New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own

CONSUMERS across America can thank a recent ruling by the Supreme Court for granting them the right to do whatever they want with gizmos and gadgets they own. Eh? Surely, one might think, ownership automatically confers such a right. In an increasing number of cases, sadly, it does nothing of the sort. If people cannot repair a product when it breaks, alter it to suit their needs, sell it or give it away when done with it, then they do not “own” it in the traditional sense. Even when they pay good money for something, restrictions buried in the small print can limit what they may, or may not, do with it. The Supreme Court ruling is a small, but significant, victory for consumers at a time when the whole notion of ownership is being rapidly eroded by digital technology.

Until recently, jail-breaking (unlocking) a mobile phone, even one that had been bought outright rather than merely leased from the carrier, was punishable in America by a fine of up to $500,000 and/or five…Continue reading


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