Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle.

These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years.

Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA. 

These actions by the MIC are being coordinated with the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA), two groups that represent the interests of off-highway vehicles like side-by-sides and ATVs, respectively.

Why would a group like the MIC want to block our right to repair our own vehicles?

The answer is pretty simple, there is big money at stake in the after-sales servicing of a vehicle like a motorcycle, and the motorcycle industry OEMs, along with other special interest groups, want to keep that business all for themselves.

If successful in blocking Right to Repair bills, and the exemption for vehicles from the DMCA lapses, then it will mean that it will be illegal for owners and independent mechanics to do any sort of modification or repair to any part of a motorcycle that is part of an electronic system that is protected by digital rights management (DRM).

Though untested, one could also interpret provisions from the DMCA to include any mechanical component that affects an electronic component, which means the provision could extend as far as to outlaw basic maintenance tasks like doing an oil change, replacing a lightbulb, or changing a tire. 

In an effort to avoid this ridiculous possibility, Massachusetts was the first state to enact what is being called Right to Repair legislation, which gave vehicle owners and independent shops legal protection from copyright violation claims that could arise from working on an automobile, as well as access to diagnostic information and equipment for these vehicles.

While the law in Massachusetts deals only with automobiles, exempting motorcycles and other vehicles, four other states (Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York) are looking to pass more sweeping legislation that would cover everything from consumer electronics like cellphones, TVs, and microwaves, as well as vehicles like motorcycles, ATVs, and side-by-sides.

Click here, and you can read the letter sent by the MIC, ROHVA, and SVIA to Nebraska State Senator Lydia Brasch (R – 16th District), the author of Nebraska’s Fair Repair Act, which deals with this very issue.

Laws like this are of course a threat to the interests represented by the MIC, ROHVA, and SVIA, as the passing of Right to Repair laws means vehicle owners would then not be forced to bring their vehicle to a dealership every time something needed to be repaired, replaced, or modified. 

OEMs justify this position with the argument that it is necessary to protect the public from garage-enthusiast owners and independent mechanics who might improperly repair or modify a motorcycle.

These trade groups argue that the only way to protect the public at large, and the vehicles owners themselves, is to insure that only factory-trained mechanics – i.e. mechanics who have paid the OEM for a certification course – are the only ones with access, by law, to do repair or modification work to a motorcycle, ATV, or side-by-side.

In reality of course, by challenging these Right to Repair laws, groups like the MIC are hoping to establish a complete vertical monopoly on vehicle servicing – controlling everything from the production and distribution of replacement parts, the training and certification of technicians, and the licensing of service centers and dealerships.

You can tell that these groups are only working for the interests of the manufacturers, as it would be a dark day for many motorcyclists if they were no longer allowed to spend their day wrenching on their bikes in their own garage.

At a higher cost though, for the independent shop owner, these actions by the MIC, ROHVA, and SVIA would almost certainly mean the loss of their livelihood.

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

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  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    Interesting. I know this has to do with warranties but doesn’t this at least partially encroach on the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act especially if you are still under warranty?

  • Dan Weaver

    What infuriates me most about this new push combing from the Motorcycle industry is the childish reasoning that essentially they only want to protect you from yourself. Apparently people are to stupid to make their own decisions on how best to fix their own property i.e. do it themselves or take it to a place of their own choosing.

    I feel bad for farmers because they already got screwed over by this thanks mostly in part to john deere.

  • Bruce

    Ducati has already been working to make this a reality for quite some time. With my 2010 Mutistrada the “change oil” light comes on at 12000km and without the right equipment to turn it off you are forced to take it to the dealer. The dealer of course claims it is a liability issue and insists on charging $250 to perform the “first service” which is basically and oil change and a bolt check. In no way whatsoever would they budge so I drove across town and put money down on an Africa twin. Up yours Ducati. In the end I also found a private shop with the right equipment to turn it off, and they did so for free..

    Let’s stop these bastards from making it illigal to work on our own bikes!

  • MikeD

    . . . Land of the Free, Home of the Brave ? SIGH, Man, we are getting “OWNED” little by little any way you slice it from every angle and walk of life.

  • Rob Evans

    Ducati didn’t keep you from servicing your own motorcycle, they just kept you from turning off the lamp that says ‘a Ducati trained technician performed this service in accordance with Ducati factory maintenance manual’. I can’t see how you’d be mad for the dealer not wanting to turn off the lamp if they didn’t do the service. Besides, you can buy electronic equipment now to do these things yourself.

  • Swifty

    I’ve taken my Ducati to a dealer and paid $20 or something for them to specifically only shut the lamp off and check for updates. Pretty simple.

    I’ll still never not wrench on my bikes or truck. My garage has a door that closes.

  • Paul M. Fenn

    Making American Great Again

  • Wayne Thomas

    Easy fix…stop buying new vehicles and save your money. They wanna play this game then lets play.

  • BBQdog

    Any motorcycle manufacturer who supports this is throwing in his own glasses.
    I would be a backfiring gun. I would boycott every brand that is supporting this.
    On Euro4 silencers it is already impossible to remove the dB killer.
    Maintaining and tuning my bikes is half the fun. Tyres, suspension, exhaust and mapping are all things that got my attention. And they want to take that away from me ? Good luck.
    I am appreciating my old Yamaha SR 500 which I bought some years ago more and more.

  • And what do you do when it’s virtually all the brands in your market?

  • spamtasticus

    This spells the end of racing. No wrenching on your own bike means no club racing. No club racing means the end of national pro racing, etc, etc.

    Just so we are clear, if this were to ever stick, the very next salvo is the end of used bikes. The DMCA makes it illegal to violate the end user agreement and license. 99.99% of all software is “non transferable by the original license holder”. If you think this has no teeth, ask the mother who was charged and jailed for violating facebook’s EUA by impersonating someone else. They could not make anything else stick so they “Al Capone’d” her with the DMCA.

  • Shawn Kitchen

    You stop buying new motorcycles and learn how to appreciate (and work on) older ones. “Good motorcycle” is not limited to only *new* motorcycles.

  • Shawn Kitchen

    Actually, if your supposition were true, I think it would mean the end of *computerized* used bikes (although I’m not positive that your supposition would ever come to pass). There are plenty of old bikes out there that are purely analog.

  • Shawn Kitchen

    This was in motion long before the current administration.

  • Wolfdog

    What a shame. I will not buy a bike from a manufacturer that hates freedom, an tries to tell me I don’t really fully own something I paid for with my hard earned money.

  • Bruce

    Ducati has already been working to make this a reality for quite some time. With my 2010 Mutistrada the “change oil” light comes on at 12000km and without the right equipment to turn it off you are forced to take it to the dealer. The dealer of course claims it is a liability issue and insists on charging $250 to perform the “first service” which is basically and oil change and a bolt check. In no way whatsoever would they budge so I drove across town and put money down on an Africa twin. Up yours Ducati. In the end I also found a private shop with the right equipment to turn it off, and they did so for free..

    Let’s stop them from making it illigal to work on our own bikes

  • Westward

    God forbid there being such thing as a Free America. After all The US is a capitalist society, why if I could charge for the use of the sidewalk in front of my house I should. I’d rather they cross the street then walk freely to the neighbors without paying my toll…

    See, I’m a lot like Bruce, Customer Service means more to me. I use to take my Ducati to a particular shop for regular maintenance all the time. When I say regular, I mean averaged two to four thousand miles a month regular. I would be in there for all the scheduled service intervals, and in a single year, I paid more in service than a Suzuki SV650 cost new.

    One time, I cleaned my bike and forgot to put grease on the chain, that shop was close by and I ask this guy in service to put a little on my chain to get me going. This guy responded with, “You have to buy a tube of grease.”

    I bought it, used it sparingly to grease the chain, left the tube on the counter and went. I have never bought nor spent another dime in that place since. In fact I ride now to place that would have, out of courtesy dabbed my chain or turned that oil light off for free. I live nowhere near it and enjoy the ride every time I go…

    My brand of customer service just feels a little different to me than others…

  • Westward

    Yeah, but it might finally become a reality under this one…

  • View from the ground level

    Set aside our want to work on our own bikes, what will the wait times look like when everyone needs to bring their bikes in to the same dealership for service? I’m also a bit surprised that the online parts dealers aren’t fighting this.

  • Rob Evans

    I’m afraid you’re missing the point entirely. They don’t charge ‘because they can’, they do because it’s a business. When you go in to a SERVICE center who remains open by charging for SERVICE and then ask for a technician to take time and perform a task on a machine without compensation because the guy who needs the favor already did the work he makes his living from.

    I understand the customer service thought, I really do, but that type of customer just isn’t necessarily the type a service center wants/needs. Had you come in and asked to buy some chain lube because you forgot to spray yours before you left home, I’d bet they would’ve done it for no charge based on the way you asked.

  • Dan K

    Is there any current legislation going on surrounding this that action can be taken on? The AMA action center does not seem to have anything pertaining to this on their radar. The DMCA is already enacted, with a current exemption; so are we just screwed when the exemption runs out, unless a ‘right to repair’ bill is in place in our state?

  • spamtasticus

    I’m sure that the guys going round in nice old bikes will be ok. But racing here in the US is anemic as it is. This would kill it.

  • Jack Meoph

    The original DRM laws, written in the 90’s, opened up Pandora’s Box with it’s broad and short sighted rules, and was handed to our government representatives by the industries for their rubber stamp approval. Like most politicians, including the fools who occupy DC right now, they’re not in it for the long game, just what they can get for themselves right now. Net neutrality is about to get ripped apart. And like the DMCA, all that means is you’re going to be paying more money to your overlords, and getting less in return.

  • Racing Enthusiast

    Considering that many modern racers use either aftermarket or OEM offered race kit electronic hardware, that is NOT a problem.

    And if it ever were a problem, I would welcome the return of the purpose built race bike.

  • spamtasticus

    I dont know a single racer racing oem electronics since the sportster class died. FYI, aftermarket electronics will violate the DMCA. They will make their electronics a closed system, circumventing it in any way will brake the law.

  • Roland J Cannon

    You know, this reads more like, “Look, we did all we could to keep consumers from altering their ecu’s, exhausts and breaking emissions rules..In fact, US govt, back in early 2017 we tried to get you to help us, but you said No…..and continued to allow customers to have access to…..”

  • Barry Rothwell Taylor

    In Europe legislation was recently passed , well a couple of years ago , that means that third parties CAN service a car / bike / whatever without breaking the warranty .
    Land of the free ? my arse …

  • Racing Enthusiast

    I know plenty of people running Kawasaki race kit ECUs, Yamaha (Made by YEC) race kit ECUs, etc… in the regional road race club.

  • ArtBell

    The clowns can pass any law they like but how could they ever enforce it? It reminds me of the gun registration law they passed here in Canada. They estimated a 80% non compliance.

  • TonyG

    Thank you for the plain-truth speaking journalism in the last three paragraphs. It is, precisely, an attempt to advance vertical monopolisation.

  • zion

    Feel free to drop Tim Buche at the MIC a line and tell him this is B.S. He’s the President of the MIC and oddly enough heads up the MSF as well. Oh and they bought the rights to AIMExpo last year, too.

    Train ’em (which truly is not a bad thing), then sell ’em bikes and now if they have their way, bring ’em back for all your maintenance needs. Yeah, great. Speaking of monopolies…..

    Motorcycle Industry Council
    2 Jenner, Suite 150
    Irvine, CA 92618
    Tel: 949-727-4211

  • The four states considering Right to Repair bills would be a good start.

  • Ah, it might not break the warranty, but it still might violate the DMCA. One is not superior to the other.

  • I should also add, I’m not entirely sure that the AMA will speak up on this issue. I hope so, but then again I have a lot of hopes for the AMA that never seem to come true.

  • Westward

    No Rob, you miss the point. The frequency in which a customer utilizes one service should be a factor. Nearly every time a Ducati owner goes for service he spends close to if not over $1000, for standard intervals based solely on mileage. @ every 3000 miles, if a person shows up ten times or more in less than a year that is nearly the cost of a KawYamaHondazuki or half of another Ducati in services alone. Mind you there is nothing wrong with the bike. Its just maintenance.

    If you recognize someone as a frequent customer, as long as they are not a person of disagreeable nature, one would think as courtesy, they would dab a little on the chain. Because now they have to hope ten extra Ducati owners come in the next year to make up the revenue, that one customer accounted for.

    If I was the owner I would be upset I lost that kind of market share. Because that also tarnished the reputation of my shop as a dissatisfied customer tells Ducatisti of their bad experience.

    Less than five minutes of time and an negligible amount of chain lube vs
    multiple thousands of dollars does not sound like very good business to
    me. But then too, I could just be the crazy one…

    Also its little patronizing to suggest that one does not understand a basic business model. Am I to assume by your reply that one does not know the sophisticated nuances of customer satisfaction, and it’s relationship to residual patronage?

  • Rob Evans

    I didn’t mean at all to assume your knowledge of lack thereof conerning a business model, my apologies. Also, if the person is a ‘regular customer’ then that changes the entire debate. I was making the assumption (perhaps wrongly) that if “customer” does his own maintenance, the he’s probably not a regular customer in a service shop. And if he isn’t, I stand by my original words in that I see no reason the customer should expect free service (even if it’s just 10min of resetting a service light). I know if I was the customer I certainly wouldn’t. It’s nothing personal, but I can’t see why a busy technician would jump at the chance to do a favor for someone who hasn’t formed a relationship with him (professional or otherwise).

    But as I mentioned before, I feel it’s all in the way you ask. If the customer didn’t ‘expect’ free service, he was more likely to receive it. If it’s clear he’s expecting it, he’ll be disappointed.

  • travis

    ? , this issue is childish
    if you want to work on it yourself you take the responsibility of doing so.
    But that is not the case in this country, you perform something out of your skill set and cause a problem then take it in for “warranty” work!
    another thing- if you say anything is basically just a… your wrong! otherwise it would be called that