Copyright Office Report Echoes SEMA’s Position on Software-Enabled Consumer Products

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

In response to a request from Congress, the Copyright Office issued a final report on the interplay between copyright law and products that operate using software, including motor vehicles and parts. Many facets of software are generally protected by copyright, so the report is important for all businesses that make use of software in their products and whose products interact with the software installed in motor vehicles.  

The report issued by the Copyright Office supports SEMA’s position that current copyright laws adequately provide for the activities undertaken by companies producing aftermarket products that interact with, modify and supplement the software installed in modern vehicles. For companies seeking guidance on how the law applies, the Office notes that the “report itself can serve as a roadmap of sorts for those seeking to make legitimate use of embedded software.” The Office concluded that no legislation is necessary to allow for these activities to continue. 

“The Office recognizes the value of allowing the public to freely repair defective consumer products and tinker with products to improve their function. But establishing a new statutory framework explicitly permitting repair and tinkering does not appear to be necessary at this time. Properly understood, existing copyright law doctrines—including the idea/expression dichotomy, fair use, merger, scenes a faire, and section 117—should continue to facilitate these types of activities.”

The full report may be accessed online.