But exemptions from the DMCA don’t give third parties the right to infringe upon existing copyrights. Nor does an exemption mean consumers don’t have to abide by other laws and rules that govern vehicles passed by the National Highway Traffic Administration, Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
“It’s not a new thing to be able to repair and modify cars,” said Kit Walsh, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s actually a new thing to keep people from doing it. There are these specialized agencies that govern what vehicles can lawfully be used for on the road, and they have not seen fit to stop them from repairing cars.”
Aftermarket suppliers and home enthusiasts have been modifying ECUs for years without dire consequences. By tweaking the ECU codes, a process sometimes known as “chipping,” they’ve boosted horsepower, improved fuel efficiency, established performance limits for teen drivers and enhanced countless other features. These innovations have contributed to a “decades-old tradition of mechanical curiosity and self-reliance,” according to the EFF.
Those innovations could be curbed precisely at a time that automakers believe personalization of vehicles is emerging as a significant trend. Software is allowing for all sorts of technology, such as 4G LTE wireless connections, and motorists can use this software to choose from an increasing array of infotainment options. But the car companies, paradoxically, want to be the ones doing the personalizing.
The EFF thinks the industry’s desire to block exemptions has more to do with profits than safety. As software becomes easier to update, automakers could sell these performance upgrades on an a la carte basis. Because a favorable ruling would strengthen their control of the software, the car companies could potentially force consumers to only have their vehicles fixed at their dealerships or preferred repair shops.
FK – The days of the shade tree mechanic are long past anyhow. But these corporate bastards aren’t satisfied with keeping someone in debt until the vehicle wears out.