Today is not just Tech Tuesday at the Harris County Law Library; it's Giving Tuesday all over the world. This global movement of sharing and collaboration is designed to kick off the charitable giving season. It's also the perfect chaser to a full week of enthusiastic discount holiday shopping, often for the latest laptops, TVs, and smartphones.
Little do we realize that, in buying the latest and greatest tech gizmos, we’re not only acquiring new gadgets -- in many cases, we're also subjecting ourselves to the proprietary grip of the designers and manufacturers who make the products so irresistible. According to consumer advocates, we're being manipulated, while manufacturers would argue otherwise. This disagreement, at the heart of the “right to repair” movement, has been the motivation behind proposed legislation in a dozen states.
Lawmakers of all political stripes and consumer advocates who are driving much of the legislation claim that all individuals have a right to make, break, hack, fix, or mend their personal property -– everything from farm equipment and automobiles to smartphones and home appliances. The issue is this: even when you own the item in need of repair, you may not own the internal software that allows the equipment to function. Moreover, technical information about the design of the item may be withheld, service manuals might not exist, and replacement parts could be unobtainable. Proprietary repair tools may be equally hard to come by, further complicating the ability for do-it-yourselfers to fix and maintain their own property.
To learn more about the “right to repair” movement, including the manufacturers’ equally legitimate claims to maintaining proprietary integrity and ensuring security and safety, please visit the links below. Learn why environmentalists, farmers, copyright reformers, hobbyists, staunch private property rights advocates, and others all feel passionate about the right to repair. Also, explore the future of ownership in an age when manufacturers increasingly limit our ability to manipulate or adapt the things we buy.
- "A 'right to repair' movement tools up" in The Economist, September 20, 2017
- "You bought that gadget and dammit, you should be able to fix it" in Wired, March 22, 2017
- "No, you shouldn't be able to fix your own phone, 'right to repair' is a dumb idea" at Mashable, February 16, 2017
- "The Fight for the 'Right to Repair'" at Smithsonian.com, July 13, 2016
- The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz