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Right to Repair is already hurling into action in 2019 (ifixit.org)
258 points by ahyattdev 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments

I would love to see stronger regulations on this. Ultimately this comes down to ownership. Companies have been heavily litigating users out of being able to own anything even if there has been money changing hands. (Also while including terms that make them not responsible for actions performed with a device you don't own).

For example: Sony and Amazon can take away the digital books/games that you bought a copy for. Sony will do it if you ever enact your consumer rights to charge back for fraudulent activity. (See r/playstation on chargebacks) (I'm not just talking about the game/content in question.. I'm talking about your entire library)

OEMs are definitely blocking repair, but not through litigation against consumers. The reason is they don't actually have the right to block you from repairing your equipment. The only thing they can do to you is sue you for violating the EULA contract.

EULA are designed to remove your existing legal rights to repair under current patent, copyright, and ownership law. Its the EULA that are unfair and deceptive -- which is why state consumer protection laws can restore your right to repair.

When I said litigating I meant they're forcing users to agree to a contract (EULA/TOS) just to use the devices sold.

It happens at higher price points too. Sony retroactively dropped PS4 support for my 4K display in an "update." After letting it run, the 4K modes were locked out, leaving at most 1080P, unless I bought a new display. Eck.

I think we will see various governments pass regulations, and they might even help a little, but governments have stronger incentives to push the other way.

Whether it is to protect IP, to enable police-interception or to prevent you from cranking up you radio signal governments and companies have joint interest in ensuring gadgets don't always obey their users. Often for good reason.

Politicians therefore have a much stronger incentive to push for piece-meal regulations to get devices to do certain thigns (will sometimes be consumer-friendly) than to support a general right-to-tinker which can allow uses that powerful stakeholders (including the public) will dislike.

Seems to me like they are hurtling, not hurling.

But whatever it is, more power to them. It is amazing what corporations have got away with since they got the Feds to stop enforcing the anti-trust legislation still on the books. Apparently there is this dodgy economic theory that says as long as prices don't seem to be soaring, monopoly power is harmless, even where it is demonstrably suppressing alternative products, some of which would be markedly better. And, even where prices soar, people might be better off for it, somehow. Or, the monopoly might not actually last forever if they get complacent enough. And so on.

There was a recent story on HackerNews about the New York Times, which cut off ad exchanges and still kept growing revenue.


I wonder if it's a similar thing about the supposed benefits companies thought they were going to get about limiting the customers "right" to repair their products.

On one hand, the benefit look "obvious", yet when you take into consideration the second-hand effects (like bad publicity, people getting frustrated by the inability to repair and getting a cheaper alternative) my guess is the costs were bigger than the benefits.

I've found that equipment that comes with the intention that end users can repair tends to be more robust (if somewhat more expensive) than the inverse.

If you plan not to repair you can skimp on all sorts of things (fasteners that break when you open them, clips that snap off, you can pump glue in etc) that actually lead to complete failure.

It's annoying, it's also hard (though the internet has helped) to get spares for things I can remember my father having no issue getting spares for, cooker elements, washing machine controllers and the like - I can remember when white goods came with a manual that had part codes to order those things in the back and I'm only 38, it's almost a form of learned helplessness.

Someone who can do the work of repairing appliances can make good money doing something else. As the manufacturing cost goes down, it really does make less and less sense to support repair.

It's clearly a local optimum, ideally you'd do the engineering to make repair cheap too, but I don't see how you climb out of it.

Tax the externalities unless we can efficiently recycle everything power efficiently.

I.e. increase the cost of cheap disposable manufacturing so that making things repairable is the better economic decision (and better environmentally).

In modern, highly efficient markets, it's impossible to tell the difference between a great business decision, great luck, a terrible business decision, and terrible luck.

Right to repair is doomed if its proponents make it about the bottom line. You don't really know if this decent thing or another is going to increase or decrease revenue.

Making it about doing what's right for the consumer is great. But better to promote Right to Repair during the boom times, when everyone's making money, and say that it's good for the bottom line, even if you don't really know.

And therein lies the problem. People who are great consumer advocates are terrible liars.

Apple admitted that people changing batteries and continuing using old phones affected their profits, this companies need in a way or other to make more and more profit and this means convincing you to get a new device every year or maximum two.

Apple is telling themselves that at the same time they're saying that the prices are fine. They don't want to admit that they over-reached on the price, especially in countries like China.

I think the problem lies in the idea that publicly traded companies need to do more, more, and more. Stability should be rewarded, too.

That is true, but the current situation is simpler. Design for disassembly and repair is expensive, time consuming, and difficult. It is far easier to have robots slap components together. That is plenty of explanation for phones now shipping.

Is it really cheaper or is something we were told. There are repairable phones that are not more expensive because of that, if you mean we can make this phone or laptop 2$ cheaper if we use glue instead of a screws then we can agree that we want to pay 2$ more to have the ability to swap the battery or keyboard instead of replacing the entire or half of the device.

And where does it end? When the whole world is buying a new iphone every year what do they do next? Release one every month? Force disable older iphones?

I had issues with the battery of my sole MacBook Air. The thing was still under warranty, but I since I needed it for work, I couldn't afford to let it for one week under the care of the local Apple licensee while they were ordering the part (which is mandated by Apple, no way around it).

I ended up buying a battery on iFixit (I had already replaced the battery of my previous model), only to realize that iFixit wasn't selling Apple parts anymore. The "aftermarket battery" I now have is less that ideal, and apparently there's no way to source an OEM battery anymore.

So it's nice we have the right to tinker with our machines, but if there are no spare parts, the point is moot :-/

What makes you think the ifixit part is bad? I have found the unofficial parts they supply are of superb quality. I feel bad that I have never used the tool kit it came with again because its of such a high quality.

Silly. Take it in to repair, then buy a new one. Return that when you get yours back. You don’t even need to give them a reason.

.. those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat <the same ask without results>

Seriously, how much "positive" spin can be tolerated at this point? We are in a tsunami of consumer-product waste.. some of it with notable components.. the markets are failing to balance the industrial life cycles.. This is exactly part of a giant fail by humans in geologic time, to adapt to sustainable patterns.

"It remains to be seen if we have poisoned the nest"

Intellectual property reform is wayyy overdue. The DMCA needs to be reworded to provide stronger protections to creators. The timetables need to be reduced.

The planet are literally on fire due to global warming! Still producers make things that are buy and throw, not made last and to repair! If we are to stop global warming together we need to consume less things that we can repair things so they lasts longer. This will lead to less global warming and less thrash which will mean a better environment that we share!

I got some open source hardware recently and I wanted to upgrade it. For the first time I felt the joy of reading a schematic to work out which configuration the board is wired in so I can get the correct part.

I think right to repair, open source hardware and 3d printers are going to be critical if we hope to turn around our throwaway society. It makes me so sad to see average people throwing out perfectly fine electronics because the OEM stopped supporting them or the battery got old.

A few of the people in this thread are suggesting that you should simply not buy these bad devices but the fact is unless everyone stops there is no hope for the environment.

I repair and modify computers and game consoles from the 1970s - 1990s and it's great how easy it is to get hold of schematics. I have an Amstrad 8086 PC for example which had full schematics for the PC itself and the monitor in the manual that came with the machine. This was the case with a lot of hifi equipment from this era as well.

A whole device can be brought down by something simple like a dead capacitor which can be replaced in minutes. Without being able to debug that they'd just end up in landfill.

I never bought the right to repair cry. I'm a tinkerer - always have been - and an iPhone owner. I bought my phones and knew what I was getting into. I don't think I've ever thrown away any of my old 'unrepairable' tech - I've mostly passed it on to relatives, traded it in, or recycled it. There are all kinds of way to mitigate junk in the environment and you can always...... just not buy.

It's incredibly hard to build a successful product. Just look at the Pebble or other Kickstarter graveyard entries. I would never in my right mind tell Apple to build anything - if I could, I'd be richer than them. I know they have their reasons for designing things the way they do. As a consumer, I am thankful for amazing tech that pretty much works as expected. Telling them how to build their amazing products, which would just make them worse, is the pinnacle of narcissism.

It's not about telling companies how to build products. It's literally about the right to tinker, hack, repair, etc -- which could be heavility discouraged with EULAs, ToSs, or even legal action.

And in many cases the OEMs have all the parts to fix things, will happily want to fix things, but won't sell them except through their overpriced 1st party service -- or even build into the hardware repair-detecting and disabling countermeasures (like Apple or John Deere does with some hardware iirc).

It seems like asking for the very basic right.

Even from the industrial side, reversible manufacturing is usually the best way to design a product -- it wouldn't surprise if some manufacturers (particular for products that don't have enough competition) go out of their way to make their hardware difficult to repair -- e.g. using glue instead of screws, complicating assembly, etc. An easy, reversible assembly process should be expected to cost less; using screws is much easier to automate, debug and qualify than glue; and so on.

Asking for the right to repair, and availability of parts/manuals when reasonable, seems like a very healthy, pro-efficiency, pro-competition move.

> but won't sell them except through their overpriced 1st party service

I had a control board go bad on an $800 washing machine. The manufacturer wanted $829 for the control board (just the part).

Would you mind naming them? I'm in the market for new appliances and don't want to support scumbags.

Some of the arguments have been on telling companies how to make their products. An example from the article would be making sure that large appliances can be dissembled non-destructively. Another example has been the suggestion of requiring that cell phones be assembled with screws rather than glue.

I am not necessarily advocating for either side, just observing that this is about limitation on design as well as rights.

You know something, even if some of the proposed legislation does amount to a limitation on design for mass market products, I think that’s actually fine.

They’re not specifying a type of screw. They’re just saying to use screws instead of glue, make a product possible to disassemble and reassemble without causing it to necessarily break on disassembly.

I’m not hugely in love with the idea of placing legal limitations on designers, but we’re taking about mass market consumer and commercial goods, generally measured in at a minimum, thousands produced and hopefully sold. They’re manufactured in factories that at their best are barely better than sweatshops in countries where the workers have fewer rights and lower wages and sold to people with more money, rights and priveleges. Jony Ive might not be happy if he has to modify his designs to meet a legislative mandate, but I just don’t care. The factories aren’t going to care, they’ll accommodate any change they have to. The factory workers aren’t going to care if they using screws or glue. Customers are going to care then if they can replace their widgets for a lot less money than it takes to buy a new widget. I know I’ll care about that, and I’ll look back with disdain on those few times I simply couldn’t get something repaired and had to replace it.

The market being full of disposable shit sucks. I have plates, ceramic dinnerware, silverware, glassware, cast iron pans and pots that I would like to some day pass on to my descendants because why not? They can sell it on to someone who needs it more, use it themselves, maybe if one breaks it can become part of a mosaic or something nice. I can’t think of a single electronic I own that might, might, serve some useful purpose, and even appliances with the additional and often unnecessary silicon in them are iffy.

If right to repair laws can change the status quo, I am all for that. If that means I’m not doing my part to inflate the economy with higher numbers by wasting more money to more companies to inflate their numbers for shit that will break in an unreasonably short amount of time relative to my lifetime, I think I can live with myself.

Repairanbility also has second-order effects: you can usually easily scrap the unit for parts, supplying the aftermarket repair industry.

I can recall when I cracked up my Nokia 1020. The local repair shops would replace an iPhone or Galaxy S5 screen for like $50 in an hour, but the 1020 was a nearly $200 proposition with a week's wait-- because nobody had a scrapped screen to offer.

You're assuming a false dichotomy between amazing-but-unrepairable vs. crappy-but-repairable products. It's possible to have amazing-but-repairable products, they just don't do it because it's less profitable to do so.

> you can always...... just not buy

Even better: you can buy something that is fixable. That way you get the enjoyment of having it, and can still fix it when it breaks.

>> you can always...... just not buy

>Even better: you can buy something that is fixable. That way you get the enjoyment of having it, and can still fix it when it breaks.

GP is right there. It's the first tenant of the 3-R's: Reduce. Or I guess one could consider repair as Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling, depending how you look at it.

It's easy to argue this perspective when talking about iPhones, significantly more difficult when talking about appliances like fridges or stoves. People aren't going to say, "oh, fridges are not very repairable, so I'm not going to buy one." They'll buy an unfixable one and then toss it when it breaks.

I’ve never had a hard time getting parts for a fridge or stove repair.

If anything, I think it’s gotten easier and cheaper than before (though it often takes a couple days to arrive rather than being very expensive though in-stock at the local appliance parts store as it was 20 years ago.)

> It's the first tenant of the 3-R's

I think the word you really wanted there was "tenet".

Missing the point about repair. Once you buy a gadget -- its literally yours. OEMS, including Apple, are blocking your option to fix your stuff, resell it, or tinker with it for their benefit, not yours. Has nothing to do with design -- just ownership.

That sure is a nice theory you've got there.

Would be a shame if something happened to it.


>Telling them how to build their amazing products, which would just make them worse, is the pinnacle of narcissism.

I would say it is a pinnacle of waste-reduction. We need to put the days of 'disposability' behind us or we are doomed as a species.

Amen. I buy old cars specifically because I can fix them myself. Newer cars are getting so ridiculous. Even if you can fix them, they're arranged in such a way as to be very difficult. It boggles my mind that we're currently driving disposable CARS, of all things.

On the other hand, I spend way more time per year working on my 1966 Mustang than my wife’s 2005 CR-V than my 2015 LEAF.

Brakes and other wear parts are easy even on modern cars and the modern ones seem to just need way less.

I have no experience with Mustangs. Honda is pretty good. I've got a Subaru with 235k on it that's still going strong. How many miles have you got on your leaf? I think they're pretty cool but they don't have the same capability a normal car.

Brakes are easy on pretty much any car but I'll do brakes, head gaskets, timing belts, pretty much anything. Most of that stuff is way more complicated on modern cars.

16K miles on the LEAF in 49 months. Literally has only required wiper blades once (a calendar item) and filling the washer reservoir several times.

Totally agree on it not being a full replacement for an ICE car. We have the Honda for that and truly long distance trips are by airplane anyway, so the LEAF is enough if it can do the commuting duties (16mi/day for me) and can go round-trip to the airport.

Rad. I totally love the concept of the Leaf for in-town and shorter drives. In my opinion, 16k miles is not enough to demonstrate reliability. 160k is when things start falling apart on cars. Then again, with the type of mileage you're putting on that Leaf, it may never see 160. Cool little rig anyway.

You must be young. (this is not meant to be an insult - its about what the younger generation has had taken from them!)

I remember equipment from the late 70s and earlier would have full circuit schematics and repair howtos... On the inside of the case. It was expected and all manufacturers did it...

Until microprocessors got cheaper. That previous circuit diagram was replaced with closed source unreparible microchips. And the code was then copyrighted, with all the ils of copyright law and illegality of sharing.

This was quickly turned to the norm, having sealed closed devices with "no user serviceable parts". The right to repair is to turn this trend around. Its about the right to repair it themselves and share how. Further is that the companies make repairable things. A switch or battery should not trash a device.

The 4th R is the first R: Repair, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. That's the R we should be focusing on.

At least as early as the 1940s, some radio & console manufacturers included a full schematic of the circuitry inside the case/furniture. They didn't try to hog the whole market. Servicing businesses grew up around repairs, as well as repair manual publishers like Sams (f. 1946). https://www.samswebsite.com/en/aboutus

It's a crime that we've lost all those services and the technicians. Throwaway is a disease.

I live just south of Indianapolis.. I remember when one of their relatives ran an "everything electronics" store. Was packed to the gills with anything and everything you could imagine. In fact, it reminded me of what Shenzhen is shown now by Bunnie. You could buy new stuff retail, or buy returns and broken or unknown by the pound.

Now, we have wealth upon wealth with technology of all sorts. But those things are sealed with alu lids over the board. Or this talks to the cloud. Or that is glued together with ultrasonic sealing so opening = destroying. Or batteries are buried with ultrasonic and glue and spot-welding. They're made intentionally user-unservicable.

All of it means that you have a snowball's chance in hell in fixing it. And yes, SMT is servicable. So is through-hole. And if these companies provided their pinouts for flying probe or provided probe posts, we could check what part or system is acting up. If we knew their voltages, then following that as a test would be easy. Or someone could re-solder that Atmel 328p DIP (or Arm, or PIC) after using a programmer to reprogram and then use it.

Instead, we see flat screens hauled down to the dumpster. DVD and blurays are dumped. Computers of all sorts and types, that likely have a single miniscule flaw "destroy" the whole device. It makes the game great for consumer culture: consume consume CONSUME! Companies can make shoddy stuff that has a MBTF "warranty + 1 day", and whoops that cap or vreg blows.

Seeing that e-waste makes me cry. I know how much resources are put into that via how much I paid, and I also know how much of that is externalized to our environment.. and Mother Earth's account is going lower and lower. I don't need that new thing. I just want to fix that thing that broke that necessitated me to get the new.

Hi neighbor. Indiana has a Bill this year.

Here’s what I wrote in:

Hi Justin,

I'm one of your constituents and I'm writing to ask you to support Right to Repair legislation in 2018.

As a Purdue physics PhD (makers all), it’s frustrating to see producers of electronic devices (mostly out of state mind you) keep their devices unserviceable by anyone but the manufacturer. Allowing service creates a flourishing repair culture, supports local entrepreneurs, and encourages reuse and recycling.

Please join Terry Goodin in the support for this bill. Let me know if there’s anyway I can assist you.

All the best, Rubidium

Of course, that old, often expensive, often tube-based equipment needed repair far more often than modern electronics.

Most everything I own lasts longer than I care to use it. (For context on that, I just replaced my iPhone 5S this month with a used 8, so I’m willing to run equipment quite a while.)

What does break before I care to get rid of is >50% electrolytic capacitor failures, which are generally easily repaired without a schematic. Beyond that, most anything is BER (beyond economic repair), even for someone who is capable of and interested in component level repair. I’m just not going to tear into a $500 TV beyond a caps issue. If I had to take it to a service center, it’s going to be $200 to take a look at it past the power supply.

I think that is mostly missing the point. Repair business is about scale just as much as any other business.

While it may not be economical for you personally to figure out the fault in your $500 TV, it might very well be economical for a sufficiently large repair business if access to schematics was easy.

There is no reason why you couldn't have a repair chain that can massively optimize the repair process by both collecting information about typical failures of particular products and by developing tools for diagnosing in particular products as well as their own spare parts, so they could offer things like free analysis for common problems and fixed-price repairs for those problems, for example.

Repair doesn't need to have a 100% success rate to be useful, but success rate and whether repair is economical depends heavily on availability of information. Every hour that has to be spent reverse engineering a device before you can repair it makes a few more percent of defects non-economical to repair.

Also, mind you that if it were an engineering goal, the increased use of processors in devices instead of specific circuitry could actually help a lot with repairs. While you might have a harder time figuring out what's going on with a scope probe, a processor in the system could actually help you with diagnosing problems, isolating faults, generating test signals , whatever. Instead, JTAG is disabled in sold products so you can't even use the diagnostic functionality that is built into the device.

I'm not sure that it's worth it for most customers to drive their [previously] $500 1080p TV over to a repair shop and pick it back up, even if the repair were free when a new 55" 4K LED TV can be bought for $400...

Hu? How does that work? For one, it's not like the new TV would not need to e transported to their home. Then, there is no reason why repair businesses are somehow inherently unable to offer pickup and delivery from and to the home.

So, you suggest that if you had to make a phone call to order a free pickup, repair, and delivery of the repaired TV, that wouldn't be worth it for most customers? Like, it's not worth it for most customers to essentially do nothing in order to keep using their TV? How come then that they still had the TV in the first place? I mean, not doing anything in order to keep using their TV is exactly what you do when it's not broken, right? If that's not worth it somehow, they should have thrown out the TV already, shouldn't they? So this has nothing to do with repairs then?

Impressive strawman evisceration; one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Many online sellers offer bundled (aka “free”) delivery of that new TV. My last TV was ordered on Amazon and delivered right into my hallway. All I had to do was set it up.

My comment above says many would judge it not worth it to do the transport twice if the repair were free. I’m not sure the business model you’re imagining where a repair and two-way transportation would be free (or even sub-$200 in the US).

I know I'm the gggggp and watching an impressive strawman :)

But one thing to remember, is if we were to price goods based on their creation, profits, AND externalitites (environmental of various sorts), these $400 TV's would likely be around $1000 or more. Land rehabilitation costs a lot, as does air purification and water cleaning of various chemicals. And land isn't exactly growing, so every new piece of trash in a landfill is taking up a limited resource.

Given all those things we currently don't include would easily tip the scales to "Repair". Sure, things wear out and die. Components can burn out. But we have the technology to fix them; we have the engineering to design durable and repairable things.

But because things are "cheap" (call it a loan from the future that we can't default on), its easier to enforce throw-away culture until we can't. But some megacorps make a few more bucks. And we end up with the DMCA, copyrights, and other obnoxious laws and technologies actively preventing us from fixing broken things.

> My comment above says many would judge it not worth it to do the transport twice if the repair were free.

Many would judge it not worth to do the transport of the new TV once if the TV were free. Whatever. Comparing apples to oranges is still comparing apples to oranges.

> I’m not sure the business model you’re imagining where a repair and two-way transportation would be free (or even sub-$200 in the US).

I'm not sure the business model you're imagining where just the repair is free either, but that's the scenario that you made up, and I simply made it so it wasn't comparing apples to oranges (namely, one option where the customer has to do the transport themselves vs. one where the transport is done by the company).

Now, as for two-way transport sub-$200: What would be the reason why that would be so fundamentally impossible? The direction to the home is essentially the same as delivery of a new TV, right? And I doubt that Amazon pays anywhere near 100 bucks to get the new TV delivered to you? More like 20 to 30 bucks maybe? So, why would picking up a broken TV from home and delivering it to the nearest repair center cost 170 bucks?

If I bought a better TV for $400 I would get no benefit out of it. Charge me for a $10 capacitor and 30 minutes of labor, please.

Repair is included in reuse.

You can disagree with mandating that a company build their product in a certain way, but I doubt even you are against stuff like:

> legalizing cell phone unlocking in Congress, getting the FTC to rule “warranty void if removed” stickers null and void, and convincing the US Copyright office to grant a number of repair exemptions to federal copyright law.

There are two parts to Right to Repair -- one is getting companies to design products that can be repaired, but even more basic is getting rid of companies' ability to use the law itself to shut down 3rd parties from fixing or modifying things they own.

I don't buy when people say that Right to Repair is just about telling companies what to do. Even if you're staunchly against regulation, there is still plenty of deregulatory work the movement does that you should be able to get behind. You don't have to agree with literally everything the movement says to advocate that it's anti-consumer, crony-capitalism crap that John Deer can use copyright law to ban farmers from fixing their own tractors.

The right to repair has nothing at all to do with the how to build "their amazing products".

You call yourself a tinkerer yet you have no idea what the implications of losing right to repair is. Kind of disturbing to have that knowledge and still have this mentality.

And how do you defend hiding the repair schematics?

I mean if you fear someone would steal your IP then they can buy your product and scan it and they also can get the schematics from an employee from your authorized repair shop. For me is obvious that "We don't want to give the repair schematics and we will go after you for using or sharing them" is not to prevent some company stealing your IP but screwing with the repair shops even if we know that eventually you will get around this

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