You’re now free to hack some of the computers on your car — for a limited time only.
Of course, most people don’t have the expertise to do much with their car’s computer systems other than break them.
But those who enjoy tinkering under the hood may be surprised to learn that a car’s computers have been legally off-limits — until now.
According to Wired,
You may have thought that if you owned your digital devices, you were allowed to do whatever you like with them. In truth, even for possessions as personal as your car, PC, or insulin pump, you risked a lawsuit every time you reverse-engineered their software guts to dig up their security vulnerabilities—until now.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibits users of works protected by copyright from circumventing technical measures intended to protect those works from illegal access or copying.
Perhaps the best-known anti-circumvention technology (at least to intellectual property nerds) is CSS — the Content Scramble System used to restrict access to DVDs. The release of a hack (called DeCSS), created in part by a Norwegian teenager and intended to allow DVDs to be played on Linux computers, led to criminal charges and years of federal court litigation.
In October, an exemption to the DMCA became available. This allows circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) protecting computer programs that control motorized land vehicles, including cars and farm equipment.
This exemption only applies when circumvention is “a necessary step . . . to allow the diagnosis, repair or lawful modification of a vehicle function.”
The circumvention must be carried out by the authorized owner of the vehicle.
The exemption does not, however, apply to vehicle entertainment systems.
Tractor-maker John Deere had argued that “the exemption might allow drivers to listen to pirated music and audio books or watch copyrighted films in their tractors….”
The exemption will expire October 28, 2018, unless it’s renewed by the US Librarian of Congress.
So if you want to start tinkering — get moving.