Committee to Delve Into Right-to-Repair Issue

July 14, 2023 by Dan McCue
Committee to Delve Into Right-to-Repair Issue
U.S. Capitol from tower of the Old Post Office Building. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — A House judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, July 18, to examine the current laws related to right-to-repair and intellectual property issues.

The hearing, which will be held in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, will begin at 10 a.m.

It will also be streamed here at the same time.

In addition to measuring the current legal landscape of right to repair, the panel — the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet — will also discuss potential future avenues for policymaking. 

The hearing will also discuss laws and regulations at both the federal and state level and the implications for a range of industries from automotive to software to consumer electronics. 

Witnesses will include Aaron Perzanowski, Thomas W. Lacchia Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School; Devlin Hartline, legal fellow, Hudson Institute’s Forum for Intellectual Property; Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO, iFixit; Paul Roberts, founder, SecuRepairs.org, as well as founder and editor-in-chief, the Security Ledger; and Scott Benavidez, chairman, Automotive Service Association, as well as owner, Mr. B’s Paint & Body Shop.

From consumers complaining they could not make simple repairs to products they bought, right to work has grown into a nationwide movement involving all manner of products.

In May, two new agreements reached between the American Farm Bureau Federation and agricultural equipment manufacturers resulted in a dramatic expansion of farmers’ and ranchers’ right to repair their own farm equipment.

As previously reported by The Well News, memoranda of understanding with manufacturers AGCO and Kubota, announced Monday, follow earlier agreements the federation reached with John Deere and CNH Industrial brands earlier this year.

Combined, the four agreements cover roughly 70% of the agricultural machinery sold in the United States, said the Washington-based advocacy group, which also serves as lobbyist and insurance network for the ag interests.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation is not alone in advancing and securing the right to repair equipment for America’s farmers and ranchers.

In Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law earlier this year making his state the first to require manufacturers to provide the necessary manuals, software, tools and parts to farmers who want to fix their own tractors and combines when they break down.

And lawmakers in at least 16 other states have introduced similar legislation, including Vermont, where on May 5 the state House of Representatives voted 137-2 to guarantee the right to repair ag and forestry equipment.

Democratic Colorado state Rep. Brianna Titone, who sponsored her state’s latest right to repair law, told The Well News via email that her effort stemmed from years of complaints from farmers who worried that having to wait to get on the schedule of a manufacturer’s authorized repair professional could put a whole year’s crop or worse at risk.

At the same time, as has happened in other parts of the tech-heavy consumer culture, increasingly complex computers and other systems made problem equipment impossible to fix without reliance on manufacturers who were loath to give up their trade secrets or even a modest version of their repair manuals.

“The increase in the sophistication of all computerized equipment has been a wonderful thing for automating processes and adding precision to a variety of tasks,” Titone wrote. “However, over the years that led to farm equipment becoming, essentially, a computer in the field with nearly every component connected to it.

“What’s happened as a result is that if an issue arises, the installed computer will sense this and display a fault which can disable the machine,” she continued. “Unfortunately, diagnosing the actual program requires special software, some of which requires a pricey subscription. 

“At the same time, the equipment manufacturers have learned that they can nickel and dime an equipment owner through controlling the repairs,” Titone said.


Titone said she believes the adoption of the Colorado law will “reinvigorate the fights in other states,” and that one legislative success will lead to another and still more after that.

“Once the manufacturers have granted one state’s law, the infrastructure will be there to accommodate everyone, so this gives manufacturers fewer reasons to say this can’t be done or that the consequences will be undesirable,” she explained. “The proverbial dam has been broken, so I expect to see some movement in the right-to-repair space over the next year or so. 

“I’m eager to see how the year ends and what new laws find their ways into the statute books,” Titone said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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