Both auto owners and security experts can tamper with automobile software without triggering U.S. copyright liability, read new guidelines presented this month that have met fierce opposition from the automotive players.
The Library of Congress, which oversees the U.S. Copyright Office, has announced a decision that agreed with fair use advocates claiming car owners can modify their own cars, including altering the embedded software. Automakers and other vehicle manufacturers such as Deere were against the new guideline standards claiming vehicle owners should use authorized repair shops for any changes needed to be done on their vehicles. Instead, the US copyright officials have agreed that modifying computer programs while repairing or modifying vehicles will not infringe the manufacturer’s copyright. “Sensitive vehicle data could be easily manipulated, altered, or distributed – undetected – if these changes are implemented,” read a statement from an industry group that warned on possible safety lapses form the new rules.
Security researchers have been pushing for copyright liability protection as computer programs are an integral part of modern machines and devices, such as autos, home appliances and even medical devices. “We are pleased that analysts will now be able to examine the software in the cars we drive without facing legal threats from car manufacturers,” commented a representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocated for the rule modifications. Meanwhile, vehicle owners are not allowed to perform certain activities that would breach the automaker’s rights – such as taking the code and selling its source. Meanwhile, certain US government agencies also had reservations about the new standards, while the Environmental Protection Agency directly opposed them.