A Right to Repair As electronics go smartphones and tractors are on the opposite ends of the spectrum And a laptop user and a farmer of corn and soybeans do not usually have much in common But should be upset for the same reasons Electronics are in everything from mobile devices to cars and tractors And many owners and or repair technicians are fighting to be able to repair those electronics Some types of electronics such as photocopiers and medical equipment have always been hard to fix because of their complexity But what has been an exception is now becoming a rule says Nabil Nasr of the Rochester Institute of Technology A right to repair movement tools up Even a John Deere tractor comes with intricate software controlling everything from the engine to the armrests Mobile devices are getting ever tighter packed to make them smaller and able to add new features Manufacturers are also creating new blocks for fixing devices Leased equipment and devices under warranty have always been a no go for repairs but firms now regularly prohibit tinkering with a product s software
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In the License Agreement for John Deere Embedded Software the company retains ownership of the software programs It also refers to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act a piece of legislation that makes it illegal for customers to circumvent copy protection But violating it can be unavoidable to develop diagnostic tools for electronic devices Firms also withhold technical schematics create proprietary repair tools and little to no spare parts In their defense firms say that restricting and prohibiting repairs whether by individual consumers or businesses helps protect their intellectual and creative property and works on behalf of consumers Apple for example claims to ensure that consumers do not hurt themselves with breaking glass from badly installed screens Also from their reasoning if Apple alone can replace the home button it is to stop hackers from exploiting the fingerprint ID system Highlighting the dangers researchers in Israel recently managed to fit smartphones with hacked screens which could be used to log keyboard input and install malicious apps Yet the lack of repairability has large drawbacks Authorised dealers are often far flung much more expensive than independent ones and often cannot fix a problem Barring owners from tinkering also limit innovation Many inventions in farming equipment such as circular irrigation systems were pioneered by farmers And not being able to easily mend a device says Mark Schaffer a manufacturing consultant contributes to a problem that already plagues many markets as more products from smartphones to washing machines are thrown away rather than repaired adding to waste and pollution
The share of new appliances sold to replace defective ones as opposed to first time purchases in Germany increased from 3 5 in 2004 to 8 3 in 2012 according to the Öko Institut a think tank Washing machines in particular are hard to fix The most common problem is that their bearings fail when these are sealed away in the drum repairers cannot access them To reverse the trend but also to defend its industry s turf the Repair Association a lobby group funded by repair shops as well as by environmental organizations and other charities wants states in America to pass right to repair laws These would require firms in all industries to provide consumers and independent repair shops with the same service documentation tools and spare parts that they make available to authorized service providers The hope is that once an important state passes such a law the country will follow as was the case in the car industry after Massachusetts in 2012 passed a right to repair law for cars that led to a national memorandum of understanding between carmakers and repair shops If no bill has been passed yet it is because the Repair Association has faced stiff resistance from manufacturers Apples strategy here is two pronged It has sent a lobbyist to Nebraska who reportedly warned local politicians that the legislation would make armies of hackers relocate to the state At the same time it has made largely symbolic concessions in June it announced that it would send 400 screen fixing machines to authorized repair shops so they no longer have to send broken iPhones to central repair facilities It is also investing in technology that makes it easier to recycle its products such as Liam a robot for disassembling iPhones Works Cited A right to repair movement tools up The Economist The Economist Newspaper 30 Sept 2017 www economist com news business 21729744 tractors smartphones mending things getting ever harder right repair movement Defend Your Right to Repair Electronic Frontier Foundation www eff org issues right to repair Grossman David Apple Doesn't Want You to Have the Right to Repair Popular Mechanics Popular Mechanics 14 Nov 2017 www popularmechanics com technology infrastructure a25246 right to repair legislation under fire in nebraska Legislation The Repair Association repair org legislation Right to Repair iFixit IFixit The iFixit Organization ifixit org right
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