repairing those devices yourself would infringe on their proprietary rights. But that is nothing more than a marketing scam. In reality, manufacturers can’t control property beyond selling it- those proprietary rights are not based on any law.
Copyright law does not prohibit you or anyone from repairing your devices, no matter what those companies might claim. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office concluded that manufacturers have actually been removing existing legal rights through unclear and unfair contracts, which can only be resolved by state law.
The Right to Repair states that you, as a consumer, have the right as declared by the U.S. government to repair, modify, and alter your devices however you see fit, and that the manufacturers of those devices cannot stop you. Moreover, their keeping back repair information or locking it away from you on your phone is not grounded in law.
It’s also better for the environment- all those obsolete devices you’re forced to throw away or recycle often could have been fixed, if the companies that made them had allowed key information to be released, instead of holding onto it.
This kind of legislation has been successful before in 2012, when the Auto Right to Repair bills were passed in Massachusetts. With more states than ever backing the current bill, a policy might be created that would allow consumers and manufacturers to communicate with each other. If the Right to Repair Bill were passed, it would create a steady flow of information and foster a more beneficial environment around the upkeep of the products sold to Americans.
You can learn more about the proposed legislation, find ways to get involved and discover a full library of repair/fixit materials and guides at Repair.org and iFixit.org.
Lilia Taylor is 21 years old, studying English and Marketing at New Mexico State University. She hopes to have a job involving books someday, loves the smell of coffee (not so much the taste) and tries to get outside whenever she can.