The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law passed in the United States over 20 years ago, criminalizes the production of technology intended to circumvent DRM. While most people equate this with pirating movies, the law has also drastically affected the technology repair industry, as more and more manufacturers implement DRM designed to limit repair options. For example, recent Mac computers have a chip which makes certain repairs impossible without Apple-authorized software.

Yesterday, the Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office announced new exceptions to the DMCA. The new rules make avoiding DRM legal while repairing phones, smart speakers, home appliances, smart home systems, and motorized land vehicles (like tractors). However, some provisions requested by the repair community were denied; removing DRM to repair game consoles and non-land vehicles (boats and airplanes) is still illegal, as is bypassing HDCP (HDMI copy protection) on TVs.

While this is certainly an important step in the "right to repair" movement that the tech community has been pushing for, it's not concrete legislation. It's still illegal for companies in the US to sell DRM-breaking tools commercially, and that can only be addressed by Congress. The new rules go into effect on Sunday, October 28.