Apple is planning to oppose a "Right to Repair" legislation introduced last month in the Nebraska legislature, Motherboard reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source within the legislature. The bill for the Fair Repair Act is aimed at ending the manufacturers' aftermarket monopoly, wherein only authorized service providers are allowed to carry out repairs. However, the right to repair movement, which has also gained cachet in the states of Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee -- has faced vehement opposition not just from Apple, but also from tractor manufacturer John Deere. The company argued in 2015 that allowing people to tinker with their software -- even if it's for the purpose of repair -- would "make it possible for pirates, third-party software developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software designed by leading vehicle manufacturers." When the Nebraska bill is tabled for a hearing on March 9, Apple -- which has successfully lobbied against similar bills in other states -- is expected to argue, among other things, that allowing customers or independent mechanics to repair their own phones could cause the devices' lithium-ion batteries to catch fire.
The fight for our right to repair the stuff we own has suffered a huge setback. As anyone who repairs electronics knows, keeping a device in working order often means fixing both its hardware and software. But a big California farmers' lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers' right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. As an organization representing 2.5 million California agriculture jobs, the California Farm Bureau gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer. Farmers can't change engine settings, can't retrofit old equipment with new features, and can't modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own.
Michael Oberdick owns two small gadget repair shops in northwestern Ohio. He and his technicians spend their days at iOutlet replacing busted screens, repairing battered motherboards, and generally making life easier for people who've done something stupid with their gadgets. He found this job far easier just five years ago, when he started repairing phones for friends. Back then, anyone with basic tools, a little patience, and an instruction manual could fix just about anything. But these days, performing all but the most basic repairs requires specialized tools and knowledge that companies like Apple and Samsung guard jealously.
Like any farmer, Guy Mills Jr. has had his share of equipment trouble. In the past, Mills, who grows corn, soybean and alfalfa on his 3,810-acre farm in Ansley, Neb., would have fixed his machinery himself. But like so many essential tools, Mills' equipment has become so technologically complex that he needs outside help when it breaks down. Unfortunately for him, that help can eat up time and money, both of which have been in short supply. "If you have a bad alternator, they connect a computer to your tractor and it tells them the alternator is bad," says Mills, 57.
Apple is still strongly against Nebraska's proposed "Right to Repair" bill. A representative for the Cupertino giant even pointed out recently how this proposed piece of legislation could open the doors for more shenanigans if passed. This Friday, BuzzFeed learned of what Apple rep Steve Kester said about the proposal in a recent meeting with State Senator Lydia Brasch. Kester had apparently warned Brasch that the passage of the bill will very likely make Nebraska the "Mecca for bad actors" -- his way of saying hackers will flood the state should the bill be approved. Interestingly, the Apple rep divulged that the tech giant is more concerned with its famous smartphone line, the iPhone, than the other products.