AED has been battling so-called “right to repair” initiatives in state legislatures throughout the United States for several years. Recently, the battle has moved to the federal level in the U.S. as President Biden issued an executive order that encourages the Federal Trade Commission to “limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs.”
The right to repair movement has also gained traction in Canada. Member of Parliament Bryan May from Cambridge, Ontario, has successfully pushed forward a Private Member’s Bill (Bill C-272) that amends the Copyright Act to allow the circumvention of a technological protection measure in a computer program for diagnosis, maintenance or repair of a product. It also allows the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, renting and provision of technologies, devices or components used for diagnosis, maintenance or repair of such products.
While the legislation doesn’t mandate right to repair in Canada, it will, if passed, open the door for provinces to pass legislation or issue regulations of their own. With an election upcoming, it won't receive immediate consideration. However, given the overwhelming support (333-0), it’s nearly guaranteed that MP May will reintroduce the proposal or even get it included in a government bill in the next Parliament.
Right to repair policies require manufacturers to give consumers and the broader public access to information needed to modify just about any product utilizing software. Aimed initially at consumer products, such as cell phones and computers, the language is significantly broad that it would permit unfettered access to the software that governs safety, security and emissions technology on heavy equipment. Unlike those in many industries, AED customers currently have the right to repair; but they don’t have the right to modify. The only reason a customer needs access to source code is to modify the safety and environmental protections of the machine to improve performance. Furthermore, there are significant intellectual property ramifications.
AED, led by its 2021 Chairman Craig Drury of Vermeer Canada, recently met with MP May to discuss the equipment industry’s concerns with the legislation and to educate him about the safety and environmental consequences if the public is granted access to source code to modify the machinery.
Modern heavy equipment has numerous safety features to protect both equipment operators and the public, the latter of which is oftentimes driving or walking past construction sites and other areas while machinery is in use. Granting the ability to override safety features poses undue risk to operators and bystanders in these situations. Additionally, as the industry moves toward more autonomous machinery, the safety risk will only increase if the public has the ability to modify safety features on the equipment.
As the next Parliament begins to take shape and legislation is introduced, AED will continue to work together with other organizations and equipment manufacturers to explain the consequences of right to repair on the equipment industry.