In a hearing before the U.S. Copyright Office on April 10 in Washington, D.C., Aaron Lowe, Auto Care Association senior vice president for regulatory and government affairs, testified in support of the association’s petition to expand the current exemption for consumers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The current exemption allows access to encrypted software for the purposes of repair for car owners only. The association previously petitioned in September to expand the consumer exemption to also include entities that provide services on behalf of car owners, including tool manufacturers and repair shops.
In his testimony, Lowe told the U.S. Copyright Office that the expansion of the exemption is necessary because many consumers do not have the knowledge or technological capabilities to perform repair work on their vehicles themselves. Lowe pointed to the need to permit companies with expertise in software development to access embedded software in order to develop and make circumvention and repair solutions available to both servicers and consumers.
“This provides obvious benefits to the market and the public,” said Lowe. “Vehicle repair software will be of consistently high quality and reliability. Additionally, the costs of circumvention and software repair can be spread among the many thousands of servicers that acquire the solution, rather than be shouldered by each individual consumer.”
The Auto Care Association’s petition further called on the U.S. Copyright Office to not exclude access to software on telematics systems from the exemption.
“Currently repairers and consumers are dependent on access to the on-board diagnostic port on vehicles,” said Lowe. “Should manufacturers determine to limit data from that port to only legally-required emissions-related information, car owners and those that provide repairs for them would be forced to depend on the vehicle manufacturers for critical diagnostic information at whatever cost they wanted to charge – unless consumers have access to data for their vehicle directly from embedded telematics systems.”