Who Will Own the Internet of Things? (Hint: Not the Users) | Electronic Frontier Foundation

It’s copyright week…

From phones to cars to refrigerators to farm equipment, software is helping our stuff work better and smarter. But those features come at a high hidden cost: the rapid erosion of ownership. Why does that matter? Because when it comes to digital products, owners have rights. Renters on the other hand, have only permission.

The source of the problem is simple: copyright. You may own your device, but your use of the software in it is usually governed by the terms of an End-User License Agreement (or EULA). And that license agreement is likely to restrict your ability to tinker with your stuff. Typical clauses forbid reverse-engineering (e.g., figuring out how the software works so you can adapt it), transfer (e.g., giving it to a friend or selling it on the secondary market), and even using “unauthorized” repair services at all.

Further complication: the software may be saddled with digital locks(aka Digital Rights Management or DRM) supposedly designed to prevent unauthorized copying. And breaking those locks, even to do something simple and otherwise legal like tinkering with or fixing your own devices, could mean breaking the law,thanks to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

And then there’s repair-manual lockdown, which happens when manufacturers refuse to publish crucial repair information (including the manuals themselves, but also things like diagnostic codes for cars)—and then threaten to sue anyone else who tries to do so with a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

The end result: fair uses are impeded, users are disempowered and trained to go hat in hand to the Apple store just to change a battery (rather than doing it themselves). Users are forced to make do with DRM-crippled devices that are fundamentally defective and compromise our security.

Who Will Own the Internet of Things? (Hint: Not the Users) | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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