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No right to repair?

If you bought something, you can repair it, right? It's not that easy.

Software rules everything these days, you could say. And that can be great, but there are situations when it is not. Many of us have most likely been through this: we have a digital device we really like, but then something in the software breaks - and there is no way of repairing it. The only one who can, is the manufacturer. Certain smartphone manufacturers are notorious for trying to make sure repairs are only done by themselves, or authorized repair shops.

There are organizations like https://repair.org/ that have been fighting for a universal right to repair for a long while. The COVID pandemic demonstrated how dangerous it can be that the software of devices can not legally be altered by the owners. For hospitals in dire need of repairing equipment like ventilators there is a major legal risk if they find ways around technical restrictions which stop them from repairing. But having them repaired by the vendor can take too long and be too expensive for the hospital. Lawmakers have meanwhile taken action: the US congress is currently considering the "Critical Medical Infrastructure Right-to-Repair Act of 2020" that would override service agreements and give owners of medical devices the right to break digital countermeasures that would stop them.

While this is an extreme case of the need to have a right to repair, in many cases the limitations by manufacturers are merely annoying and make repairs more expensive. But what if your income depends on that machine? And the repairs would be so pricy and time consuming that they endanger your business? Watch Episode 1 of Season 3 of Coded to find out how farmers are fighting for the right to repair their farming machines.

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