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I run iFixit [1]. We started writing our own repair manuals because of this very issue way back in 2003. Apple has been very aggressively protecting their copyright on service manuals pretty much since the dawn of the internet. Here's an example of them going after Something Awful [2]. Many of the sites they've gone after have ceased to exist.

Since then, with the help of tens of thousands of incredible repair technicians around the world, we have built the largest free repair manual [3]. Because we write them ourselves, the manufacturers can't shut us down. The community has written over 6,000 manuals, and you can download and reproduce any of them to your heart's content. We even post all of our manuals on bittorrent [4] and the internet archive so they are guaranteed to be free forever.

Here's our Toshiba laptop service manual: http://www.ifixit.com/Device/Toshiba_Laptop

We've made progress on half a dozen laptops so far, with more on the way. Not nearly as comprehensive as what Tim had, but it's a start.

Toshiba is not an outlier here—they represent the status quo. Many manufacturers haven't gotten around to issuing these C&D letters, but it's perfectly within their right. Any site hosting manufacturer service manuals without permission is at risk of a shutdown like this at any time.

That's why what we do at iFixit is so important. The world needs to know how to fix these products. Repair is critical for the environment [5]. Repair helps bridge the digital divide by keeping the secondhand electronics market alive. [6] And electronics repair represents hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States alone.

We cannot rely on the good will of manufacturers. Yes, many of them have looked the other way and ignored sites like timix's, but that is unlikely to continue. We have three options:

* Create a free and open alternative to the manufacturer's service manuals (that's what we're doing at iFixit).

* Pressure the manufacturers to waive copyright to their manuals so that we can reproduce them. Dell, HP, and Lenovo are the best targets for this because they already provide manuals online. (I am involved in discussions with some OEMs to make this happen. The more public support we have, the more success we'll have.)

* Legislate. The auto manufacturers refused to provide independent shops with the information they needed, so they banded together and just passed Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts last week.

It's easy to say, "shame on Toshiba" and move on with your life. But this is not unique to Toshiba. No cell phone manufacturer makes their service manuals available. In fact, outside of the heavy equipment industry (where customers demand it) and the automotive industry (where legislation requires it), it's the rare manufacturer that does not use copyright to prevent publication of their service manuals.

I wrote the Self Repair Manifesto:http://ifixit.com/Manifesto

It's time to make the voice of the consumer known. It's time for us to stand up for ourselves. We have the right to repair our things, and to the information required to do it.

We are making some progress. The forthcoming green cell phone standard, UL 110, gives manufacturers environmental points for providing open source service manuals. That gain is tenuous and could be reversed at any time, but it's a foothold.

I've dedicated my life to making this information available, and we can't do it alone. We need to band together as a community and take a stand.

We would love help. Join us over at iFixit! Or, if you want to get involved with advocacy work, email me at kyle at ifixit and I'll happily point you in the right direction.

[1] http://www.ifixit.com/

[2] http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/Apple_Legal_Issues_Ce...

[3] http://www.ifixit.com/Guide

[4] http://www.ifixit.com/blog/2010/12/20/what-if-you-had-a-dvd-...

[5] http://ifixit.com/Info/Environment

[6] http://ifixit.org/2562/computer-repair-is-the-new-lemonade-s...

I would like to point something out here.

Your site says this:

"We admit it — we have to pay the bills. Selling parts is how we do that. We want to be able to afford to write new manuals, and the noncommercial requirement allows us to do that. We frequently grant usage licenses to commercial entities, so contact us with any inquiries."

On this page:


Specifically "We admit it — we have to pay the bills."

I'm not saying in any way this contradicts anything you are saying in particular. You do have to pay the bills. And Toshiba also has to pay the bills as well, even as a billion dollar company.

Is it my understanding that the OP could use your materials since they aren't "commercial"? And if so, what if they sold advertising and used your materials? Where do you draw the line (serious question and not trying to be snarky)?

Good question. I'm pretty open on that. The primary reason we did it was that people were taking our (free) manuals and reselling them on eBay. I felt bad for the poor people who were paying money for something that we were giving away. The non-commercial CC license lets us tell them to knock it off.

Tim is absolutely welcome to publish every single iFixit manual on his site. Heck, I'll give him an archive file if he wants.

Bottom-line: We want the manuals to get used. Whatever we can do to help people fix things, we'll get behind. That's why we do the bittorrent download of all our manuals. (Speaking of which, it's a bit out of date. I'll see if we can get updated ISOs pushed out in a few weeks.) We handle sites that run advertising pretty generously—we're happy to share if they're adding value (usually by translating the manuals).

By the way—the license only applies to distribution, not use. Hundreds of thousands of techs use iFixit manuals to sell their repair services and make a living. Many of them do pretty darn well for themselves. They are all awesome.

All of our manuals are available via our JSON API, by the way: http://www.ifixit.com/api/

Toshiba also has to pay the bills as well

Toshiba pays its bills by selling computers, or perhaps by selling preinstallation of mostly-useless trials of software and services on those computers. It does not pay its bills by selling service manuals, and probably wouldn't lose a measurable amount of money by making such manuals freely available.

Behavior like this, on the other hand might cost them a bit. It offends the sort of people other people ask for advice on new technology purchases. Offending me doesn't cost you a sale; it costs you ten sales. Offending this blogger probably cost them thousands of sales worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, though they'll never be able to measure it.

[Unless forced] it's the rare manufacturer that does not use copyright to prevent publication of their service manuals

Why do you think that is? Is it to make sure there are certified repair people who provide a predictable level of service and reduce competition for them? That seems pretty weak as a justification for putting any effort in to enforcement, but I don't have a very good understanding of the collective mind of a large corporation.

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