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Copyright Office Grants Exemption for Vehicle Modification

Order Reprints

Oct. 28, 2015—On Tuesday, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a ruling that will allow vehicle owners to perform vehicle diagnosis, repair and modification without fear of prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The Copyright Office did however decline to provide exemption to third parties who diagnose, repair or modify a vehicle on behalf of the vehicle owner. The Copyright Office concluded that covering third-parties would require a legislative amendment undertaken by Congress. Access to a vehicle’s telematics or entertainment system was also excluded from the exemption.

The Speciality Equipment and Manufacutring Association (SEMA) provided comments to the Copyright Office earlier this year seeking an exemption from the DMCA for circumvention of controls on vehicle software for the purpose of vehicle diagnosis, repair or modification by the vehicle owner.

"The issue of copyright affecting the ability to diagnose, repair and modify vehicles has come up recently due to the proliferation of advanced vehicle technology, specifically software, in modern vehicles," said Chris Kersting, CEO and president of SEMA. "SEMA has always maintained that the right to access vehicle systems to utilize, maintain and upgrade vehicles is legal as fair use under copyright law, as are activities undertaken to achieve interoperability with aftermarket products."

The DMCA was enacted in 1998 and prohibits the circumvention of measures put in place by a copyright owner to protect copyrighted works. The law also include a provision allowing the Copyright Office to grant exemptions from this anti-circumvention provision, and the exemption for vehicle repair, diagnosis or modification was granted under this provision.

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