Car owners can modify vehicle software: U.S. copyright authorities

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 27, 2015 2:12 PM

By Dan Levine

(Reuters) - Car owners and computer security researchers can modify automobile software without incurring some U.S. copyright liability, according to new guidelines issued this month that had been opposed by the auto industry.

The Library of Congress, which oversees the U.S. Copyright Office, agreed with fair use advocates who argued that vehicle owners are entitled to modify their cars, which often involves altering software.

Automakers including General Motors Co <GM.N>, and other companies such as John Deere <DE.N>, opposed the rules. They said vehicle owners could visit authorized repair shops for changes they may need to undertake.

However, U.S. copyright officials decided that altering computer programs for vehicle repair or modification may not infringe a manufacturer's software copyright.

Representatives for GM and John Deere could not immediately be reached for comment.

Security researchers also pushed for copyright liability protection because computer programs are "pervasive" in modern machines and devices, including vehicles, home appliances and medical devices.

"We are pleased that analysts will now be able to examine the software in the cars we drive without facing legal threats from car manufacturers," said Kit Wilson, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocated for the rule changes.

The new rules must be renewed in three years, Wilson said.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Tom Brown)