This means that , which will allow people who own products to repair them, despite licensing terms that lock down the products and attempt to force them to drive them to expensive service arrangements.
John Deer for example, is attempting to force farmers to do even the most basic maintenance on their tractors, oil changes, new spark plugs, etc., at the dealers.
This office literally had to be overruled by an act of Congress, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, because the office decided that consumers should have no right to unlock the phone that they owned.
I think that what happened was that the interim registrar (the last permanent registrar was fired in part for IP extremism) has realized that some common sense needed to be applied:
Last week, to little fanfare, the US Copyright Office took its first baby steps towards stopping auto-makers wrapping their software in copyright rules.
The decision is important because auto-makers use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s “technical protection measures” (TPMs) provisions to restrict diagnosis and repair to an approved ecosystem.
That’s especially galling for farmers in remote locations who have argued that they can’t always wait for a factory rep to okay fixes to agricultural machines, while in the more mundane world of automobile mechanics, legitimate repair shops complain that Detroit uses the DMCA to exert market power.
In a lengthy report (PDF) that also canvasses how exceptions to the TPM rules could apply to accessibility technologies, device unlocking, and library archives, the office proposes legislation that sides at least in part with the “right to repair” lobby.
Since “bona fide repair and maintenance activities are typically non-infringing”, the report suggests using the DMCA to tie up the repair market wasn’t a legitimate use of the law.
Hence “to the extent section 1201 precludes diagnosis, repair, and maintenance activities otherwise permissible under title 17, the Office finds that a limited and properly‐tailored permanent exemption for those purposes, including circumventing obsolete access controls for continued functioning of a device, would be consistent with the statute’s overall policy goals”.
While this sounds like basic common sense, but the application of common sense to IP law has been virtually non-existent over the past 30+ years.
This constitutes a revolutionary shift in culture, even if it is a minor change in policy.
We are finally seeing meaningful push-back against a copyright and patent regime that increases inequality, reduces innovation, and perverts our economy and our society.