Technology

New Repair Association Wants to Fix the System

By / Feb 3, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

With vendors in the secondary market running into issues as diverse as copyright and difficulty in acquiring parts, a new trade group, the Repair Association, backed by the prominent technology-repair firm iFixit, is looking to tighten some screws.

Sure, you use your iPad, but upgrading it? That’s a big challenge.

And breaking open your old Playstation just to keep a game running? There are a few legal problems with that solution.

As technology has gotten smaller, more nimble, and more digital, those working in the repair industry have run into an array of issues, from acquiring the right parts to disassembling hardware to complying with copyright laws.

Enter the new Repair Association, which hopes to fix these problems.

The trade group, born from the ashes of the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, isn’t just limited to laptops and videogames, however. Rather, it hopes to defend the right of independent repair shops to fix anything, whether that “anything” is a phone, a car, or industrial farm equipment.

The technology-repair firm iFixIt, a founding member of the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, is also taking a lead role in the Repair Association.

“The repair industry is facing unique challenges,” iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said in a news release this week. “Integrated electronics are making it harder to fix things. And manufacturers keep restricting access to service documentation, parts, and software—which forces consumers into more expensive ‘manufacturer-authorized’ repairs and drives small repair shops out of business.”

In comments to Vice’s Motherboard website, Repair Association Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne explained that the coalition expanded its focus beyond gadgets in part because it realized that the issues affecting tech devices were prevalent elsewhere.

Manufacturers stymie businesses in the secondary repair market by turning to copyright law to ensure that only they or licensed repair places can fix the parts inside their products and by blocking the sale of necessary parts and repair guides. As a result, the association will push for right-to-repair legislation at the state level to require manufacturers to sell repair parts to independent businesses and to product owners. At the federal level, it wants to get the Digital Millennium Copyright Act changed to ensure that independent repair shops are always legally able to work on any kind of product.

“It’s long overdue,” Gordon-Byrne said. “We have all these little businesses trying to repair stuff and running into what they thought were different problems in different industries. We realized it was all just the same problem.”

The association, which individuals may join for $50, also offers levels of corporate membership that rise as high as $5,000 per year. Members benefits include discounts from vendors that sell parts, industry certifications, private forums, and business-development tools.

Among the group’s early members are associations representing the medical-device industry, technology services, and recycling. Well-known tech groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the Open Technology Institute are also participating.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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