Rob Pegoraro on who owns the software used in your car or truck? You? Or, the manufacturer?
The question, “Who owns your car?” has traditionally had two possible answers: Either you own it, or whoever holds the loan or the lease owns it. But a third possibility has emerged lately: Your car’s manufacturer owns it. Even if you wrote a check for the full price.
The law at work here, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, contains this line: “No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.”
That means a company can put a “digital rights management” lock on any software and extinguish the rights of everybody else to tinker with that program. With embedded code running in far more devices than it was in 1998, the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause is today much more far-reaching than it was when written.
You may own the car or truck but the manufacturer owns the software that controls the device. So, what happens when a manufacturer bricks the vehicle?