Reps. Jones and Spartz file bipartisan bill to fix copyright restrictions on Right to Repair

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WASHINGTON — If Congress passes a new bipartisan bill unveiled Wednesday, Americans will be able to fix their broken stuff without worrying that the companies that made those products will sue them. The Freedom to Repair Act, which Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN), would end an unintended consequence of an outdated copyright law that outlaws certain types of repair and repair tools. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it a crime to bypass digital security locks. Manufacturers can place repair functions behind these digital locks, which makes fixing the product you bought from them and own, in effect, a copyright violation — everything from tablets to tractors. 

“Repair is not a crime. Archaic rules intended to stop Napster users from sharing Britney Spears songs have no place a generation later preventing farmers from fixing tractors, or local repair shops from fixing our phones. It’s past time to fix this flaw in the DMCA,” said PIRG’s Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “Manufacturers have gone too far by locking repair functions. Congress never intended to outlaw repair. It’s no surprise that fixing this oversight has bipartisan support. It’s common sense.” 

The DMCA was written soon after most Americans first started using the internet. It was designed to stop the pervasive issue of people sharing copyrighted works such as music, video games and movies. However, measures intended to tackle copyright infringement were defined too broadly. Now, a quarter century later, as devices run more and more software, manufacturers have increasingly used these digital locks to prevent access to critical repair features, such as diagnostic menus, or resetting a device after a failure. 

“For far too long, federal copyright law has allowed the most powerful corporations in the world to control who repairs what we own,” said Rep. Mondaire Jones. “By entrenching the power of these major corporations, repair restrictions threaten our economy, including the economic well-being of American consumers and small businesses. It’s time for a change, which is why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Rep. Spartz to take back control and secure the right of all Americans to repair what is rightfully theirs.”

By empowering repair, this reform would extend the longevity of our devices — helping reduce e-waste and mitigate the climate crisis. A study by U.S PIRG Education Fund found that if Americans used their smartphones for just one year longer on average it would have the climate benefits of taking 636,000 cars of the road – and that repairing our products rather than replacing them would extend their life spans by 50 percent and save consumers $40 billion every year, including the cost of additional repairs. 

“This much-needed bill will usher in a new wave of competition in the repair industry, which has been held back by antiquated copyright rules,” commented Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO. 

Every three years, the U.S. Copyright Office reviews possible exemptions to copyright law for bypassing digital locks, and has issued increasingly broad exemptions for repair. However, without legislative mandates, those protections could be reversed during any review, and do not cover those who build repair tools. 

“We shouldn’t have to beg permission from the Copyright Office every three years for the right to fix our stuff. Repair isn’t piracy and it’s not how copyrights are infringed. This bill helps make repair practical again,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of “When passed, this reform will improve choice in repair markets, which means better service at lower costs for consumers.”  

The bill next heads to the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee, part of the House Judiciary Committee.