Monday, June 5, 2023

Copyright law is a brick of your game console. It’s time to fix this

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Game consoles aren’t the only things that are illegal to repair. Philips is sue companies who repair medical equipment for hospitals, claiming to have bypassed digital locks in the course of their work. Seems familiar? This is because there isn’t much of a practical difference between the software on your console, smartphone, or fan. They are just computers. But the Copyright Office insists on defining these categories so narrowly that we have to ask for separate exemptions for each type of product. For example, the Copyright Office requires us to seek a different exemption for smart TVs and smart fridges, even though Samsung uses the same Tizen operating system for both. Access the software in exactly the same way John deere engine in a tractor or boat requires two completely different exemptions. According to the Copyright Office, the former is currently licensed and the latter is not.

Hopefully some boat mechanics will band together to hire intellectual property lawyers who can ask Washington to make their business legal again. If that sounds ridiculous, that’s exactly what Summit imagery and Transtate Equipment, two medical services companies, are currently doing so.

This mishmash of product-specific exemptions is the result of a process biased against technology users. Having to go to the Copyright Office every three years, hat in hand, to ask for permission to just fix our stuff is maddening. Congress thinks so too, and Representative Zoe Lofgren of California has legislation introduced several times which would grant a permanent exemption to Section 1201 for activities like repair that do not otherwise violate copyright law.

A lot has happened in the past three years, and a lot will happen in the next three. Technology is evolving at a speed that far exceeds the Copyright Office exemption process. There is no way that current copyright exemptions can predict (and protect us from) new anti-repair practices, emerging technologies or a global supply chain failure. The Copyright Office may believe it is protecting the interests of the content industry, but in reality, it is hampering essential repair services – essential to maintaining the things that power our economy – with arbitrary rules and cumbersome administrative processes. We cannot continue to play the whack-a-mole exemption. Consumers deserve the right to fix everything they own.

Unfortunately at the moment, we are stuck with a broken law. But an exemption for gaming consoles will help people and repair shops get consoles back to working order, save more circuit boards. clogging of waste streamsand get back to playing your favorite games.

Even as manufacturers keep releasing new consoles, repair shops see a real demand to keep older gaming consoles running. Harwell knows that some customers – out of nostalgia, frugality, or a desire to appease the kids – want to launch an older Xbox or PlayStation and play with old favorites.

But the inability to repair consoles without a new motherboard or tedious soldering jobs make repairs more expensive than they should be. Tim Mentzer, owner of Mentzer repairs in Ephrata, Pa., estimates that locked parts are responsible for about 70 percent of consoles put out of service in his workshop, either because of a physical impossibility or because the parts needed make the parts too expensive for his customers. clients.

When I spoke to Harwell at Replay’d he didn’t mince words, “Microsoft and Sony are irresponsible,” he told me. “It’s irresponsible that they make consoles with a part that could be easily replaced so hard to [repair]. You can avoid wastage once the disks fail. We end up with all these boxes just recycled and thrown away. “

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