The battle over Right to Repair is happening all over the world—and it’s being fought by some unlikely suspects: farmers, mechanics, and even mainstream media moguls have joined the repair ranks this year.
Thanks to the widespread efforts of repair rebels everywhere, 2018 was a record year for Right to Repair—not too shabby for an issue that rose to prominence almost exclusively through the grassroots efforts of netizens and tinkerers. One by one, we’re beating down the barriers to self-repair, even if it just means getting exposure to the issues facing ownership. And while there’s still a long, hard battle ahead, I wanted to take a minute to recognize some of the biggest moments in Right to Repair during 2018:
1. Why you don’t own your tech
Adam Ruins Everything put together this fantastic explainer about the current state of the repair industry. It’s a wonderful recap that shows exactly what devious techniques greedy tech manufacturers are using to monopolize the repair industry. And it includes horses.
2. The Feds are on your side: You’ve got a license to tinker
I’d bet good money that you’ve run into a “warranty void if removed” sticker at some point in your device-owing career. Turns out, those stickers are not only unenforceable—they’re illegal under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This federal law was put in place to protect the rights of consumers and imposes strict guidelines on manufacturers that offer product warranties. While the law has been in place since 1975, it’s been largely ignored by manufacturers without penalty—until now. This year, the Feds sent warning letters to tech giants including Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Hyundai, HTC, and ASUS.
3. Washington Post urges big tech to adopt safer batteries
Lithium-ion batteries are inside a lot of the things we own: smartphones, e-cigarettes, cars, children’s toys. Pound for pound, they’re incredibly efficient—packing a high energy density that other types of rechargeable batteries can’t reach. They’ve enabled the tech industry to make devices thinner than ever by sealing these rechargeable packs inside of our favorite devices. But this wonder-material comes at a cost. And Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post published a well-researched exploration of the massive problems for recyclers caused by built-in batteries.
4. This 17-year-old student is demanding repair reform
Surya Raghavendran started his own third-party repair shop after an expensive and unsuccessful repair experience at Apple. Next on his to-do list? Getting a Right to Repair bill passed in his home state of Michigan.
5. Linus and Louis Rossman take on the “unfixable” iMac Pro
Linus bought an iMac. Linus broke that iMac. Linus went to an Apple store to get his iMac repaired. Apple refused to fix Linus’ iMac—and refuses to sell iMac parts. So, two of the greatest tech YouTubers of all time teamed up to try their hands at repairing the “unfixable” iMac Pro. How’d they do?
6. The rogue mechanic resurrecting dead Teslas
What do you do when Tesla won’t service your salvaged vehicle? Well, if you’re Rich Benoit, the self-proclaimed “Dr. Frankenstein of Teslas,” you spend years learning how to restore it—with parts from other wrecked Teslas.
7. Copyright Office issues sweeping Right to Repair reforms
Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been notorious for stripping away the freedom of security researchers, cell phone recyclers, and farmers alike. Fortunately, Congress built an escape hatch into section 1201, allowing citizens to petition for exemptions to the broad law every three years. 2018 was one of those years, and the US Copyright Office released their final ruling that issued groundbreaking exemptions to digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software lock components of 1201.
8. One small step for smartphones, one giant leap for repairability
Most manufacturers don’t want you to fix your stuff. Motorola’s not like most manufacturers. This year, Motorola became the first major smartphone manufacturer ever to supply OEM parts to iFixit. Learn more about our partnership.
9. Meet Eric Lundgren, the e-waste refurbisher Microsoft helped send to prison
Our friend Eric Lundgren was sentenced to prison for duplicating OEM Dell restore CDs. After losing his last appeal, Eric now faces 15 months in Federal prison and a hefty $50,000 fine. Eric argues that he was just trying to keep PCs out of the landfill—and since Dell offers up those restore discs to freely download, he thought he was on the right side of the law. Eric lost this particular battle, but his story helped shine a national spotlight on the challenges facing refurbishers and recyclers everywhere.
10. Copyright law is screwing your Right to Repair
Hardware manufacturers are using every dirty trick in the book to keep you from repairing your stuff. We don’t like it, so we’re fighting back! Reason Media paid us a visit this year, and they recently released this 15-minute documentary on the long, hard battle for Right to Repair.
Repair keeps America running. There are currently over 3 million repair and reuse professionals in the US—they fix cell phones, repair refrigerators, refurbish servers, return tractors to working order, and so much more. Their combined efforts have diverted millions of products from landfills and added countless dollars to the American economy. And they need our support.
If we’ve got any shot at legalizing Right to Repair laws next year, we’ll need your help. So if you believe that you should have the right to repair your stuff, reach out your state lawmakers and tell them so. Repair.org, a pro-repair advocacy group, makes it really easy to write or call your legislators here.