Auto Care Association Successfully Petitions U.S. Copyright Office to Exempt Repairers from DMCA Software Anti-Circumvention Prohibition

October 26, 2018
By Camille Sheehan

BETHESDA, Md. – October 26, 2018 – Based on a petition jointly filed by the Auto Care Association and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. Copyright Office on Oct. 26 eliminated a limitation that only permitted car owners to circumvent vehicle software under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The final rule issued under the current DMCA’s seventh triennial rulemaking proceeding effectively permits third-party repairers to also access software on personal, commercial and agricultural vehicles that are legitimately owned.

The petition from the Auto Care Association and CTA was necessary due to the U.S. Copyright Office’s ruling in 2015 that limited the exemption from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention prohibition to the actual owner of the vehicle. The Auto Care Association had argued during the current rulemaking for the expansion of the anti-circumvention exemption to include third parties based on that fact that individual car owners often do not have the tools or skills to access software in order to perform repairs, thus limiting the effectiveness of the 2015 exemption.

The U.S. Copyright Office further adopted as part of the current exemption process an Auto Care Association recommendation to remove language from the 2015 exemption that excluded access to computer programs designed for the control of telematics or entertainment systems. According to the final rule, “the Acting Register was persuaded that, due to increasing integration of vehicle computer systems since the 2015 rulemaking, retaining this limitation may impede non-infringing uses that can only be accomplished by incidentally accessing these systems.”

“The ruling by the Copyright Office is a huge victory for the independent repair industry as well as the consumer,” said Auto Care Association President and CEO Bill Hanvey. “Once you purchase a vehicle, consumers should have the full ability to either access their vehicle’s software themselves or to have a trusted professional entity perform the work for them. We are further gratified that the Copyright Office eliminated the limitation on consumers and third-party repairers accessing computer program related to a vehicle’s telematics systems, based on the fact that access to these systems might be critical to the ability to fully diagnose and repair today’s and tomorrow’s advanced vehicle systems.”

For more information about the Auto Care Association’s government affairs initiatives, please visit the association's government affairs webpage or contact Aaron Lowe at