Running a Shop Law

Automakers Seek to Prevent Owners from Working on Vehicles

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April 22, 2015—Twelve car companies are attempting to put a stop to car owners working on their own vehicles, specifically when those repairs deal with the car’s computer system.

The Auto Alliance is made up of 12 companies including BMW Group, FCA US LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota, Volkswagen Group of America and Volvo Cars North America.

That alliance is asking the U.S. Copyright Office to prohibit car owners from repairing or modifying their own vehicles, saying it would violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The act, which was signed into law in 1998, protects intellectual property when it comes to computer systems.

The alliance says that since most vehicles use high-tech computer systems, those cars are covered by the act, and that allowing car enthusiasts to fix their own cars has become “legally problematic.”

“Many of the ECUs embodied in today’s motor vehicles are carefully calibrated to satisfy federal or state regulatory requirements with respect to emissions control, fuel economy, or vehicle safety. Allowing vehicle owners to add and remove programs at whim is highly likely to take vehicles out of compliance with these requirements, rendering the operation or re-sale of the vehicle legally problematic. The decision to employ access controls to hinder unauthorized “tinkering” with these vital computer programs is necessary in order to protect the safety and security of drivers and passengers and to reduce the level of non-compliance with regulatory standards. We urge the Copyright Office to give full consideration to the impacts on critical national energy and environmental goals, as well as motor vehicle safety, in its decision on this proposed exemption,” a statement from the group read.

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