The right to repair movement is spreading. In recent weeks legislators in Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina have introduced bills that would make it easier for you to fix your electronics, joining eight other states that introduced right-to-repair legislation earlier this year.
The bills would require manufacturers to sell replacement parts to consumers and independent repair companies and would also require them to open source diagnostic manuals. It would also give independent repair professionals the ability to bypass software locks that prevent repairs, allowing them to return a gadget back to its factory settings.
Right to repair advocates are looking at this movement as a perhaps decade-long process that will require a grassroots movement of consumers to push back against the long-entrenched repair monopolies of companies like Apple, John Deere, and video game console manufacturers.
It's heartening, then, that the bills in Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina were introduced without the help of Repair.org, the trade organization of independent repair professionals that is pushing for these laws elsewhere. While Repair.org has been heavily involved in crafting legislation in places like New York, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, the group wasn't even aware that the movement had spread to three new states until last week.
"It came out of the blue to me," Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the organization, told me. "We did nothing and they just popped up, which validates that this is an important problem for a lot of people who have been independently looking for a solution to repair monopolies."
"The fact that there were eight states that had already filed bills seems to have served as an inspiration," she added.
So far this year, tech company lobbying looks like it will defeat right to repair bills in Minnesota and Nebraska; lawmakers in Tennessee recently decided to defer voting on its bill until 2018. Legislation is still pending in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina.
Correction / clarification: An earlier version of this article repeated some of the states in a list of the states considering right to repair bills. To be clear, 11 states in total have considered or will consider right to repair legislation this year. They are: Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Kansas, Wyoming, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina. Because the legislative schedules of states vary, the bills are already effectively dead for this legislative session in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Tennessee. The bills have yet to be heard in other states; legislation of this nature is generally a multi-year process, and so even though the legislation is already dead in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Tennessee its sponsors have vowed to put it back on the schedule next year.