Voters may have been confused by the campaign by monopolist car dealers. Don’t be! Question 1 is a definite win for consumers.
The problem that this Ballot Question 1 fixes is that businesses have used copyright and contracts to create a monopoly — a kind of antitrust problem — where dealers can lock out independent, competitive service providers for car repair.
The manufacturers’ argument that “this is a security issue” is the classic response from any monopolist to opening up competition.
In the software world, though, it’s particularly wrong. Open source software is widely understood to create higher security software, because people can actually see the code and see what’s happening. “Many eyes make all bugs shallow,” as software folks say. Closed, proprietary software, on the other hand, has fewer eyes looking at it — only the company that made it! — and that company has a financial interest in not sharing or publicizing problems with the software. In other words, if you are looking for neutral diagnostics of the proprietary software, you’re out of luck, because the proprietor is not neutral — they have a financial conflict of interest.
That is basically the situation here — when it is only a single set of proprietary controllers (the dealer & their licensed repairers) you have no option to “get a second opinion”, and the “first opinion” has a financial interest in the answer they give you.
This problem, of manufacturers locking up basic information about the products they sell us, is a problem around the country and in products beyond cars. The Right to Repair program has been working hard in every state to deal with this, starting with cars — one of the most expensive and widespread consumer products. You can read more about it at the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s “ballot question information” , read the Massachusetts petition information at https://www.righttorepairpetition.org/ , and learn more about the movement overall here: https://repair.org/stand-up/ .
Please join me in voting YES on Question 1. Let’s pass this important consumer protection measure in a landslide!
Laura Quilter is a militant librarian, attorney, teacher, and resident of Amherst.