A New Advocacy Group Is Lobbying for the Right to Repair Everything | Motherboard

Aaron David

A fourth generation Californian, befuddled.

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26 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    I had this set up to go with Linky Friday, but things shifted and I’ll just stick it here because it’s related:

    The FCC wants competition in cable set-top boxes. On the one hand, I don’t care all that much. On the other, smartphones please!


    • What, Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and LG aren’t enough for you? Google and Microsoft dabble in it. I have it on reasonable authority that Intel will have a line of devices coming out late this year.Report

      • @michael-cain The problems are:

        (1) It’s harder than it should be to make a phone that you can simply take from one carrier to another. This has gotten better, but Verizon and Sprint are hold-outs. They control which phones can go on their network, and while they do have worldphones, it severely restricts the incentive of a company to explore this sort of thing.

        (2) And it’s a problem more generally even without worldphones. When I did QA on smartphone development, there were three main models I worked on. All three were from companies that you’ve heard of, with billions and billions of dollars behind them. Only one of the three got carriers to carry their phone, and as far as I know the other two are either out of the smartphone business or never fully got into it. (If you’re curious which ones, I can email you.) Notably, the best of the three was one of the ones that didn’t actually make it.

        (3) The ability of carriers to make demands. Of everyone but Apple, anyway. So even if there are a dozen phone makers, all of them need to put the software on them that Verizon wants to put on them.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Will Truman says:

          So even if there are a dozen phone makers, all of them need to put the software on them that Verizon wants to put on them.

          To be sold by the network, or to work on the network?

          Of the whole two smartphones I’ve owned, I used the OEM OS plus network-demanded crapware for less than a year on the first one before installing another OS, and bought the second one straight from the manufacturer and just put the network’s SIM card in it and it worked.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

            @dragonfrog Both, but I can’t justify depriving Verizon of the right to choose which phones to sell at their stores or on their website. I would feel justified in depriving them the ability of determining which (technologically capable) phones are allowed to work on their network.Report

  2. Damon says:

    Frankly, what I’m worried about are cars. Some automakers have already played in this area. But more broadly, if you restrictions on what you can do with “your property” do you really own the thing? No restrictions full stop.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Damon says:

      The one thing cars have going for them is direct precedent. Magnuson-Moss (not a DC super villain) has been on the books for decades, when the dealerships tried to create an oligopoly on repairs through threatening to void warranties. The more recent strategy of using the computer guts to finagle an IP argument is being countered (slowly) by things like Right to Repair lawsReport

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

      It calls into question what we even mean by “your” property.

      Everyday objects are now being transformed into the “bundle of sticks” type of property where instead of owning them outright you have only the right of use, and even then, only for a limited time, and for a specified purpose.

      Combined with the Internet of things, this becomes a tilting of power in favor of entrenched interests.Report

      • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Thus as it ever been. No one really owns much of anything anymore-at least the big items-land, cars, homes. If you continually have to pay fees to continue to “own” something, you really don’t own it.

        As for the “bundle of sticks”, I’m not a sharer.Report

        • Kim in reply to Damon says:

          You’ve never bought a house with a credit card, haveya?
          There’s a reason there’s “mort” in mortgage…Report

          • Damon in reply to Kim says:


            Kim, what do you pay after you’ve paid off the mortgage hmmm? What do you continually pay for the privilege of having “the american dream”. I’m not talking about mortgages and time payments. In those cases, you may have some form of “title” but the bank/lending institution owns the house until you’ve satisfied the note.Report

            • Kim in reply to Damon says:

              I’m paying far less than I would be if I was renting, that’s for damn sure!
              Now, sure, I pay some money so that I don’t have much lead in the water (little enough I can filter it out, leastaways)… and a bunch of other crap, of varying levels of usefulness…Report

              • Damon in reply to Kim says:

                Curiously, I’m paying below market rent around my area, and a hell of a lot less than if I was “owning”.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

                Depends on the area, really. Around here, my note is about 20% less than renting (and that’s with me paying about 15% extra a month towards principle). I’ll be paid off in…5 1/2 years right now. Could be quicker, but I have a few loans at a higher rate (student loans) I’m paying off first.

                And mind you, we DON’T have a great interest rate. I’m just too close to paying it off for refinancing to make any real difference. It’d get eaten up in fees.

                Once I’m done, taxes+insurance is roughly 40% of renting alone. And Texas has high property taxes. It is unlikely that renting will fall much (Texas mostly bypassed the housing bubble, due to some interesting state laws on home equity loans — very big government, in fact) given the area and home prices. Prices here are pretty devoid of speculation.

                Anyways, that’s a nice chunk of change. BUT there are places where it’s quite different — where renting might be 25% or more below owning, and rent v. own has an entirely different calculus.

                And there’s also the matter of the down payment. In the end, “rent versus own” depends on WAY too many variables for there to be a blanket “right choice”. Depends on the costs, how long you plan to live there, the interest rate, the cash you have on hand, what the local rent is like — and why– all sorts of things.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

                Indeed, you are correct. But don’t forget space as well. In my area, the max you can get an apartment for is about 1800 sq feet. That goes for over 2k a month. Current rent for townhouses is 2.2 to 2.4 k per month for space amounts in excess of 2k square and of the houses have garages.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

                I’ve a friend renting a house of roughly the same size (within 10%) in the same neighborhood, and when I heard his rent I thought he was getting ripped off.

                Apartments are lower, but generally smaller. I’ve not been in the apartment market for a long time, but even 15 years ago a roughly equivilant apartment was roughly what my monthly note is (without the extra payment I make) now.

                It really does depend on location. Houston’s so sprawled that the same house can be anywhere from half what I paid to 8 times that, just depending on where it’s located in a 50 mile radius of downtown.

                And how long you plan to stay. I’ve seen idiots house-hop and they never seemed to factor in closing costs or interest that well. Pretty sure they’d have been better off renting.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

                I’m not sure. I’ve been in this area 5 or so years. Moving closer to work isn’t an option for a variety of reasons and my lady friend is now in the opposite direction from work. However, I’m well located for access to a variety of things-airport, highways, easy but longish commute.

                I have looked in the area to buy, but i’m not sure yet. Probably a 2016 decision though…Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

          Except it hasn’t been ever thus.

          Homeownership rates have risen and fallen over decades and centuries in reaction to public policy. And as recently as a century ago the notion of intellectual property was novel.
          Alternatives do exist, if we want them .

          How long should patent and copyright last?

          What forms of EULAs should we recognize and enforce?

          Who are the legitimate stakeholders, and how should these questions be approached?Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            And as recently as a century ago the notion of intellectual property was novel.

            Heh. “Novel.”

            Puns aside, Congress is granted the authority to establish intellectual property rights in the Constitution. In what sense was it novel in the early 20th century?Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              It was novel in that it was generally applied to patents for inventions, and even then only for limited periods of time.

              Songwriters for instance had very limited property rights- it was common for songs to be written, then sung by many people, none of whom were thought to owe any sort of royalties to the songwriter. That’s why they are called “standards”. For most music written prior to the 20th century, we have no idea who the original songwriters were.

              If, a century ago I sold you a carriage, then handed you a piece of paper asserting that no one could repair the carriage but me, you could only use the carriage for this purpose in that manner, and I had the right to repossess it at any time to install upgrades and so on and so forth, it would have been seen as madness.

              It isn’t just technology- the whole understanding of what constitutes “property” is changing, right now even as we speak.

              My question is, whose interests are going to be asserted and enforced, and whose are going to be discarded?Report

      • Everyday objects are now being transformed into the “bundle of sticks” type of property


    • dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

      Cory Doctorow wrote a really good essay on this.

      His point as I see it is basically that very attempt we’ve ever made at DRM, ad locking owners out of modifying their property, has both failed, and made the DRM-infested item much less secure, much less reliable, and much less able to be examined for problems the manufacturer ought to fix, and that there’s no reason to expect it to be any different when the DRM-infested item is a car.Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    I got a proposal. Manufacturers let you do anything you want with the car, and in return they aren’t on the hook for complying with Federal safety and emissions standards–and they’re absolved of any liability for product defects. Because you can’t predict what any dumb bastard might do with his car that turns it into a deathtrap, right? Maybe all those Pintos’ owners made hazardous modifications to the gas tank. Maybe all those diesel Volkswagens had cheater chips installed by unscrupulous dealers.Report

    • Damon in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I like it!

      Now, I actually have one of those VK diesels, and frankly, I don’t give a damn about the emissions and don’t want it fixed if it’s going to bork the efficiency and or performance of the car, which it appears it will do. Given the actual amount of “increased pollution”, it’s bogus.Report

    • As a practical matter, yeah, emissions created by modified vehicles shouldn’t be the responsibility of the automaker. Hasn’t that currently been the case?

      Regarding liability for defects, it comes down to whether or not the modification was responsible for defect. When I bought to Forester and got a warranty, I asked about replacing the (crappy, crappy) radio and whether that would void the warranty. They said that if I replaced the radio, then all associated parts (including the speakers even if they weren’t directly touched) would no longer be covered, but that’s it. That seems pretty pretty fair.

      It does get a bit more complicated when everything is too associated and replacing the car radio would inevitably effect the car’s “motherboard.” On the other hand, that’s a design choice by the auto manufacturer itself, so my sympathy would not be 100% complete.

      Even so, cars are a more complicated question than refrigerators.Report

      • This gets fascinating as we move into the world of the automotive data bus and software that all touches each other. How does blame get assigned when a bug in the software in the replacement radio — which is plugged into the bus so that it can query road speed and adjust the volume in response — issues a malformed command to the transmission, which handles it improperly and tells the engine to shut down instantly, leading to an accident? How do we even reconstruct the actual sequence of events that cause the engine to “stall” on the crowded freeway?

        Humans are generally bad at real-time control software. Humans are particularly bad at distributed real-time control software.Report