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FTC and DOJ File Comment with the U.S. Copyright Office Supporting Renewal and Expansion of Exemptions Facilitating Consumers’ and Businesses’ Right to Repair Their Own Products

Joint comment comes as U.S. Copyright Office weighs recommendation on exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (DOJ) have submitted a comment to the U.S. Copyright Office to advocate for regulations that would facilitate consumers’ and businesses’ right to repair their own products.

The FTC-DOJ submitted the comment as the Copyright Office considers whether to recommend that the Librarian of Congress renew and expand temporary exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) prohibition against the circumvention of technology protection measures that control access to copyrighted content.

In their comment, the FTC and DOJ said that renewing and expanding repair-related exemptions would promote competition in markets for replacement parts, repair, and maintenance services, as well as facilitate competition in markets for repairable products. Promoting competition in repair markets benefits consumers and businesses by making it easier and cheaper to fix things they own. Expanding repair exemptions can also remove barriers that limit the ability of independent service providers—including small businesses and entrepreneurs—to provide repair services.

Manufacturers use technology protection measures to protect copyrighted works from theft and infringing uses, but these software locks can also be used to prevent non-infringing third-party repair, according to the FTC-DOJ comment. For example, such measures can restrict access to computer maintenance hardware and software programs, leaving only original equipment manufacturers able to do maintenance and repair work. In their comment, the FTC and DOJ say that by limiting access to the data and software needed for independent repair and maintenance, these technology protection measures can be used to squash competition for replacement parts, repair, and maintenance, which ultimately limits consumers’ and businesses’ choices and raises costs.

The FTC has been active in opposing repair restrictions for decades going back to its early support for the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which bars manufacturers from voiding warranties if consumers use third-party replacement parts or independent repair shops. More recently, the FTC held a Nixing the Fix workshop in 2019 that focused on repair restrictions, issued a report in 2021 based on input provided at the workshop, and released a policy statement in mid-2021 pledging to vigorously enforce the law to combat repair restrictions that violate antitrust and consumer protection laws. The FTC also secured settlements in 2022 making it easier and cheaper to repair grills, motorcycles, and outdoor power equipment. In addition, the agency has voiced support for state efforts to ensure consumers can repair their own products including testifying before state legislatures in California and Colorado.

Some manufacturers claim repair restrictions are necessary to protect repair workers and consumers or reduce cybersecurity risks. In its Nixing the Fix report, however, the FTC found little evidence to support such claims.

In their joint comment, the FTC and DOJ expressed support for renewing, expanding, and adding some specific DMCA exemptions. The agencies support renewing the current exemption related to computer programs that control devices designed primarily for use by consumers for diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of the device and expanding it to include commercial and industrial equipment. In addition, they also support renewing an exemption related to the repair of motor vehicles and granting a new exemption to allow vehicle owners or independent repair shops to access, store, and share vehicle operational data.

The Commission voted 3-0 to approve filing of the joint comment.

About the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. The FTC will never demand money, make threats, tell you to transfer money, or promise you a prize. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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