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October 28, 2018

New copyright ruling protects right to repair gadgets and archive video games

by John_A

Protections for electronics users of all kinds have been passed in an extensive ruling by the Library of Congress that covers technologies as diverse as consumer electronics, farm equipment, 3D printing, and online learning platforms. The ruling prescribes exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a particularly unpopular law among technology fans that was designed to prevent copyright piracy, but ended up causing a range of undesirable side effects from YouTube video takedowns to restricting console modding.

The new ruling specifies what activities are excepted from the DMCA, meaning that these activities will no longer be in danger of infringing on copyright. One of the biggest topics of interest to technology customers is the protection of their right to repair gadgets such as smartphones and tablets when they break. Many consumer electronics come with installed digital rights management (DRM) software, and it was previously illegal for users to get around this DRM to repair or tinker with their device.

Apple is infamous for its aggressive use of DRM and its strong discouragement of users or third parties repairing its devices. The software in Apple devices can check whether a part was installed by approved personnel, and was reported to be bricking devices that were repaired by an unapproved third party.

Now, thanks to the new ruling, both third-party repair companies and individual users have legal backing to circumvent DRM in order to fix a broken device. However, getting around DRM can still be a complex and intimidating process for the average user, as it requires some technical knowledge to get around software blocks. While the ruling does not mean that repair tools will be made available, it does mean that it is at least legal to create your own repair tools.

A second area of interest for tech fans is the protection for archiving historical video games, which has been a concern among many classic gamers. Older games were previously only legally available on obsolete devices, making studying or preserving these games extremely difficult. The new rulings allow archivists to preserve old games by keeping copies of not only the software that runs on a user’s computer, but also the software that runs on company’s servers. This potentially allows the preservation of online games such as Everquest, as well as games from obsolete consoles such as the Dreamcast.

Editors’ Recommendations

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