Press Release Copyright Reform

Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Kathleen Burke to Testify Before Copyright Office Defending Consumers’ Right to Repair Gaming Consoles

April 19, 2021 , , , , ,

Public Knowledge Policy Counsel Kathleen Burke will testify before the U.S. Copyright Office this Tuesday, April 20 at 10:30 a.m. Her testimony in the hearing on “Repairing Computer Programs” will argue for consumers’ right to repair their own video game consoles. The hearing is one of the Copyright Office’s “Section 1201 Public Hearings,” part of the triennial process for granting exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Passed by Congress in 1998, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to bypass the digital locks manufacturers use to control access to device software and other works. This is in addition to existing penalties for copyright infringement, and bypassing locks is generally thought to be unlawful even if the underlying purpose does not infringe copyright. Every three years, the U.S. Copyright Office conducts a rulemaking to decide whether to allow circumvention of these locks for certain products, like Xbox and PlayStation optical drives. This process enables the U.S. Copyright Office to wield tremendous power in deciding what is and isn’t legal for consumers to jailbreak or repair.

The following can be attributed to Kathleen Burke, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The DMCA’s protection of digital locks should not enable device manufacturers to prevent consumers from repairing their devices. With regard to the video game console repair exemption we are seeking, the harms caused by the Copyright Office’s previous denial of this exemption fit into two categories: harms to consumers and harms to society. 

“The consumer harms range from the high cost of replacing a defunct device that could be made serviceable again with a relatively cheap repair to losing access to games a consumer has legally purchased that they can only play on their broken console. But there are even broader reaching harms that impact society as a whole. Youth groups, hospitals, and others miss out on re-using these devices for educational and entertainment purposes because the optical drive in most video game consoles breaks long before a consumer is ready to donate their device. And, broken electronics are major contributors to our global e-waste  — threatening the health of our planet.”

You may view our 1201 exemption request filings (1, 2, 3) for more information on the public’s right to repair gaming consoles. You may also view our latest blog post, “How the Right-to-Repair Can Help Us Overcome Our Economic and Climate Challenges,” to learn more about how allowing users to repair or replace broken console parts would encourage economic growth and cut down on electronic waste.