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
- Mercedes-Benz USA
- Mitsubishi Motors
- 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.