From Wired: another story of copyright used for censorship and protectionism. No offense, Silas Barta.
Copyright and Planned Obsolescence: The Shady World of Repair Manuals
- BY KYLE WIENS
Tim Hicks is a 25-year-old Australian with an interesting hobby: He trawls the nooks and crannies of the internet looking for manufacturer service manuals and posts the PDFs online for free. Hicks was frustrated that there wasn’t a single website out there with every laptop service manual. He started the site – aptly named “Tim’s Laptop Service Manuals“ – because he fixes laptops himself.
Tim’s site now streams over 50 gigabytes of manuals every day. Or rather … it used to. In a recent strongly worded cease-and-desist letter, Toshiba’s lawyers forced Tim to remove manuals for over 300 Toshiba laptops.
Tim’s many fans have expressed surprise at Toshiba’s onslaught – check out some of the Redditcommentary — and I’m outraged, too. Not just because of this specific case, but because of what it means for the lifetime of our devices, the future of repair and e-waste, and the abuse of copyright law as a weapon for planned obsolescence.
Keeping manuals off the internet ensures the only path for beleaguered customers is sending broken devices back to high-priced, only-manufacturer-authorized service centers. By making it so expensive and inconvenient to repair broken electronics, this policy amounts to planned obsolescence: many people simply throw the devices away.
Toshiba has discovered a new way to enforce such planned obsolescence by cutting the repair market off from critical service information. But the cost to society is significant: The e-waste problem is growing; we’re losing thousands of domestic jobs as independent repair shops shut down; and consumers are being forced to replace their hardware much frequently than they should have to.