It disgusts me that many of the things that consumers in the United States purchase aren’t actually theirs, despite the fact that they paid money for them. Legally speaking, it’s more like consumers are paying for the ability to use someone else’s property, all because of asinine copyright laws. Fortunately, consumers won a small victory today when the Library of Congress made it legal for consumers to modify the software in their car for research purposes. Basically, you can now hack into your own car without having to worry about car companies suing you, so long as they’re “lawful modifications.”
Cybersecurity researchers and others in the public have the right to tinker with software in vehicles for “good faith security research,” under a new exemption authorized by the Librarian of Congress Tuesday. The exemption, which was opposed by the auto industry, comes after the Volkswagen “defeat device” scandal and after two researchers proved it was possible to take remote control of a moving Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Electronic Frontier Foundation previously filed a request to include an exemption for software access under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. Section 1201 previously allowed vehicle manufacturers to threaten researchers with legal action for modifying a car’s software, regardless of whether the research was well-intentioned. Now, car owners can adjust software in cars as long as it’s a “lawful modification.” While the EFF expressed dismay that the decision doesn’t go into effect for a year, the cybersecurity research community praised the ruling. Not only does this decision mean researchers will be able to expose safety vulnerabilities, it’s probably going to save a lot of people a lot of money.