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You can still modify your car — for the next two years

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【Summary】DIYers, car mods enthusiasts are recently getting good news from the government, as newly announced DMCA rules allow them to keep their privilege of changing or hacking their own cars, for at least the next two years.

Original Claire    Nov 06, 2016 5:10 PM PT
You can still modify your car — for the next two years

Do-It-Yourself-ers and car modification enthusiasts are on the receiving end of good news from the government. Newly-announced rules allow car owners the privilege of changing or hacking their own cars for at least another two years. 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was brandished in 2015 by major automakers to restrict car owners from hacking and modifying their own cars for the sake of security problems. As cars are getting more intelligent and technologically-oriented these days, many parts installed in cars such as computing devices are carefully calibrated to satisfy federal or state requirements. In effect, if a car owner decides to modify or remove important programs, this could be dangerous on several levels -- including legal requirements and safety. 

However, car modifiers and repair professionals don't love the proposal. This is because it limits their long-time hobby of doing upgrades or tinkering with their cars. After some efforts were made by the car-repair website iFixit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other related organizations, on Oct 28th, 2016, the DMCA put forward new regulations giving people the greenlight to make changes to their car -- with a few limitations.

According to the Government Publishing Office's Federal Register: The Proposed Class 21 would allow "circumvention of TPMs protecting computer programs that control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle … for purposes of lawful diagnosis and repair, or aftermarket personalization, modification, or other improvement. Under the exemption as proposed, circumvention would be allowed when undertaken by or on behalf of the lawful owner of the vehicle."

Yet it emphasized that people are still prohibited from illegal acts such as disabling your car's emission control systems. Disrupting the car's infotainment system is also forbidden, which contains a collection of hardware and software providing the audio and video entertainment. The Copyright Office bans it because it fears that drivers could hack their car to freely enjoy pirated music/movie products.    

Besides giving car owners the free will to make changes to their own cars, regulation-makers also offer security researchers the permission to delve into a car's software and security protocols to discover where the vulnerabilities are. Plus, they could even work on cars that they don't actually own. However, all the research should be based on "the purposes of good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing and fixing and malfunctions, security flaws, or vulnerabilities," according to Proposed Class 25 put forward by DMCA

The greenlight given to car owners will end in 2018. However, organizations such as the EFF are actively talking to the Copyright Office to make the rules permanent. Since fixing their own automobiles matters a great deal to owners, if these same owners were not entitled to this right, they are afraid the automakers will in time harbor a monopoly on car services and parts. This is something car owners wish to avoid. 

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