Industry claims victory for independent repairers with access to consumer’s software
Bethesda, Md.—Based on a petition jointly filed by the Auto Care Association and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. Copyright Office eliminated a limitation in October that only permitted car owners to circumvent vehicle software under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The final rule issued under the current DMCA’s seventh triennial rulemaking proceeding effectively permits third-party repairers to also access software on personal, commercial and agricultural vehicles that are legitimately owned.
The petition from the Auto Care Association and CTA was necessary due to the U.S. Copyright Office’s ruling in 2015 that limited the exemption from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention prohibition to the actual owner of the vehicle. The Auto Care Association had argued during the current rulemaking for the expansion of the anti-circumvention exemption to include third parties based on that fact that individual car owners often do not have the tools or skills to access software in order to perform repairs, thus limiting the effectiveness of the 2015 exemption.
The U.S. Copyright Office further adopted as part of the current exemption process an Auto Care Association recommendation to remove language from the 2015 exemption that excluded access to computer programs designed for the control of telematics or entertainment systems. According to the final rule, “the Acting Register was persuaded that, due to increasing integration of vehicle computer systems since the 2015 rulemaking, retaining this limitation may impede non-infringing uses that can only be accomplished by incidentally accessing these systems.”
“The ruling by the Copyright Office is a huge victory for the independent repair industry as well as the consumer,” said Auto Care Association President and CEO Bill Hanvey. “Once you purchase a vehicle, consumers should have the full ability to either access their vehicle’s software themselves or to have a trusted professional entity perform the work for them. We are further gratified that the Copyright Office eliminated the limitation on consumers and third-party repairers accessing computer program related to a vehicle’s telematics systems, based on the fact that access to these systems might be critical to the ability to fully diagnose and repair today’s and tomorrow’s advanced vehicle systems.”
Survey finds consumers want vehicle data access, control
More than eight in 10 U.S. vehicle owners and lessees believe car owners should have full access to and control of their vehicle’s data, including maintenance and repair information, according to the results of a survey released by the Auto Care Association, previous to the DMCA decision.
The survey found 86 percent of consumers said vehicle owners should have access to driver and vehicle data, also known as telematics. Additionally, the survey found 88 percent of consumers believe a vehicle’s owner should decide who has access to this data.
“These results should be a wake-up call to automakers,” Hanvey said. “At a time when Americans don’t see eye to eye on many issues, the results of this survey revealed a large majority of consumers support their right to gain full access to their vehicle data.”
The survey’s respondents also reported mixed feelings about advancements in vehicle technology:
• Eighty percent agreed that the advancements in safety technology in vehicles make them feel safer on the road. However, 70 percent said they believe technological advancements in vehicles are making drivers too dependent on safety features
• Fifty percentsaid they are skeptical of new technology in vehicles; and
• Fifty-nine percent said they specifically look for new technology features in vehicles they are considering to purchase or lease, while 45 percent prefer vehicles with less technology features.