back to article Yes, Americans, you can break anti-piracy DRM if you want to repair some of your kit – US govt

The US Copyright Office has ruled that, in certain circumstances, folks can legally break a manufacturer's anti-piracy mechanisms – aka digital rights management (DRM) – if they want to repair their own gear. The ruling, issued Thursday, states that from this Sunday onwards "the prohibition against circumvention of …

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Midterms

Farmers in Idaho weren't happy at losing a crop because a combine shutdown because a sensor failed and it would take 2weeks until a service rep could visit

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Re: Midterms

Wasn't John Derre by any chance, was it? I've had dealings with their crap.

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Re: Midterms

It would be sweet if the crop in question was apples.

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Re: Midterms

yeah the John Deere repair fiasco is a lot like Micro-shaft using "software audits" to punish their own customers. when you treat your customers poorly, they'll find ways around you, if they can't (for some reason) get a competing product and tell you to pack sand.

It's the first thing I thought of when I saw the title, the use of DRM to prevent farmers from working on their own tractors. I could see preventing amateur mechanics from working on their own cars as "the next step".

Still, legislation and/or bureaucratic action to create exceptions like this is _STILL_ lipstick on the non-oinky end of the boar. it does NOT fix the fundamental flaws in that stupid 'digital millenium copyright bullshit' law.

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Breaking DRM to perform "unauthorized repairs"

You can bet your ass that The Orange Menace will do his best to cancel this "affront to American businesses".

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Re: Breaking DRM to perform "unauthorized repairs"

Wouldn't that put Trump on the same side as Bill Clinton, who signed the DMCA into law?

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Re: Breaking DRM to perform "unauthorized repairs"

Democrat and Republican are two sides of the same coin.

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Re: Breaking DRM to perform "unauthorized repairs"

Copyright is one of the issues both sides agree on. Hollywood is a major contributor to Democrats who doesn't want to see that well dry up, and lots of other business interests make money from longer and stricter copyright, so the Republicans are on-board too. The lack of opposition is why copyright has been extended practically indefinitely, despite that being blatantly unconstitutional. Robbing the public domain while giving nothing back has been highly profitable for Disney and many other mega media corporations.

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Re: Breaking DRM to perform "unauthorized repairs"

"Democrat and Republican are two sides of the same coin."

Which is appropriate, as the only party in Congress is the Money Party

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I wonder what the definition of "fix" is? "Fixing" something the maker considers to be a feature?

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Headmaster

What does that really mean?

I wonder what the definition of "fix" is? "Fixing" something the maker considers to be a feature?

Fix like a poker game? Like an election? Like anything that can have duct tape applied to it? Like a rare imported vehicle where you end up with the thing back together and mostly running and a ziplock bag containing the leftover parts you couldn't work out where went. Fix as in what you do to a cat?

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Re: What does that really mean?

Sorry but there's prior art on that line of thinking :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkAAEXwClio

Topical, it does not pay to be hip, at least it shouldn't.

Seems like there's a song for every occasion.

"Go, baby, go" lol

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Re: What does that really mean?

It can be done to a mouse as well. Male ones anyway, uncross your legs chaps. I was once instructed on how to do it, it requires a soldering iron (cauteriser).

Vasectomised male meeces are required for making transgenics and knockouts. Females go into Pseudopregnancy when mated. So you mate females to Vas males to produce ready recipients for your genetically altered eggs/blastocysts.

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Re: What does that really mean?

Sounds like my first marriage. I think this calls for a stiff drink!

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Some companies will probably try to completely encase the entire circuit board in a heavy layer of potting compound. Some did try about 20 years ago and repair was impossible. So was cooling as the process often covered any cooling vanes. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next in this circus.

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Circuit boards are really not something that one repairs* for quite a few decades now. You take the whole part, encased or not, chuck it in the bin, and install the new one - the idea is you should be able to do that without the rest of the machine rejecting the "unauthorized transplant", not that you should absolutely be able to replace a single transistor....

* well I might try, nonetheless, and it's nice to be able to do that; but realistically, that's not how tech is repaired these days - a lot of it isn't repaired in any way at all, full stop.

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Boffin

"Circuit boards are really not something that one repairs* for quite a few decades now. You take the whole part, encased or not, chuck it in the bin, and install the new one - the idea is you should be able to do that without the rest of the machine rejecting the "unauthorized transplant", not that you should absolutely be able to replace a single transistor...."

May I introduce you to Louis Rossman? He's been (sort of) fighting for the right-to-repair movement for some time now (and is a big hater of apple's business practices, which I find hilarious for a number of reasons). He own's a mac based computer repair store in NYC.

However, if you're vehement about your opinion, then may I recommend you get a job at your local Genius Bar? I think you'd fit right in.

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"Circuit boards are really not something that one repairs* for quite a few decades now."

Last time I repaired some hardware, I did just remove the faulty capacitor and replace it with a new one. A lot cheaper than buying a new monitor, or getting an authorised board swap.

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onefang wrote:

Last time I repaired some hardware, I did just remove the faulty capacitor and replace it with a new one. A lot cheaper than buying a new monitor, or getting an authorised board swap.

+1.

A friend I know was one of the few people in my area that would undertake board level repairs for some things like re-capping boards, replacing broken power connectors, etc. he's also re-built LCD screens entirely, although that's a very tricky thing (mostly to replace the backlight tube on pre-led screens), and he gave that up because it was so fiddly.

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"he's also re-built LCD screens entirely, although that's a very tricky thing"

This particular LCD monitor was sealed, so I had to crack it open before repairing it. Now I keep it closed with a couple of wing nuts and bolts through two holes carefully drilled through the case. I call it my Frankenstein monitor.

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Circuit board repair

@DropBear,

Repairing circuit boards is really not that big of a deal. Id encourage you to get a solder trainer board (*) and learn it... its an extremely rewarding skill and opens up some amazing hobby and career opportunities.

I've really never had an employee who could not get at least to the point of soldering leaded quad flatpack components. Most could do leadless QFP. Ball grid arrays, alas, requires some rather pricey kit and specialist training.

The only thing I'd caution is that life is too short to skimp on good tools. A decent soldering station (Metcal or Pace) and a good binocular microscope are a must. Also, take the time to make sure your work area is ergonomic.

(*) or go on oshpark.com ... go to the 'sharing' tab, and order a circuit board that does something fun rather than just a practice board.

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"Some companies will probably try to completely encase the entire circuit board in a heavy layer of potting compound."

That's awkward but not an insurmountable obstacle to a determined repairer. I've dissolved encapsulant from boards that I really needed to fix.

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Rol

Would you prefer a dry bottom?

I was ready to start banging away at the keyboard to bring Louis Rossman into the picture, but you beat me to it.

What a guy. I've been watching his videos on youtube and some are hilarious, but they all demonstrate the absurdity and sheer bloody-mindedness of Apple.

I love his take on the rogue business that offers to "professionally" dry your liquid damaged circuitry - "Would you prefer a dry bottom? Of course not, you'd want a clean bottom after going to the toilet" Pointing to a motherboard that had been dried by this company, that then later decayed and shorted in multiple places due to the deposits left behind after drying the board out.

No matter where you are on the hate - fanbois scale of Apple appreciation, you should check out his vids, as they tell it as it is.

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he's also re-built LCD screens entirely, although that's a very tricky thing (mostly to replace the backlight tube on pre-led screens), and he gave that up because it was so fiddly.

Ugh, I've replaced a backlight on a laptop screen before, it was NOT fun, not at all. Imagine a flourescent bulb the width of your laptop screen, but 1/8" in diameter (or less). Usually hidden under sticky foil tape at the bottom edge of the display. Fortunately, the next time I had to fix taht screen, it was a cracked panel, so I just replaced the entire assembly.

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What's the catch?

From the current administration I can't believe that a gotcha isn't in the works such as a reinterpretation of the contract clauses to allow you to be sued despite the repair being legal.

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Re: What's the catch?

Contracts do not supersede the law. For example, you cannot sign away your consumer rights in the UK just by opening a software package where all the details are wrapped in the cellophane, the opening of which means 'you agree to this contract' etc.

About time these shady practices were kicked into the long grass. Now, if only we could sort out planned obsolescence - that should be outlawed too for environmental reasons alone.

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"unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

Aren't these all really just things that make it a pain to repair without actually stopping it? Digital signatures and the like within "approved parts" stops you repairing if there is another source, but you won't find them for custom silicon as making them would be an IP violation.

Unique screw head types - a bit of a pain until drivers become available.

Glue - more a cost / space saving approach that makes it a pain to repair.

Soldering - I'm guessing this is about soldered cables vs connectors. Connectors take a lot of space and introduce a potential source of unreliabilty (which can be much reduced by using higher-cost items). I do think that consumables (e.g. batteries) should not be soldered.

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

New screw head designs: Electronics are getting smaller and thinner, so manufacturers want to use as little space for screws as possible. So they are using smaller screws and the head of the screw is made from thinner metal, existing screw heads don't work very well at these small sizes and with such thin metal on the head..

Glue: Makes construction simpler, allows the design to not need screw nuts thereby eliminating stress risers from the design of the body making the device more study and durable.

Soldering: The points you mentioned.

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

Indeed. At one point in time, if a "switch" in your logic unit went, you could unplug that valve and replace it. Got a bit harder when you had to unsolder the transistor and replace it... then of course you could swap out that 16-pin DIL package using a chip extractor/pin straightener/insertion tool... Then you had to invest in a SMT desoldering tool... and so on and so forth...

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

It’s just difficult in getting 200 million valves in a square centimeter of space... I’ll get my coat. It’s the one on the sideboard sized radio. Gerrof my lawn you young whippersnappers.

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

You jest about the valves... but some science and engineering bods are looking at valves on silicone chips!

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

I wasn't jesting! The point I was making was the precedent in miniaturisation increasing the difficulty of repair. Going from discrete transistors to integrated circuits meant that if only one gate in an 8-gate array failed, you threw away the 7 good ones in replacing the component. Now we are not quite at the point yet where the screen is photogravured onto the same wafer as the processor, the LCD driver, the power components, the CCD etc etc. but that will come before too long, and at that point the integration of functions into a single manufactured component will signal the true and pure disposable, irreparable, phone.

Oh, and do you have a link for chipped vales? They sound fascinating!

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Chipped valves?

Here you go- this is a bit nontechnical but it gets the point across:

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/185027-the-vacuum-tube-strikes-back-nasas-tiny-460ghz-vacuum-transistor-that-could-one-day-replace-silicon-fets

I have some actual papers on this, but alas I'm on travel and armed only with a landfill Android. If more is needed reply and I will dig up the links when I return to civilization.

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Re: "unique screw head types and gluing or soldering components"

"New screw head designs"

Can be copyrighted, Once you own the copyright, you can control production - and prevent "non-authorised entities" getting hold of them.

Not that this is new. IBM PC XTs had "special" screws on the PSUs (no slots, notches or other things to undo, courtesy of a snapoff head) back in 1980. The only way to get them apart was to dremel a slot into the screw and then throw it away afterwards.

There's a whole range of security screws out there with highly limited distribution and "control" over who has the tools. On top of Philips/Posidrive there are another dozen crosshead types alone. (Hint: Japanese cars use neither)

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Some justice is still available for The People

In the insane political climate of the currently insane USA, a twinkling of what actually made America great is still shining, like a fire long gone out, but the embers of which are still smoldering.

There is still hope that we will once again have in this world a country that is truly with freedom and justice for all, it's just that, right now, there's a heavy layer of bullshit covering it all up.

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Re: Some justice is still available for The People

You're trying to reverse entropy. It's like growing older (in a mental sense) - the changes cannot be undone, the innocence is not coming back.

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Meh

Re: Some justice is still available for The People

The country you're talking about never really existed.

try watching "The Vietnam war by ken Burns" and you'll see it was just as insane 50 years ago.

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Re: Some justice is still available for The People

a twinkling of what actually made America great is still shining

Some of it has always been great, some of it has always been shit. For example, California is the world's fifth largest economy and half of the kids are on food stamps. The country has great universities and but a sub-standard eductation system.

Trump is a moron but the country has a proud history of them competing for and sometimes getting into office. I shudder to think of what would have happened if Barry Goldwater had become president. Or Newt Gingrich. Or Rick Santorum. And Sarah Palin could have become VEEP.

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Happy

Re: Some justice is still available for The People

"...a sub-standard eductation system."

A point well made, I think.

Though looking at the time stamp, maybe not from the US.

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Re: The country you're talking about never really existed.

You mean Nambia? That's totally real and anyone saying it isn't is just fake news.

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Status?

What's the legal status of the US Copyright Office?

AIUI, the US has governments (federal and state) that make law, and courts that enforce it. Where does the "Copyright Office" fit into that structure?

Presumably the power to make such a ruling must be delegated to it by the federal government? Does that override anything the state governments might say or do? Or is it an agency of both federal and state governments at once?

And what if the Courts think differently? Doesn't it still effectively boil down to who has the deepest pockets to fee(d) the lawyers and argue their way to their chosen outcome?

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Re: Status?

"Presumably the power to make such a ruling must be delegated to it by the federal government?"

Not really, the US Supreme Court gets it's power to overrule congress because the US Supreme Court ruled that they should have such power.

In the US agencies just do whatever they want and if a few years later somebody objects they just try and say "Well you didn't object when we started" as some sort of defense, if they get away with it long enough they get to keep the power to do whatever they were doing.

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Re: Status?

Go back and read the story. Congress delegated this specific power to this specific agency - to be exercised only once every 3 years.

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Re: Status?

It is a part of the Library of Congress and has been given specific powers in the DMCA to approve exceptions to certain provisions every 3 years. It is a feral agency that has been around a long time; I believe before the War of 1812.

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Boffin

On the one hand, this would stop parts – such as the keyboard – from being swapped out for backdoored gear.

Of good grief. Like this is actually a serious threat. If it’s more than 0.1% of keyboards swaps I’d be surprised. The vast majority of repairs are genuine a some numpty has spilled something on the keyboard, or they were crap keyboards in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, hardware has been hacked for nefarious reasons, it’s just not a sufficiently large problem to be a legitimate excuse to prevent repairs.

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I'd expect the threat to start rising as crime goes digital but perhaps other approaches are possible. A software-based approach with a good microphone will almost certainly be able to work as well as a key-tracker but swapping out the USB ports for something akin to a skimming device could be appealing to some.

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Good.

IMO the USA laws on Copyright are technically illegal in International agreements.

DRM and DMCA are an abuse of Corporate power. We all pay for the royalties of HDCP in things with HDMI. Also DRM doesn't stop commercial piracy, it takes away users rights.

It's a start. However DMCA needs to be killed and DRM made illegal worldwide.

The Corporate grab on extending copyright needs to be reversed too!

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Re: Good.

"We all pay for the royalties of HDCP in things with HDMI."

Not quite correct, you pay the royalties for HDMI not HDCP. HDMI is a propriety connector and protocol which you need to pay royalties to use. HDCP is free, and in fact DisplayPort implements it and has no royalties.

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Mushroom

Reversing decisions...

Sounds like a job for an ex-FCC chairman...

Timing should work well.

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Too soon to count the chickens. This is not a victory. This is only temporary.

> The Copyright Office can reverse its decision in three years

And does so quite often. There's been quite a few of these "victories" that have only lasted 3 years.

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