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Five States Are Considering Bills to Legalize the 'Right to Repair' Electronics (vice.com)
129 points by walterbell on Jan 23, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

I don't see how this kind of state legislation solves any issue.

In the example given...Apple has never authorized a company to repair iPhones, but there are literally hundreds of companies out there who do it anyway...they just can't advertise that they're certified by Apple. The big problem seems to be the Department of Homeland Security raiding small local businesses and harassing them over "counterfeit parts". First of all, in most cases you're just dealing with typical small circuit boards and pieces of aluminum or glass or plastic. Second of all...why is this a matter for the DHS? Aren't they people who should be looking for bombs and things and dealing with actual important stuff?

Now, this law might make some supply of official parts available, so that's kind of positive, but there's an issue with that. Does that mean that every repair company can now only buy parts from Apple or risk a raid? This limits potential suppliers of commodity parts from many to just 1 and could jack up prices. The end result is that the consumer gets a piece of "Official Apple Glass" or "Official Apple Circuitboard" and pays much more for the privilege. As a consumer, I don't see a significant benefit to that.

why is this a matter for the DHS?

The DHS was created by aggregating 22 existing agencies. Those agencies are still responsible for their traditional functions.

The US Customs and Border Inspections is one such agency, it enforces laws against counterfeit goods and violations of US companies intellectual property rights.

Diagnostics manuals and schematics are currently illegally obtained by third party repairers (if they are available); if this was made legal it would potentially have far more value than the ability to freely purchase replacement parts.

My feelings are the the way forward is to not make more restrictions on what companies can do (by forcing them to sell repair parts), but rather to simply remove currently-existing restrictions on everybody in the form of IP laws (i.e. patents and copyrights on components) which prohibit consumers from legally making their own repair parts and doing their own repairs.

In New Zealand, we have the Consumer Protection Act. It has helped considerably. Mobile Station, an Auckland company, refused to warranty my Nexus 4 that died (mobile data stopped working first, but Wi-Fi/text still worked. Then it all died).

I reflashed the stock OS but forgot to relock the phone. They tried to say since I replaced the OS, I voided the warranty. I said the warning screen says "This might void your warranty" but that didn't apply because in NZ, we have the consumer protection act.


I had to go through a tribunal, that went two session each about 2 hours. I wasn't sure if I could make my case. I tried to state phone modification isn't warranty voiding; that people reinstall Windows or Linux onto laptops they purchase and that doesn't void the warranty.

The arbitrator eventually found in my favour because the device had failed slowly indicating a hardware failure and the manufacture didn't offer to repair the device for a fee (you are required to supply parts or repair). It was way too much work for $480, but I'm still glad that protection exists.

I would argue that this is more relevant to something like the medical repair industry. I have worked with repairing medical equipment and it's often required to use official parts. Yet oftentimes manufacturers won't sell you the parts you need.

While this could turn out to be a logistics nightmare, I think this could be absolutely wonderful for Out-Of-Warranty users. There's a desire for people to have access to replacement parts but, for example, Apple doesn't sell their service inventory.

Some repairs (such as iMacs) do require a substantial amount of care. Even after 8.5 years of Mac repairs I still found myself running into issues - from "fat fingering" connectors, to defective Logic boards that still pass all hardware diagnostics sent to us - some of this stuff is not for the faint of heart. Imagine using a plastic "pizza cutter" to cut off the VHB tape that holds the incredibly fragile $800 display of an iMac, and then remembering to connect the display back up before you put new tape on during reassembly.

My guess is Apple fought the NY bill because they know how these machines are designed. There's a reason they charge a flat rate of $39 for Labor, but then only when a hardware repair is actually completed.

On the other hand, the charge to backup your data is $99 for a drag/drop or a time machine backup - something you should do yourself. :-)

I sincerely hope this succeeds, and is ultimately extended to recognize software as being just another part in a modern device. Especially once a manufacturer stops supporting a device with software updates, they should have no right to prevent users from fixing defects in those devices on their own.

Would you believe that simply loading a program into RAM with the intent to fix is copyright infringement?

This seems like the sort of thing FOSS advocates should lobby for (hopefully FSF is looking at this).

I think that this might be related to the "patent exhaustion" argument being put forth also by the EFF towards Lexmark's case against a cartridge refilling company. Essentially the idea of patent exhaustion is that a product, once sold, has paid it's patent holder for their invention and so there aren't any further rights or protections to be conferred. With that argument, the EFF claims that "Impressions v Lexmark" was incorrectly ruled by a lower court in favor of Lexmark.[1] [1] Impressions bought quantities of used Lexmark cartridges, refilled them and resold them.

I fail to see how "last-minute lobbying from groups backed by Apple and others" won't stop the bill this time around again. And next year. And to 2050, for example.

Fact of the matter is, lobbying is actually legal, which is a whole different problem from which many others stem -- including the one discussed in the article.

I'm curious to see how this turns out, especially considering things like TouchID which is paired to the Secure Enclave. Allowing anyone to perform that pairing fundamentally undermines their security model.

There's no reason for the physical sensor to be combined with the key/credential storage other than to intentionally interfere with third party replacement parts.

"no reason"?

I can think of one, maybe they pair them at assembly time using a public/private key exchange. If they change, have to change both.

Apple claimed to have a security reason that was in the interest of the user and not only anticompetitive; does someone have a link to an article explaining this? I remember reading about it at the time.

Here is one article I found, the basic claim is that the Touch ID sensor is (cryptographically?) paired to the secure enclave and replacing it requires Apple magic sauce to revslidste the sensor/enclave pairing.


Thanks for the reference!

FTA, repair.org is the lobby/advocacy group behind this - it's a wonderful thing and I hope Australia looks at something similar soon.

If any countries anywhere in the rest of the world had any balls whatsoever, 'right to repair' laws would have been put in place before companies like Apple were allowed to enter those markets. This is the kind of consumer rights issue you'd expect organisations like the EU to take a stand on (cf. mobile roaming charges). But everyone's so frightened of upsetting the likes of Apple, this is allowed to continue.

I single out Apple in particular as they actively go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible for anyone outside of Apple to undertake repairs: Schematics are not released and have to be sourced from unauthorised channels, many of which charge ridiculous amounts for dodgy copies, likewise with Boardview files. Also, many components on Apple boards have no markings at all, making it almost impossible to identify them, without reference to one of the 'top secret' schematics.

The whole setup stinks.

Thank god for free resources like:


Situations like this one make me want to travel back in time and see for myself the first ever meetings where it was decided that people shouldn't have a right to repair the tech they bought.

I'm really curious on when did that happen for the first time ever?

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