Autonomous Vehicle Legislation Stalled by Senate Democrats

Last week, the Auto Care Association filed comments with the U.S. Copyright Office responding to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers’ position regarding embedded software circumvention for the purpose of vehicle repair. Auto Care and the Consumer Technology Association previously requested that certain activities necessary for auto repair be exempted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) prohibition on software circumvention. While the Alliance did not oppose Auto Care’s original petition related to exempting individuals, the Alliance did express opposition to extending the exemption to third parties. The Alliance claimed that such action was unnecessary based on the existence of the Right to Repair Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreed to and signed by Auto Care, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) and the automakers back in 2014.

The Right to Repair MOU requires all repair information be made available to independent service providers at a fair and reasonable price. However, Auto Care has stated that the MOU in itself is not sufficient to preserve competition in the industry since vehicle owners rely on specific tools or third party technicians to access the software and complete the repair. Without an official exemption to the DMCA, third-party help could only come from the vehicle manufacturer. Auto Care stated in its comments that the automakers’ opposition to its petition to permit expert assistance through lawfully applied tools “is aimed more at preserving market primacy than at preserving any intellectual property rights.”

The Alliance also took aim at Auto Care’s recommendation that access to embedded telematics systems be exempt from the DMCA as well. Auto Care’s comments discussed the possibility that data from on-board diagnostic (OBD) ports might one day be restricted and that failure to allow shops and individuals the ability to circumvent software in order to access vital repair data would harm drivers.

The comments conclude with: “analogous to replacing moving parts with software, replacing physical ports with telemetry offers opportunities to reap a competitive advantage by monetizing transactions in which the user should have a free interest.”