Apple is Lobbying Against Right-to-Repair Legislation Across the Country

Over the past few years, there’s been a burgeoning movement to guarantee the right of citizens to repair their own electronic devices, and a rise in corporate lobbying designed to defeat these initiatives. In some cases, companies like John Deere have argued that the firmware they run on a tractor constitutes a trade secret that farmers cannot be allowed to access. Companies like Apple have tended to take a subtler route and not advertise its stance as much. But public access records in New York State reveal that the company is putting serious effort behind its push to prevent such bills from becoming law.

The Fair Repair Act under consideration in New York State “requires manufacturers of digital electronic parts to offer for sale diagnostic and repair information in the same manner as such manufacturer provides such diagnostic and repair information to such manufacturer’s repair channel; section does not apply to motor vehicles.” This is explicitly tailored not to raise the tractor question or to raise the specter of people using these tools to make damaging changes to their vehicles. Some have argued that the ability to tinker within a car’s Engine Control Unit (ECU) could lead to unsafe conditions or damage the vehicle permanently. Whether you agree or disagree, that’s clearly not on the table here. In Nebraska, Apple tried arguing that passing a right-to-repair bill would make the state a “Mecca” for hackers, as if the digital elite are going to decamp for corn country on the promise of… fixing iPhones? “Go West young man” hardly seems to fit.

iPhone Error

The “Error 53” error started cropping up on iPhones when Apple updated them and broke previous third-party repairs.

Plenty of companies have lobbied against these bills, which are making their way through statehouses across the country, but Apple has focused particularly strongly on New York Senate bill 618A. It’s one of just three pieces of legislation that Apple lobbied over in March and April, and the company lobbied against it in 2015 and 2016 as well. Collectively, the companies opposing the right to repair spent $366,634 between January and April to retain lobbyists to promote that view. The Digital Right to Repair Coalition is the only organization sponsoring the bill, and it’s spent $5,042 in favor of it.

Apple has a long history of being opposed to anyone being allowed to work on its products. The company went so far as to introduce an iPhone-breaking DRM bug with a new version of its operating system that locked people out of their iDevices if they had previously had certain problems repaired at third-party facilities. Apple defended this as a security measure, but was forced to backtrack somewhat after enormous public outcry. But it’s a reminder that to these companies, your right to take apart, upgrade, or modify your own hardware is an assault on their business model and what they see as their god-given right to deprive you of income via repair fees or simply requiring you to buy a new device. They don’t take kindly to disruptions to that train of revenue.

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