The right-to-repair movement

If you’re like us, you’ve had choice words for those manufacturers who hide the screws down those long, dark tunnels no normal screwdriver can reach. Or the impenetrable smartphone that sneers at you when you try to pry it open to fix its broken screen.

Take heart: you can now do more than curse and throw the device across the room. While we may not yet have the tools to fix them, we do have a vote, and a voice, and we can use them both to support legislation moving through the country, state by state.

The Right to Repair movement has introduced bills in 20 states demanding that manufacturers provide parts, instructions and software to fix their products.

Who could be against that?
Ding! That’s right: manufacturers.

Manufacturers, as you’ve guessed, don’t want you to fix their products. Why would they, when they can force you to bring your product to an “authorized repair facility” or dealer where you’re invited to pay three times what a tinkerer in a shop could do? Or worse, throw it out and buy a new one!

Industry opposition — from the likes of Apple Computer and John Deere — has been so vehement that proposed right-to-repair legislation has been withdrawn or sent to committee in almost every state it’s been introduced.

An opposition group made up of tech companies calling itself the Security Innovation Center are patting people on the head with rationales like “electronics are highly integrated products, and repairs require training and accountability. Untrained repairs can compromise… safety, privacy and security.” (1.)

Of the 20 states that considered right-to-repair legislation, none has gotten anywhere, thanks to the tech industry. In California, land of Silicon, a hearing on the bill was postponed last summer because tech companies ganged up on it, writing that, should information and parts get into the hands of tinkerers in independent repair shops “without any contractual protections, requirements, or restrictions,” consumers and their data would be at risk. Nothing like a little fear to smother innovation. The letter also stated that allowing people to fix things would put the manufacturers’ intellectual property “in the hands of hundreds if not thousands of new entities.” (2.) By “entities,” we think they mean “people.”

Now before you get ready to fling your device across the room again, consider what happened when the same demands were made of the auto industry. In 2012, Massachusetts approved the first automotive right-to-repair law. Two years later, the auto industry agreed to provide service information and tools to independent repair shops.
The auto industry used the same "safety" argument to squash the right to repair then too. But it didn’t hold water in that case, either.

We think it’s time we stood up for our right to repair. This week we will meet with a former state legislator to start the process of getting a right-to-repair law sponsored in our state legislature. (Here in Rhode Island, it has not yet been introduced.) With the help of, we will educate our state representatives that we have the right to repair.

(1.) and (2.)


This original content is copyright Keeley-DeAngelo. Please cite accordingly.

Images are Adobe Stock.

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