The reason why Louis Rossman, a YouTuber, got the million subscribers play-button? Apple! And no, it’s not because he unboxes Apple products or posts about the various hidden hacks. It most definitely is because he bashes them, gets sued by them on a quite regular basis and has tutorials on how to fix your gadgets, especially Apple gadgets. And also because Apple charges hefty amounts for small repairs, and more often than not, advises you to buy another one of their product, insisting that your product is beyond repair and people are getting pissed.
Many companies, especially Apple has a lot of techniques to make you buy a new product. For example, Apple made special screws called “Pentalobe” which are used in most of their products. This prevented the users from opening the products up with any ordinary screwdriver, forcing you to go to an Apple store for help, successfully preventing the users from repairing the product on their own.
Another example is when iPhone users who got their touch id repaired by repair shops which were not Apple stores, faced with an “Error53” situation after Apple updated its iOS. This new update rendered the phone useless as they were unable to open the lock of their products. They later updated the iOS again to let the users access their phones regardless of where the repair was done. This was a “warning”, as some suggested, from Apple – if you have a problem, only approach us and no one else.
There was also a time when you were not able to replace iPod batteries, which were known for wearing out too soon. As they were irreplaceable, you had to buy a brand new iPod in case you still wanted to use Apple. But they changed their policy in 2014 and started providing replacements all because of a YouTube video by “Casey Neistat Classics” which led to a huge crowd of very pissed off people.
Nikon followed in the steps of Apple and stopped providing repair parts to all independent repair shops except to 23 authorized facilities.
And then there is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of USA – “a copyright which criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works” – which is a boon for patent holders but at the same time does not allow product users to tinker with the product.
In 2012, Massachusetts passes United States of America’s first Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right To Repair Act which allowed motor vehicle owners to repair their vehicles by making sure the manufacturers provided them with manuals, and other necessary information or documents needed to help them. This was passed after the farmers faced a lot of problems, not able to fix their machinery which led to delay in their produce and a lot of money leading to debt. This had become such a big issue that one of the American presidential candidates, Elizabeth Warren, is supporting the idea of Right to Repair and to make sure that such law is passed in every state of America. As this bill was passed, the Right to Repair became a movement and gained momentum in the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, and not only in the field of automobiles but all of electronics. This is when MNCs, especially Apple came under fire for their prices and practices.
The practice of encouraging new products and discouraging repairing of old products is hurting the environment and it is unsustainable, especially when global warming is growing at an alarming rate and when countries are trying to (hopefully) become circular economies – economies which try to eliminate as much waste as possible and focus on continual use of resources.
In 2016, 44.7 million tons of e-waste was produced globally, which if you can’t imagine is 1,49,00,000 Asian elephants or a bit more than 1,56,842 empty aeroplanes. This waste includes all the waste, from small ones like those tiny round watch batteries to huge ones like IT equipment or hospital e-wastes. You can imagine how much these numbers would have increased by now (2019). India’s production of e-waste is increasing at a rate of 10% annually.
They argue that the practices they follow are necessary and it is fair for the creators to gain from their invention/novel idea and not fair for people to use it illegally or reproduce without permission. Then why isn’t any action taken? They are protected by patents and other Intellectual Property Rights which come into play and which are used to protect their information. If we have a law for Right to Repair, then they are required to provide manuals about the product and detailing how to repair those devices. Such manuals may contain details which go against their interest, as a result of which they will not only lose a lot of money but also their market share and market advantages.
This is a valid reason, but this may not be the main reason why these big companies are so against this law. If there were manuals provided for products, then a big segment of the consumers would prefer repairing themselves or getting it repaired by someone else, which would drastically decrease not only the number of repairs coming into their outlets or authorised facilities but also the number of sales for that company. This all in means a huge, huge dip in profits.
The movement calls for the total control of the products that people own, meaning they want to be able to anything with their product, which includes being able to repair anything. This is not possible as it does hurt the patent holders, but allowing some room for self-repair or even getting it repaired in stores near to them rather than going to the authorised stores every time seems like something we should be allowed as consumers. This is the first step towards a circular economy.
As more and more people are demanding the Right to Repair, it has become a huge movement in the USA, EU, Australia and New Zealand forcing governments to push for laws to be passed in their assemblies. There is obviously a delay in the process because of all the lobbying by these big companies, but people are still adamant and people on Tumblr are going crazy over this.
This movement, unfortunately, has not picked up momentum in India, even though, as mentioned before, India’s e-waste is growing at a fast pace. Repairing has proved to be more sustainable than recycling in case of e-waste. Though this may seem like a luxury only the developed countries can afford, especially when the youth of this country is on the streets protesting, this is not something which should be taken lightly. Spending tons of money on buying something new when the existing product is repairable seems rather wasteful, not only in terms of the actual waste but monetarily and time-wise too. Though most of these laws are necessary, some seem to be rather useless at this point of time.
And then there is the lot who don’t really think of getting our phones repaired, especially when some electronics are not very expensive but let’s try to save this planet and make it liveable for a bit longer. Sustainability is a huge problem, so let us not act like those Boomers who don’t even recognise climate change as a problem. Let us change because if don’t look at our actions now, we will not be able to later because we will most probably be dead while being cursed by GenZ or whatever the generation after that will be called.
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