On July 18th, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet held a hearing titled “Is there a Right to Repair (R2R)?” There was far more interest by members in the R2R discussion at this hearing than that shown last fall when the Committee on Small Business’s Subcommittee held a similar information session – “Right to Repair and What It Means for Entrepreneurs.” Members of the Judiciary Committee seem to feel they may be the appropriate starting point for analyzing the right to repair issue. The debate was heavily centered around provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), specifically consumers access to tools for repairs.
A central theme brought up by proponents was that the DCMA provides consumers with the legal ability to circumvent security locks for the purpose of repair, however, it does not provide consumers the legal ability to make or access the tools necessary for those repairs.
The Ag industry was brought up at several points in the discussion – Deere was generally the example used. Though, it was not discussed in any depth or specificity, ag equipment was referenced as individuals pointed out the broad array of products that R2R effects. Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-2) mentioned the Ag specific R2R legislation that passed into law this year in his home state of Colorado, saying he hoped it would be emulated by other states.
The original intent behind the hearing seems to have been targeted at the auto and consumer products industries. However, at this point, it’s hard to imagine ag equipment not being brought up in a discussion on this topic. Additionally, support for R2R seemed to be very bi-partisan and shared by members of the committee from both parties.
The Chair of the subcommittee – Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-48) – is the primary sponsor of proposed legislation titled “Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation Act” (SMART Act) – which seeks to amend design patent laws. He made full use of this hearing to draw attention to his bill, mentioning it several times.
Chair Issa also mentioned the “Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act” (REPAIR Act) several times, which is co-sponsored by several of the subcommittee members and the Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), who was present and participated in the hearing despite not being a subcommittee member.
NAEDA’s assessment of the hearing is that it was largely meant to garner support for these already proposed bills that committee members have sponsored or co-sponsored. However, it is clear that engagement by the Association is needed to ensure Ag Dealer’s perspective is brought to the table. We will be reaching out to the member offices for discussions with their staff in the near future.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like additional information concerning this hearing, please feel free to reach out to NAEDA’s Government Affairs Team.