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Copyright Office to permit third-party repairers access to vehicle software

BETHESDA, Md. — Third-party vehicle repairers will now be able to access vehicle software legally in order to effect repairs, according to a ruling this week by the U.S. Copyright Office.

The ruling is the result of a petition filed jointly earlier this year by the Auto Care Association (ACA) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).  

The Copyright Office eliminated language in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that restricted access to a vehicle’s software to the vehicle owner.

The final rule, issued under the 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 ACA said.

The petition 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 ACA said.

The association had argued during the 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 ACA said the Copyright Office also adopted its 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,” ACA President and CEO Bill Hanvey said.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

For more information,visit autocare.org/government-affairs.

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