Apple customers have long complained about the $900 billion company’s draconian restrictions on repairing broken iPhones, MacBooks, and other devices. Now, consumer advocates are turning to lobbyists to pressure legislators to etch a “right to repair” into law.
Apple & iPhone Owners Spar Over the Balance Between Ownership & IP Rights
Apple and other Silicon Valley companies – although far from the pioneers of the practice (see farm equipment and automotive for that) – make it virtually illegal to work on your gear.
“Right to repair” laws and movements have long centered around more expensive equipment, such as cars and trucks. Nevertheless, in today’s world, computers and cell phones are every bit as vital in business.
Most anything you do on a computer under warranty, outside of an authorized repair representative, can void your warranty and make your hardware useless. The problem is that companies tend to be far too stingy in doling out the “authorized” label, even to qualified device repair specialists.
“Right to repair” advocates believe Apple limits the ability to repair an iPhone as a way to sell more phones. The iPhone is currently the most popular single line of phone in the world, particularly in the United States where it has at times held as much as 30% of the market.
Apple’s Steve Jobs was highly protective of his ideas and products. He once accused Bill Gates of stealing several elements of the Mac graphical user interface as famously documented in both movies about him.
Apple also oversees the most rigorous compliance standard for listing applications on its app store, a process which occasionally means entire categories find themselves in trouble.
Apple: Perhaps The Most Successful User of Open Source in History
The irony is that Apple has been as prolific in its usage of open-source technology as anyone.
OSX derives from Berkely Software Distribution, or BSD, a Unix-variant begun around the same as Linux. Most of the Internet today is powered by Linux or BSD, with some parts of Microsoft Azure being the limited exception. When Jobs returned to Apple in the late 1990s, he had worked on another variant of BSD called NeXTSTEP.
BSD is liberally open-source, which means that many of the additions and changes implemented by Apple over the years (beginning with the end of OS9) were able to be copyrighted.
Nonetheless, some years back a North Korean version of OSX (in look and feel) was developed, based on Linux. Called “Red Star OS,” it was laughably insecure.
Of course, Apple is not alone in finding ways to both protect its intellectual property and make extra money for licensing/guaranteeing warranty repair centers. Anyone who can get away with it will.
Mechanics and other types of technicians rely on the complexities of equipment to create demand for their labor.
At the heart of the issue is intellectual property rights. Do you own something when you purchase it, or does the company which spent billions developing the design still have inalienable rights over it?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.
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