MP's right to repair bill is an important first step, prof says

  • National Newswatch

It will also help boost peoples' creativity.Ottawa—An MP's bill is an important first step toward reclaiming the right for owners to repair modern machines and technology, says Alissa Centivany, an Assistant Professor at Western University's Faculty of Information and Media Studies.Establishing the right to repair would also be good for the health of the economy, the planet, our communities and ourselves, Centivany told the Commons industry committee, which is studying Liberal MP Wilson Miao's bill.Repairing things is “not only good for the environment and the economy; it's also good for us as people and as communities. Every act of repair is embedded with important human values.“These include productivist values like learning, skill development, self-efficacy, self-determination and digital citizenship, as well as non-productivist values like care, continuity, heritage, hope, mutual support and meaning-making, which together make up the fabric of a richer, more resilient, more livable society and enable us to collectively project a more hospitable, habitable and humane shared future,” Centivany said.For owners of modern technology, repair should be available, affordable and accessible. However it “is impeded by design choices, business strategies, constraints on access, materials and information; various social factors; and laws.”By permitting the circumvention of technology protection measures, “this bill represents an important, incremental step forward toward reclaiming the right to repair in Canada.”Copyright law is meant to benefit society by promoting the creation and sharing of creative and artistic works and not to protect business models, she said. “It's absurd that manufacturers of things like tractors, tanks, wheelchairs and washing machines can co-opt copyright law and impede repair, simply by embedding code into their products.”Miao's bill “carves out a necessary, common-sense exemption to the law's anti-circumvention provisions, while leaving the provision intact for contexts that might bear a legitimate relationship to the overarching purpose of the law.”Opponents of the bill who say it would create risks to the environment, safety and security do not seem to understand there already are laws that deal with those concerns, she said. The only way the bill could impact emissions, safety and security is if the software that governs repair also governed emissions, safety and security. If all these systems are bundled together, that would be a serious design flaw that manufacturers should remedy.Centivany also said most consumer devices are insecure because of “ubiquitous smartening of products through network computerization that creates security risks. Thus much of this innovation is of questionable benefit to consumers and society.”Miao's bill is also important because it would encourage innovation through the practice of figuring out what is wrong with something and fixing it. “Our understanding and valuation of innovation in this country has gone astray.“We overemphasize novelty, newness and invention, and we underemphasize the work, skill and adaptive situated problem-solving required to keep the things we already have running smoothly. Rather than undermining innovation, as some of the opponents claim, this bill undoubtedly promotes it for the good of workers and the economy.”The Biden administration has stated recently that the right to repair is important to building a healthy economy and 20 U.S. states have right to repair bills under consideration, Centivany said.