Tuesday, April 21, 2020

DMCA hampers medical technicians repairing equipment in emergency circumstances during COVID outbreak

Reason has a video and writeup of an issue where medical technicians need to fix equipment (especially ventilators) during the COVID-19 epidemic, and basically have to violate copyright law, especially the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, to do their jobs and save lives.  A medical technician named Justin Barber (in Houston, TX) is featured. Like the doctors and nurses, he has to wear protective equipment and scrub.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has often written about the “fix it yourself” issue and the DMCA provisions that try to prohibit this.
There are sites like “I Fix It” and especially Frank’s “Hospital Workshop” with compendiums of manuals on how to service medical equipment.  But HW has gotten DMCA takedown notices.
Furthermore the medical equipment trade association Advamed has lobbied for strict enforcement of DMCA, on the theory that expertise is needed. But with COVID there is not enough time.
The video traces the history of the DMCA, where the fear of video piracy drove it (and led to a close call with the defeat of SOPA in early 2012).
In 1998, I benefited from a new medical device for an acetabular hip fracture (at the University of Minnesota) and it worked and healed perfectly.

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