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Copyright and the Right to Repair

QUT Faculty of Law Thursday, 29 October 2020 Session 4 Intellectual Property and the Right to Repair Professor Leanne Wiseman and Dr Kanchana Kariyawasam Abstract The inability to repair and modify consumer goods is increasingly and globally important as countries transition to Circular Economies. The inability of Australians to repair their smart goods or to access repair or service information has a significant impact on not only the Australian economy, but also its economic future. At the heart of legal and regulatory barriers to repair are the IP rights exerted by the manufactures. This paper will focus on the role that copyright plays in inhibiting consumer’s ability to repair their goods. Manufacturers of digital enabled goods, such as our smart phones, smart watches and the myriad of smart devices that now inhabit our homes, use copyright in the computer software to ‘lock’ up consumer goods. They rely upon the copyright scheme of technological protection measures (TPMs), developed in the 1990s to protect music, film and other digital works to prohibit access to the underlying software programs that are now embedded in everyday smart consumables. In addition to TPMs, copyright owners are using copyright law to deny access to basic repair information in product manuals. This has attracted much recent attention, particularly in relation to access to repair information for ventilators, that have been so urgently needed during the Covid 19 crisis. This paper will explore how copyright owner’s excessive control over the owner’s ability to repair and modify physical goods has given rise to the international right to repair movement. In so doing, it will consider the different regulatory approaches being taken to the Right to Repair internationally, and explores how reform of IP, particularly copyright law, could rebalance the competing demands of private incentives for product and technology innovation and the public’s concerns over access to goods that have digital technologies embedded within them. Biographies Professor Leanne Wiseman is a Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the Griffith Law School, Griffith University. Her research addresses critical questions about the role intellectual property plays in hindering or enabling access to new technologies. She has published widely on intellectual property, in particular, copyright law, and its intersection with new digital technologies. Her current research focus is on intellectual property and the right to repair and legal implications of the digitalisation occurring in consumables, motor vehicles and agricultural machinery. Dr Kanchana Kariyawasam is a Senior Lecturer in Griffith Business School at Griffith University. Kanchana's primary research interests lie in the field of intellectual property (IP) law and her publications are in the fields of intellectual property and consumer Law. Kanchana completed her PhD in IP Law at Griffith and holds Masters Degree in IP from the University of Queensland. She has published widely on copyright law and information technology, patent law and biotechnology, and access to medicines.