Device manufacturers make it hard, and sometimes illegal, to fix your own stuff. When your phone or smart TV breaks down, manufacturers would prefer that you take it to a company-approved repair shop, or buy a new one.
Electronics companies use proprietary parts—as in the case of of Apple’s iPhone X—licensing agreements, and software protections to discourage DIY repairs and make fixes expensive for even authorized repair shops. In some cases, the government gets involved. Major tech companies like Apple inform US Customs and Border Protection about which “gray market” parts—often used in repairs by professionals—to be on the lookout for.
These policies impact people’s livelihoods, and sometimes their lives. Farmers who own modern John Deere equipment have to hack their tractors to repair them, for example, and people suffering from sleep apnea rely on hackers to tweak their CPAP machines, which allow them to breathe at night.
To help get new people involved in the right to repair movement, iFixit, a company that advocates for the right to repair, is hosting live town halls on YouTube. “We’re going to do them every two weeks while the legislative season is in full swing,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told Motherboard in an email.
The first town hall aired on Thursday, and featured prominent right to repair leaders like Repair.org's Gay Gordon-Byrne and US PIRG’s Nathan Proctor. The broadcast covered topics such as the benefits of right to repair to consumers and the environment, and gave out information on how to talk to legislators about right to repair laws.
Thanks to the right to repair movement’s efforts, 15 states have introduced right to repair legislation in 2019 so far. Repair.org and iFixit’s livestream gives people in those states information to help push their legislators to vote for bills protecting the people’s right to repair. People living in states where legislation isn’t yet being considered can learn all about how to kickstart their own local movements.
Getting involved in the push for right to repair legislation is as simple as watching a recording of the first town hall broadcast. From there, you can then head over to Repair.org’s advocacy page, where, you can navigate to a direct link for each state that will tell you where right to repair legislation stands in your community, who your legislators are, and how to get in contact with them.
If folks across America agitate for change, we can enjoy a future where people can freely repair their own devices.
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