If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a battle being waged on who should be able to modify or repair your vehicle.
On one side, automakers are supporting provisions in a copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and even mom-and-pop repair shops from modifying vehicles. On the other side, performance enthusiasts and hot rodders are looking to preserve their right to tinker.
Essentially, the U.S. Copyright office is trying to decide whether the law–a wide-reaching law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act–protects the computer systems in today’s cars as intellectual property of the automakers. Lobbyists for a number of automakers say these computer systems are too complex for consumers to service and modifications could even lead to potential safety issues. Automakers also say altering ECUs could cause future cyber security vulnerabilities.
Home enthusiasts have been modifying ECU’s via performance chips and modules for years. In the process, they’ve boosted horsepower, improved fuel economy, and enhanced vehicle performance without problems. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for individual rights in the digital world, characterizes the provisions as simply an attempt to force consumers to have their vehicles fixed at dealerships or preferred repair shops.
A final decision on the potential provisions is expected by mid-year.
Learn more about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act here.
And stay tuned for more news and information on a debate that could potentially alter the future of hot rodding and tuning.