Big Automakers Want to Make it Against the Law to Work on Your Own Car

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It was recent­ly report­ed that automak­ers could soon be going after car own­ers for mak­ing repairs on their own vehi­cles. Some of the indus­tries lead­ing com­pa­nies are now claim­ing that their soft­ware has become so com­pli­cat­ed that “tam­per­ing with it,” or mak­ing repairs on your own prop­er­ty, could be a copy­right vio­la­tion.

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, Tes­la, the com­pa­ny which has the most com­pli­cat­ed tech­nol­o­gy in their vehi­cles, is not in sup­port of this legal action.

A sim­ple change in clas­si­fi­ca­tion could change how cars are approached legal­ly, allow­ing automak­ers to make copy­right claims against the peo­ple who they sell their cars to. That is exact­ly what com­pa­nies like GM and Ford are push­ing for, a reclas­si­fi­ca­tion of cars as “mobile com­put­ing devices” — a move that allows for a num­ber of legal loop­holes that would all be a dis­ad­van­tage to the con­sumer.

As of now there are cur­rent­ly 13 auto man­u­fac­tur­ers on the list sup­port­ing that the DMCA be applied to cars:

  • Gen­er­al Motors Com­pa­ny
  • BMW Group
  • FCA US LLC
    Ford Motor Com­pa­ny
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Maz­da
  • Mer­cedes-Benz USA
  • Mit­subishi Motors
  • Porsche
  • Toy­ota
  • Volk­swa­gen Group of Amer­i­ca
  • Vol­vo Cars North Amer­i­ca

These com­pa­nies have made the fol­low­ing state­ment jus­ti­fy­ing why they want to make it ille­gal for peo­ple to work on their own cars:

Auto­mo­biles are inher­ent­ly mobile, and increas­ing­ly they con­tain equip­ment that would com­mon­ly be con­sid­ered com­put­ing devices… Many of the ECUs embod­ied in today’s motor vehi­cles are care­ful­ly cal­i­brat­ed to sat­is­fy fed­er­al or state reg­u­la­to­ry require­ments with respect to emis­sions con­trol, fuel econ­o­my, or vehi­cle safe­ty. Allow­ing vehi­cle own­ers to add and remove pro­grams at whim is high­ly like­ly to take vehi­cles out of com­pli­ance with these require­ments, ren­der­ing the oper­a­tion or re-sale of the vehi­cle legal­ly prob­lem­at­ic. 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. We urge the Copy­right Office to give full con­sid­er­a­tion to the impacts on crit­i­cal nation­al ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal goals, as well as motor vehi­cle safe­ty, in its deci­sion on this pro­posed exemp­tion. Since the record on this pro­pos­al con­tains no evi­dence regard­ing its applic­a­bil­i­ty to or impact on motor vehi­cles, cars and trucks should be specif­i­cal­ly exclud­ed from any exemp­tion that is rec­om­mend­ed in this area.

It seems obvi­ous that these com­pa­nies have a finan­cial incen­tive to not allow peo­ple to work on their own cars, and large cor­po­ra­tions have tra­di­tion­al­ly used copy­right as a toolto gain an advan­tage over com­pe­ti­tion and cus­tomers.