National Newswatch

Measure would reduce amount of waste going to dumps.


Ottawa-Cambridge Liberal MP Bryan May has presented Parliament with a bill to amend the Copyright Act to permit farmers to have the right to repair their machinery and other technology, which they can’t do because of patent rules. The bill has garnered support from all the other parties.

May told the Commons at the start of second reading of his bill that he hoped it would generate “a conversation about the right to repair in Canada. This issue is non-partisan, and it spans citizens from all corners of urban and rural areas.

“Farmers across Canada pride themselves on their ability to repair their own equipment because they must be able to not just for their own livelihoods but, frankly, to feed our country,” he said. However, they are prevented from doing so in many cases because of technology protection measures (TPMs). They can’t even use local repair shops and have to go to a dealer, adding to the cost and causing delays.

While copyright must protect whomever created the product, it shouldn’t apply to fixing it. The Copyright Act “is out of date and is being misused as a result.”

Covid has compounded the problem because repair professionals are often unable to visit homes or even farms. “It is critical that Canadians have a legal ability to conduct the repairs they are able to on the spot. This need for repair is even more critical for people in rural or remote locations who likely do not have quick access to dealerships or manufacturers. Their cost for travel to repair facilities might already be in the hundreds of dollars and that is, of course, before the cost of the repairs.”

His bill would create a very limited circumvention of TPMs for “for the purpose of diagnosis, maintenance or repair. This bill is not a sweeping change to the Copyright Act, but a rather limited change designed to give a small amount of control back to the consumer.”

As it is, the Copyright Act is being to prevent the repair of digital devices and systems, even when nothing is being copied or distributed, he said. This is well beyond the intent or original scope of the Copyright Act.

“As the digital technology around us has become more affordable, more integrated into our daily lives and more relied upon for everyday services, the Copyright Act has become increasingly influential on these items throughout this process.”

“In some cases, even simple repairs can cost thousands of dollars when consumers or local repair shops are prevented from making these repairs due to misapplication of the intent of copyright. This means higher costs and more items being sent to landfill well before they should. Our constituents want these changes.”

A recent survey found three-quarters of all Canadians would support a right-to-repair law in Canada that would allow them to repair their own devices more freely, he said.

“We must, as consumers, have the ability to conduct basic repairs on the objects that we own. We must have the ability to replace a part without risking charges under the Copyright Act. If we do not, we are dooming many more devices to the junkyard, to the detriment of our pocketbooks.”

The bill has to be approved at second reading and be studied by a Commons committee.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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