SQLServerCentral Editorial

The Right to Repair

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I'm a do-it-yourself (DIY) person in many ways. I work on equipment on the ranch, repair or improve things in the house, and often tackle electrical or mechanical tasks. I've replaced hydraulic hoses, changed oil, replaced brakes, changed outlets, wired up lights, and more. I keep a hand cleaning degreaser handy and use it regularly.

I think many people who work in software development are the same way, and often I find they want to rebuild things themselves rather than adopt or improve what's there. Many organizations have a fair amount of NIH Syndrome inside that results in money and resources spent on software that might be better used elsewhere. I think some of this is going away as current trends in software make use of APIs, OSS, and services to cobble together a workflow rather than just building something from scratch.

However, that's not always something we can do. In fact, we often can't take apart commercial software and fix it, not even when it's broken and in need of repair. That same philosophy is starting to pervade products in the real world, which is disappointing to me as someone that likes to be able to repair something I own.

There is a good article on the right to repair over at Make magazine. In this case, the argument is that there are certain restrictions manufacturers put in place to limit the ability of individuals or third parties to repair products. In the physical world, I think this is a problem for actual devices, but it's also becoming an issue as software pervades the operation of many physical devices. One of the higher-profile complaints has been with tractor service.

I don't know how we reconcile the right to repair and own something with the intellectual property rights of software. It is a thorny issue, and one that I am not sure of how I would want to frame the rights, but I do hope that we at least ensure that physical products people own can be repaired by individuals, including the ability to "reset" software as needed.

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