States aim to legalize the “Right to Repair” your gear

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“Unofficial” product repair shops may be getting a leg up in Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Kansas. These states are working to legalize repair of devices from any manufacturer, including litigious Apple. Why is this necessary? Because Homeland Security raids repair shops on claims of counterfeit repair part importation and most devices are locked down, protected with end-user licenses, and are generally impossible to repair without help and, of course, authorization.

The new legislation is detailed in Motherboard where we learn that the bills are being pushed forward by repair.org, a small lobbying organization consisting of hardware repair companies.

“Limited authorized channels result in inflated, high repair prices and high overturn of electronic items,” the New York legislators wrote. “Another concern is the large amount of electronic waste created by the inability to affordably repair broken electronics.” New York, interestingly, was one of the first states to try to reduce e-waste by forcing manufacturers to take back old product.

The laws are based on the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, a Massachusetts that allows you to repair your own car. Given that many device makers think that products are licensed to the customer rather than sold – John Deere has been cracking down on tractor owners with the DMCA stating that the software on the rigs renders the product unrepairable – this is definitely important.

As evidenced by iFixIt tear downs most devices are impossible to repair. My new MacBook Pro, for example – a multi thousand dollar machine – is impossible to repair or upgrade. Not only is it prohibitively difficult to open the case all of the parts are soldered down. I’m sure someone with some patience and an iron could get the job done, they would not be able to get parts. This law would at least make it possible for me – or someone else – to try.

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