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Changes To US Legislation Allows For Breaking Of DRM For Repairs

When going for computer repair services, there’s always the chance that getting repairs might be against the terms set by the manufacturer. One situation is when it’s necessary to bypass digital rights management, which protects copyrighted material, in order to fix an issue with a device.

US legislation has acknowledged the necessity in such a situation, and, as part of growing efforts to back the ‘right to repair’ movement, the US Copyright Office has ruled that it’s now legal for customers and computer repair services providers to break an electronic device’s DRM in order to carry out repairs to it.

These legislative developments are just a part of the recent changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the legislation that makes it illegal to go past digital rights management (DRM) protections.

Once every three years, the Copyright Office evaluates petitions asking for new exemptions or the rescinding of currently extant ones.

The new ruling will be in effect come October 28, and will affect the legality surrounding the bypassing of access controls on devices by owners and computer repair services providers, in order to accomplish a specific task, jailbreaking, or unlocking a device from the carrier’s network in order to repair it.

The ruling covers a wide range of electronic devices, from smartphones, to tablets, wearables, even mobile hotspots, and vehicles like cars and tractors. Even smart home appliances, like lights and refrigerators, as well as HVAC systems and Nest-like devices are covered by the ruling.

Elaborating on the matter, the new rules allow for circumventing access-control functions in order to carry out maintenance and/or repair on devices, with the Copyright Office explaining that these cover software that is contained in and controls the functioning and status of a legally acquired device, land vehicles acquired as personal automobiles, with the exception of programs accessed via a separate device or service, and only when circumventing these protections are necessary in order to properly carry out the diagnosis, repair, or lawful modification of these devices.

Security researchers are also covered by the exemptions while hacking computer programs like electronic voting systems, provided that any activity is done in good faith, and doesn’t violate any terms of the Computer Fraud and Abuse act.

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