Rich Warren | The Right to Repair What You Own | Scientific technology

The drafters of the US Constitution never envisioned future technology. Otherwise, they might have added the right to repair what you own to the Bill of Rights.

During the first century of our republic, self-governing citizens fixed what broke or hired a blacksmith or wheelwright. Until the present millennium, the repair of machines and other goods did not involve patents and copyrights.

Two things have changed that suddenly tied your hands when it came to DIYing your own property.

Congress has extended copyright law to cover more than “artistic” content such as writing, works of art, and music. At the same time, the complexity of devices, whether cellphones, cars or tractors, has increased significantly.

Manufacturers have used this incredible leverage on consumers. They could not only retain essential repair manuals and circuit diagrams, but critical parts as well.

Additionally, manufacturers claim that micro-code embedded in products remains their property, even if you just paid $ 1,200 for that smartphone or $ 500,000 for that new combine.

My former neighbor farmer, Jimmy, avoided going into debt. Instead of buying the latest and greatest machines, he spent the winters dismantling his equipment and rebuilding it. In the spring, his machines were like new.

Fortunately, he is retired. If he attempted this today, John Deere would shut him down and / or render his machine inoperable unless he paid an authorized Deere technician to service his machine using only genuine Deere parts.

Likewise, most people throw away perfectly good smartphones when the battery fails or the screen cracks, as manufacturers insist you return them to them for outrageously expensive repairs.

They charge $ 60 to $ 100 to replace a $ 15 battery or $ 300 to replace a cracked screen at $ 100. Local stores do this job for a lot less, but companies like Apple won’t sell them parts.

Some companies can even “break” the phone if it is repaired by an unauthorized company.

Deere, Apple and their brothers have very deep pockets to fight against legislation giving you the right to fix what you own.

Although there is the right to

repair bills that seep through Congress, these rights are more likely to be successful at the state level.

Right now, the Illinois House is considering, or possibly burying, the Digital Fair Repair Act,

HB 3061. It is up to you to contact your representative to insist on taking charge of this invoice.

My August 7 column on local service options inspired the above email and the following:

“My Dual 1219 turntable had a lot of hum, so I assumed it was time for a new cartridge. I wasn’t sure what this could be a good replacement so I took the unit to Carl Stanford at Good Vibes to choose and install a new cartridge. When I looked in the original 1219 box, I found a new idler pulley (no longer available) and a new brass idler drive pin. I brought them to Carl and asked him to set them up.

“He reported that: 1. The cartridge was good and the needle good, 2. The problem was with the connection to the cartridge, 3. He installed the pulley, because the old one was quite worn. drive was for 50 hertz Good job.

“I was playing singles and noticed a growl and reported that to Carl. He offered to stop by my house to pick up the unit and look at it. Who else would do that! I returned the 1219 to Carl. The rumble is probably caused by the hardening of the rubber of the drive pulley (it was in the garage attic for 30 years. I didn’t care to remove the 1219 and end up breaking a small plastic part in it. the arm movement mechanism). Carl had to make a spare (as no parts are available) so the unit now works fine, but the changer mechanism could not be repaired (OK as I never use it).

These local resources are invaluable.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime consumer electronics critic. Email him at [email protected]

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