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[Slashdot] - How Big Tech Rewrote America's First Cell Phone Repair Law


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Two non-profit news site, the Markup and Grist, have co-published their investigation into how big tech rewrote America's first cellphone repair law. "That New York passed any electronics right-to-repair bill is 'huge,' Repair.org executive director Gay Gordon-Byrne told Grist. But 'it could have been huger' if not for tech industry interference." The passage of the Digital Fair Repair Act last June reportedly caught the tech industry off guard, but it had time to act before Governor Kathy Hochul would sign it into law. Corporate lobbyists went to work, pressing for exemptions and changes that would water the bill down. They were largely successful: While the bill Hochul signed in late December remains a victory for the right-to-repair movement, the more corporate-friendly text gives consumers and independent repair shops less access to parts and tools than the original proposal called for. (The state Senate still has to vote to adopt the revised bill, but it's widely expected to do so.) The new version of the law applies only to devices built after mid-2023, so it won't help people to fix stuff they currently own. It also exempts electronics used exclusively by businesses or the government. All those devices are likely to become electronic waste faster than they would have had Hochul, a Democrat, signed a tougher bill. And more greenhouse gases will be emitted manufacturing new devices to replace broken electronics.... Jessa Jones, who founded iPad Rehab, an independent repair shop in Honeoye Falls, about 20 miles south of Rochester, New York, says the original bill included provisions that would have made it far easier for independent shops like hers to get the tools, parts, and know-how needed to make repairs. She pointed to changes that allow manufacturers to release repair tools that only work with spare parts they make, while at the same time controlling how those spare parts are used... "If you keep going down this road, allowing manufacturers to force us to use their branded parts and service, where they're allowed to tie the function of the device to their branded parts and service, that's not repair," Jones said. "That's authoritarian control." The bill's sponsor believes it could create momentum for dozens of other states trying to pass similar laws, the article points out, possibly leading ultimately to one national agreement between electronics manufacturers and the repair community. A lawmaker from another state argued that New York's law "gives us something to work from. We're going to take that now and try to do a better piece of legislation." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader Z00L00K for submitting the article.

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