Copyright Ruling Doesn't Protect Repair Shops

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Vehicle owners won protection from a U.S. Copyright Office ruling, but technicians and shops that diagnose, repair or modify a vehicle on the owner’s behalf weren’t so fortunate.

Both the Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and Auto Care Association are continuing to raise concerns about the issue. The copyright office is providing an exemption for vehicle owners under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The act, enacted in 1998, prohibits the circumvention of measures put in place by a copyright owner to protect copyrighted works. The law gives the copyright office the option to grant exemptions, and the office provided an exemption for vehicle owners who perform their own vehicle repairs.

But the copyright office didn’t take that exemption one step further and extend it to third parties who diagnose, repair or modify a vehicle on the owner’s behalf. SEMA says the office concluded that Congress would need to approve an amendment to extend an exemption to third parties.

“The issue of copyright affecting the ability to diagnose, repair and modify vehicles has come up recently due to the proliferation of advanced vehicle technology, specifically software, in modern vehicles,” says SEMA CEO and President Chris Kersting. “SEMA has always maintained that the right to access vehicle systems to utilize, maintain and upgrade vehicles is legal as fair use under copyright law, as are activities undertaken to achieve interoperability with aftermarket products.”

The Auto Care Association’s stance has centered on its belief that when a consumer purchases a vehicle they purchase everything — the body, seats, enging and the software that powers the vehicle. “Anything less is not in the best interest of the auto care industry or the car owners,” the association said in a statement.

“Clearly, car owners should have the ability to obtain the services of an independent shop for working on their car if they do not have the skills or equipment to properly perform the function themselves,” the association said in its official comments.

The Auto Care Association also takes issue with the decision to not include telematics or entertainment systems, which are key to ensuring the future of a competitive repair industry.  For more information on the case from the copyright office, click here.

For more information on SEMA, visit For more information on the Auto Care Association, visit

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