Who owns our modern stuff?

In my posting War on DIY Electronics I already told that that the trend is that electronics is heading to be less and less hackable. Wired has an opinion article Forget the Cellphone Fight — We Should Be Allowed to Unlock Everything We Own that has many good points that I can agree on. USA Congress is working on legislation to re-legalize cellphone unlocking. The copyright laws that made unlocking illegal in the first place and it makes many other things you might like to do illegal in USA.

Who owns our stuff? The answer used to be obvious. Now, with electronics integrated into just about everything we buy, the answer has changed, because in digital age even the physical goods we buy are complex (usually run by complex software that runs on embedded computer or many of them). Copyright is impacting more people than ever before because the line between hardware and software, physical and digital has blurred. We really don’t own our stuff fully anymore – the manufacturers do own at least some some important parts of it.

Because modifying and repairing modern objects (home electronics, cars, etc..) requires access to information (manuals, error codes, and diagnostic tools) that manufacturers don’t like to give out. Property rights issue is turning many regular people into criminals: When they try to do something manufacturer don’t like, the manufacturers claim those people are illegally “reproducing copyrighted material.” Fixing our cars, tractors, and cellphones should have nothing to do with copyright. We should be allowed to unlock everything we own.

Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit. Most manufacturers seem to like to have a closed platform, walled garden or closed ecosystem.

Fortunately there are nowadays some exceptions to this rule, for example open-source hardware companies and open-source software companies. Open doesn’t conflict with money although it often appears to.

I do not think open conflicts with making money and further I think there are ways to make more money by being open rather than closed. Think about for example Internet, PC, Linux and Android. Open source software has created many well working businesses. Economic growth occurs whenever people take resources and rearrange them in ways that are more valuable.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Nick Statt / The Verge:
    Apple says its T2 chip in newer Macs will run a diagnostic after some repairs that may make the computer inoperable if not repaired by Apple or its network — Newer Macs now require a proprietary diagnostic tool be run after replacing the logic board or Touch ID sensor

    Apple confirms its T2 security chip blocks some third-party repairs of new Macs

    Newer Macs now require a proprietary diagnostic tool be run after replacing the logic board or Touch ID sensor

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Not just Apple: Microsoft has been quietly lobbying to kill Right to Repair bills


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