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.

We urge you to further educate yourself on the issue by reading this recent story from Motor Trend or this one from Autoblog.

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.

close up of man holding automotive diagnostic dtc code reader

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.

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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.