Apple has been very aggressively protecting their copyright on service manuals pretty much since the dawn of the internet. Heres an example of them going after Something Awful. Many of the sites theyve gone after have ceased to exist.
Since then, with the help of tens of thousands of incredible repair technicians around the world (including many redditors), we have built the largest free repair manual. Because we write them ourselves, the manufacturers cant shut us down. The community has written over 6,000 manuals, and you can download and reproduce any of them to your hearts content. We even post all of our manuals on bittorrent and the internet archive so they are guaranteed to be free forever.
Heres our Toshiba laptop service manual. Weve made progress on half a dozen laptops so far, with more on the way. Not nearly as comprehensive as what timix had, but its a start.
Toshiba is not an outlier here--they represent the status quo. Many manufacturers havent gotten around to issuing these C&D letters, but its perfectly within their right. Any site hosting manufacturer service manuals without permission is at risk of a shutdown like this at any time.
Thats why what we do at iFixit is so important. The world needs to know how to fix these products. Repair is critical for the environment. Repair helps bridge the digital divide by keeping the secondhand electronics market alive. And electronics repair represents hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States alone.
We cannot rely on the good will of manufacturers. Yes, many of them have looked the other way and ignored sites like timixs, but that is unlikely to continue. We have three options:
- Create a free and open alternative to the manufacturers service manuals (thats what were doing at iFixit).
- Pressure the manufacturers to waive copyright to their manuals so that we can reproduce them. Dell, HP, and Lenovo are the best targets for this because they already provide manuals online. (I am involved in discussions with some OEMs to make this happen. The more public support we have, the more success well have.)
- Legislate. The auto manufacturers refused to provide independent shops with the information they needed, so they banded together and just passed Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts last week. There's no reason we can't do the same.
Its easy to say, "shame on Toshiba" and move on with your life. But this is not unique to Toshiba. No cell phone manufacturer makes their service manuals available. In fact, outside of the heavy equipment industry (where customers demand it) and the automotive industry (where legislation requires it), its the rare manufacturer that does not use copyright to prevent publication of their service manuals.
I wrote the Self Repair Manifesto to make the voice of the consumer known. Its time for us to stand up for ourselves. We have the right to repair our things, and to the information required to do it.
We are making some progress. The forthcoming green cell phone standard, UL 110, gives manufacturers environmental points for providing open source service manuals. That gain is tenuous and could be reversed at any time, but its a foothold.
Ive dedicated my life to making this information available, and we cant do it alone. We need to band together as a community and take a stand.
We would love help. Join us over at iFixit! Or, if you want to get involved with advocacy work, email me at kyle at ifixit and Ill point you in the right direction.