Apple, CTA and Big Car are working in secret to kill New York’s Right to Repair legislation

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Here’s the list of companies that are quietly lobbying to kill New York State’s Right to Repair legislation (previously), which would force companies to halt anticompetitive practices that prevent small businesses from offering repair services to their communities: "Apple, Verizon, Toyota, Lexmark, Caterpillar, Asurion, Medtronic" and the Consumer Technology Association "which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers."

The companies are especially opposed to rules that ban using DRM to prevent the use of third-party parts and spares — it’s become common practice to embed just enough software handshaking in replacement parts to invoke section 1201 of the DMCA, which makes it a felony to bypass "effective means of access control" for copyrighted works. A manufacturer who designs their device to use (copyrighted) software to validate spare parts — something John Deere has become notorious for — can then invoke the DMCA to make it a felony, punishable by a five-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine, to make compatible components.

Every company lobbying against competitors making compatible products has benefited greatly from their own competitive compatibility products: for example, Apple ran a high-profile, extremely successful marketing campaign (the Switch campaign) that advised potential customers on how to use Apple products to access files created with Microsoft products.

It’s ironic that many of the Apple customers who cheered on the "Switch" campaign are likely gearing up to hand-wave away the hypocrisy of lobbying to make it literally illegal to switch away from Apple-supplied products, invoking the absurd claim that Apple critics are bitter hipsters who merely resent the company’s success. Remember: "the tactic of pointing to other companies that have done bad things when your favorite company is caught in its own misdeeds is the ‘But her emails!’ of technology fanboyism."

Apple and its lobbyists would not discuss their concerns with the bill with Motherboard’s Jason Koebler. However, Apple has lobbied against similar legislation in other states, several times, and told a Nebraska law-maker that passing Right to Repair legislation would turn the state into a "Mecca for bad actors."

The records show that companies and organizations lobbying against right to repair legislation spent $366,634 to retain lobbyists in the state between January and April of this year. Thus far, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition—which is generally made up of independent repair shops with several employees—is the only organization publicly lobbying for the legislation. It has spent $5,042 on the effort, according to the records.

A retainer agreement between Apple and lobbying firm the Roffe Group notes that the law firm will "lobby Apple’s corporate issues, including but not limited to areas of environment, tax, and retail." According to the contract, Apple pays Roffe Group $9,000 per month for its services. According to the records, fair repair (New York Senate bill 618A) is one of just three bills Apple lobbied on in March and April. The records—which as far as I can tell have not been published on a news site before—also show that Apple lobbied against similar legislation in 2016 and 2015.

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