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ASA Responds to Exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Order Reprints

Oct. 29, 2015—The Automotive Service Association released a statement expressing apprehension regarding the aftermarket impact of the recently released set of exemptions to the prohibition of circumvention of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Circumvention, in the context of the DMCA, refers to the bypassing of technology measures employed by or on behalf of the copyright owners to protect their works.

The document recognized the growing need for repairers to be able access and sometimes alter vehicle software. The final exemption would allow repairers to modify programs that are “ … contained in and control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle such as a personal automobile, commercial motor vehicle or mechanized agricultural vehicle, except for computer programs primarily designed for the control of telematics or entertainment systems for such vehicle, when circumvention is a necessary step undertaken by the authorized owner of the vehicle to allow the diagnosis, repair or lawful modification of a vehicle function.”

Under the exemption, the circumvention must not constitute a violation of applicable law. The new exemptions are set to take effect in a year.

ASA leadership has expressed apprehension about the telematics language in those exemptions, specifically that it excludes third-party access to “telematics and infotainment systems.” The ASA stated:

“Clearly, car owners should have the ability to obtain the services of an independent shop for working on their car if they do not have the skills or equipment to properly perform the function themselves,” according to the association’s official comments.

ASA previously submitted comments supporting the petition filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for the exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The comments were based on ASA’s stand that when a consumer purchases a vehicle, they purchase the right to the entire vehicle. In its opinion, anything less than that is not in the best interest of the auto care industry or the car owners.

The decision does not impact the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Auto Care Association and the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality in 2013, which provides a commitment by vehicle manufacturers to provide all information, tools and software to independent shops for the purposes of diagnosing and repair the car. The decision does however, leave some issues unresolved regarding access to telematics systems and for shops to provide modifications to vehicle software on behalf of car owners.

ASA will continue to review the latest ruling.

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