DMCA Updates

2018 copyright rulings released

When you think of the DMCA, you might associate it with phrases like “internet content”, “intellectual property”, or “blogs”. However, the act has provisions that concern all kinds of copyright rulings, updated every three years, which apply to things like electric motor repair for motorized land vehicles, spanning a wide range nowadays from Teslas to tractors.

These rulings are tributaries of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed by Congress in 2001. Initially, the ruling was implemented to govern intellectual property on the internet. It also limited unauthorized repair of specific computer parts and hardware, mainly for security reasons. So it is amended every three years, adjusting to requests and grievances fielded by Congress over that time period, and has since expanded to cover new things like smartphones and tablets.

“The 2015 ruling gave device owners the ability to unlock and jailbreak certain smartphones, tablets, TVs and other smart devices; change the software on 3D printers and motorized land vehicles; and allowed users to perform security research on all the aforementioned devices plus certain medical implants.” —Lifehacker

2018 rulings include some noteworthy changes. Smart homes are now on the list.

In the past, the DMCA has been met with considerable resistance. For a more in-depth understanding of DMCA basics, watch this helpful video below by Geoffrey Challen, an Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, University at Buffalo:

Legal: Jailbreaking/rooting smart home appliances and smart home systems

Smart home appliances and hubs also get a general “repair” exemption which extends to rooting the firmware in order to fix issues. The iFixit article highlights the Revolv app and smart home hub as examples, which Google forcibly and permanently bricked by shutting down the Revolv servers back in 2016. With this change, users who have held onto their Revolv hub could root the system’s firmware to restore its usability, and the same now goes for any smart home device.

Legal: Repairing motorized land vehicles and their software

You can legally repair/modify the software of any terrestrial vehicle with a motor—so cars (including Teslas and other electric cars), trucks, tractors, construction vehicles, motorcycles, etc. This change also grants users the ability to access their vehicle’s telematic diagnostic data in order to diagnose mechanical and software issues.”


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