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Apple undermines the right to repair

by on25 September 2023

Doctorow dubs Apple scum

While the Tame Apple Press bangs on about how Apple is saving the world with its right-to-repair policy, the company is fighting it at every turn according to science fiction author/blogger/technology activist Cory Doctorow.

Specifically, Doctorow is criticising the way Apple equips parts with a tiny system-on-a-chip just to track serial numbers solely "to prevent independent repair technicians from fixing your gadget."

He said that right to repair has no cannier, more dedicated adversary than Apple, a company whose “most innovative work is dreaming up new ways to sneakily sabotage electronics repair while claiming to be a caring environmental steward, a lie that covers up the mountains of e-waste that Apple dooms our descendants to wade through.”

Doctorow said Tim Cook laid it out for his investors: “when people can repair their devices, they don't buy new ones. When people don't buy new devices, Apple doesn't sell them new devices. It's that simple...”

He said that Apple’s true anti-repair innovation comes from the most pernicious US tech law: Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). DMCA 1201 is an "anti-circumvention" law. It bans the distribution of any tool that bypasses "an effective means of access control."

This means if a manufacturer sticks some Digital Rights Management (DRM) in its device, then anything you want to do that involves removing that DRM is now illegal — even if the thing itself is perfectly legal...

Doctorow said that when California's right-to-repair bill was introduced, it was clear that it was gonna pass. Rather than get run over by that train, Apple got on board, supporting the legislation, which passed unanimously.

He said that Apple got the last laugh. While California's bill contains many useful clauses for the independent repair shops that keep your gadgets out of a landfill, it's a state law, and DMCA 1201 is federal. A state law can't simply legalise the conduct federal law prohibits.”

“Parts-pairing is bullshit, and Apple are scum for using it, but they're hardly unique. Parts-pairing is at the core of the fuckery of inkjet printer companies, who use it to fence out third-party ink, so they can charge $9,600/gallon for ink that pennies to make. Parts-pairing is also rampant in powered wheelchairs, a heavily monopolised sector whose predatory conduct is jaw-droppingly depraved,” Doctorow said.

Last modified on 25 September 2023
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