Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, regulatory and government affairs, Auto Care Association, participated in a series of roundtables produced by the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. on May 18-19. The roundtables were part of a study being undertaken by the office on copyright law and its relation to software-embedded consumer products, as well as issues related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Last year, the Library of Congress published its final rule on the Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies. The rule, recommended by the Register of Copyrights and adopted by the Librarian of Congress, provides an exemption to provisions of the DMCA for consumers. The exemption, however, specifically excluded circumvention “on behalf of” vehicle owners creating a concern for independent repair facility operators, as well as independent suppliers of software and tools to the repair industry.
Lowe discussed the growing use of software on late model vehicles and concerns that the vehicle manufacturers were adopting anti-competitive technological protection measures that prevent parts manufacturers, service facilities and consumers from accessing the software needed for repair and maintenance.
“The absence of clear guidance regarding interpretations of copyright defenses is having a chilling impact on companies developing replacement components, causing companies in the auto care industry to be concerned about extensive and disruptive litigation,” said Lowe. He further requested that the Copyright Office make a determination that DMCA does not prohibit circumvention of technological measures that are used by companies to prevent lawful repair under patent law of products whose operation is controlled by embedded software.
Lowe told the Copyright Office that a consumer who purchases a vehicle should own that car, including all of the software embedded in that vehicle. Therefore, consumers and those chosen by consumers to service those vehicles, should have the freedom to access that software for purposes of lawful repair.