Car and Truck Makers Say that when you Own a Vehicle, You don’t Own Computer System that Runs It

Monday, April 06, 2015
(photo illustration: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Ahhhh… you’ve made the last payment, the DMV has sent you the title and now that beautiful car is all yours…except the part that the manufacturer says is still theirs.


Auto companies, with the assistance of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, restrict car owners and others from tinkering with or even examining the code that performs many functions in modern vehicles. They’ve come up with excuses ranging from nanny state nagging (you can’t repair your car because you might not do it right) to the ridiculous (you might use a vehicle’s entertainment system to illegally pirate music).


The Electronic Frontier Foundation is submitting a petition to the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress to urge that copyright restrictions be lifted, allowing car owners to look under the virtual hood as well as the actual one. This would allow owners to modify cars in ways not otherwise restricted (such as for emissions control) to enhance performance under special conditions or in other ways. It also would allow independent researchers to study the systems to discover if they might be responsible for vehicle accidents and traffic deaths.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Automakers Say You Don’t Really Own Your Car (by Kit Walsh, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

2015 DMCA Rulemaking (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Legislation Would Give Owners Some Control of Their Car Data (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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