Underneath the mounds of ever increasing e-waste lies an important legal issue, your right to repair.
Your Right To Repair
What is Right to Repair? You can be excused if you haven’t heard of it before, the tech giants have been fighting to suppress it for years.
Right to repair is the right for ordinary consumers (and businesses) to repair electronic items. A prime example is the iPhone battery. Right to Repair legislation would mean you would be able to replace the iPhone battery without having to take it to an Apple store. You could get a cheaper battery from another company or another Apple battery but installed by your favourite technician.
Proponents of Right To Repair point out that it will increase competition, make it cheaper for consumers, encourage innovation and stop the planned obsolescence of devices (particularly smartphones and tablets).
The tech companies, like Apple, have been using the copyright act (in the States it’s the DMCA, Digital Millenium Copyright Act) to fight Right To Repair.
Yes, I’m picking on Apple. In late 2017, iPhone users found out that Apple pushed out a patch that throttled the CPU on older iPhones. Apple claimed this was to save battery life. Consumer advocates felt that was a blatant attempt to force consumers to upgrade their older iPhones. Apple backed down and restored the right of users to manage their own battery life and offered cheaper battery replacement for the models affected.
Apple is not alone is clamping down on Right To Repair. The tractor company John Deere is another offender. Farmers found that they couldn’t repair their own computerized tractors (and other farm equipment) without getting gouged by authorized John Deere repair centres that can be hundreds of miles away. Some farmers are now using pirated Ukrainian firmware to run their equipment.
Minnesota could be the the first state to pass a right to repair law. John Deere and the tech companies have gone there is droves to lobby against it. Other states like Nebraska and New York are also looking at the legislation.
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has proposed a national Right To Repair law for farm equipment which could have implications for tech companies.
What about Canadian law? Ontario was poised to be the first province to enact Right To Repair but it was killed by Doug Ford and the Conservatives after heavy lobbying by the tech industry. Such heavy lobbying that in fact the politicians were saying word for word what the tech giants were saying about Right to Repair.
But it really makes sense for this to be a federal law. This is a federal election year. Ask your local candidates where they stand on Right To Repair. Check out the party platforms.
Your Right To Repair
This is not just about consumers or farmers. When Windows 10 was released,certain OEM manufacturers refused to produce the hardware drivers that would have allowed Windows 7 machines to be upgraded. The same thing for printer drivers. This meant that businesses who wanted to upgrade to Windows 10 were forced to buy new computer and new printers. Perfectly good hardware was being pushed out the door and hopefully getting recycled.
Globally we’re producing over 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year of which only 20% is being formally recycled. We need to legislate to reduce the waste the tech companies are creating with their policies.