The Right to Repair Your Video Game Console – American University Intellectual Property Brief

A new exemption to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows video game users to repair their own consoles.

Repairing your video game console was illegal until Copyright office granted a new DMCA exemption in October.

Over the past year, many of us have turned to video games to cope with the stress of the global pandemic. As a result, the demand for video game consoles has increased and console manufacturers, such as Nintendo, struggled to keep up. So what happens when your device breaks down? Can you repair your own console?

In the past, the answer was that you risked a fine of up to $150,000 and possible imprisonment to attempt to repair your own console. It’s because of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA, signed into law in 1998, is an amendment to copyright law that attempts to update the law to address important aspects of the relationship between copyright and the Internet. Specifically, DMCA Section 1201 is intended to prevent circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs), such as bypassing a password system, so long as digital locks protect access to legally protected material. on copyright. Sony and Microsoft, for example, use these digital locks to prevent consumers and third parties, such as game repair stores, from accessing hardware to repair consoles. The only legal way for consumers to repair their own devices is through the limited number of authorized repair services (usually owned and operated by manufacturers). This option time consuming and often so expensive Better to buy a new one.

Last year, iFixit and consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge filed a petition to the Copyright Office requesting a waiver of DMCA Section 1201 to repair video game consoles. The Copyright Office reviews exemption requests every three years and makes recommendations to the Librarian of Congress on granting certain exceptions to Section 1201 of the DMCA.

Last October, the Copyright Office published its recommendation the Librarian of Congress to grant this exemption, which the Librarian eventually passed. The new exemption allows consumers and third parties to bypass digital locks only to repair optical drives. This means that you can repair your own console without sending it to the manufacturer.

Manufacturers have opposed the console repair exemption arguing that it will allow piracy and other unauthorized uses of the copyrighted work found in consoles, such as movies , sound recordings and television broadcasts. The register rejected their argument under the doctrine of fair use and concluded that the exemption has a limited purpose of restoring functionality to consoles.

The console repair exemption, however, is limited to consoles with optical drives. This means that if your Nintendo Switch, digital PS5 or Xbox Series S break, you cannot fix it yourself or using an affordable third-party repair service. The limitation notwithstanding, the Console Repair Exemption is an important step toward DMCA reform.