Fewer than 90 days into the new year, and already 18 US states have introduced Right to Repair legislation. California is the latest, with Assemblywoman Eggman from Stockton introducing legislation that would require electronics companies to make repair manuals, diagnostic software, and repair parts available to owners and refurbishers.
Unexpectedly, farmers in small rural towns have been leading the charge for Right to Repair alongside corner computer repair shops around the nation. How did farmers wade into a battle over Big Tech? Because, these days, farm equipment is big tech—literally. They are computer systems that trundle around on massive wheels. As tractors have gotten more complicated, ag equipment makers have tightened the reins on who can access the software—even for the purpose of repair. A traditionally independent bunch, some farmers are fighting back by learning how to hack their tractors to fix them.
Meanwhile, farm bureaus and growers associations have thrown their support behind Right to Repair, even as John Deere opposes it. But public sentiment is on the side of farmers, and Big Ag’s closed-fisted opposition to Right to Fair has shown sign of loosening its grip. Recently, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and the Equipment Dealers Association (both with ties to John Deere) reversed their position and indicated that they would support what they call “commonsense repair solutions.” As part of the concession, equipment makers are making a voluntary commitment to provide maintenance, manuals, and diagnostic materials for tractors and combines by the year 2021.
Sounds a lot like Right to Repair, right? Except it’s not—and AEM has made it clear that they won’t support any Right to Repair measure, because it would affirm an owners right to access and modify firmware for the purpose of repair. This despite the fact that the Copyright Office has already affirmed the legal right of the owner to access and modify the software in their own tractors (and they are well on their way to re-affirming and expanding that right as part of the 2018 DMCA exemptions process that’s currently underway, with hearings in April.) The upshot: Right to Repair is quickly gaining speed—and electronics makers who don’t hop on this train now are going to get left behind.
Cheers, Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO, @kwiens
Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director, The Repair Association. In my role as Executive Director I’ve had the opportunity to engage directly with legislators to design and promote the interests of the repair community. I get up every morning excited to work on furthering not only our legislative agenda, but growing our alliances and developing member benefits. It is a tremendous honor to be part of our outstanding team.
Pertinent background: Over 30 years in the secondary market for IT equipment including packaging of hardware, operating systems software, applications, long-term maintenance services and end of life processing. Expert on vendor policies and contracts as an authorized reseller, direct employee, lender, and lessor.
Technical background includes development of the TekTrakker reliability tracking product and associated research into architectures, manufacturing and failure modes of digital electronics. Prior experience also included training in systems engineer for operating systems, technical training and certification for product sales by HP, EMC, CISCO, IBM, STK, and Sun products.
Organizationally have held leadership positions in multiple civic, athletic, musical, church, and homeowners associations in addition to multiple years as Chair of the SIA-ICCC which was set off to become the DRTR in 2013.