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US Copyright Office rules console owners can repair optical drives

Exemption is limited to one type of fix due to concerns around video game piracy

The US Copyright Office has announced a change to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that will let console owners repair the optical drives on their own devices.

The exemption, led by the librarian of Congress, also allows consumers to perform "diagnosis, maintenance and repair" on other software-enabled electrical devices.

"For the reasons discussed in the Register's Recommendation, the Register recommended expanding the existing exemption for diagnosis, maintenance, and repair of certain categories of devices to cover any software-enabled device that is primarily designed for use by consumers," the final rule read.

The register also notes that the exemption to video game consoles is limited to optical drive repair. If a games console doesn't have a disc drive -- such as the digital PS5 model -- it is not eligible for self-repair under the new rule.

"Narrowing the exemption for consoles in this manner appropriately balances the specific adverse effects experienced by users against opponents' legitimate concerns over links between console circumvention and piracy," the register added.

The exemption for software-enabled devices allows the avoidance of "computer programs that are contained in and control the functioning of a lawfully acquired device that is primarily designed for use by consumers" when avoiding such software is "a necessary step to allow the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of such a device."

It also specifies that this type of circumvention should not be "accomplished for the purpose of gaining access to other copyrighted works."

In September last year, non-profit group Public Knowledge and repairs company iFixit both petitioned for the exemption to repair optical drives. The two firms "asserted that authorised repair services are inadequate, particularly for certain legacy consoles that manufacturers no longer support."

Earlier this month, Microsoft pledged to expand its "right to repair" options following pressure from shareholders, and a resolution filed by a representative group to give owners more flexibility in fixing their own devices.

Microsoft said that it would increase options for repair by the end of 2022, and as such, the resolution will be withdrawn.

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Danielle Partis

News Editor

Danielle is a multi award-winning journalist and editor that joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2021. She previously served as editor at PocketGamer.biz, and is also a co-founder of games outlet Overlode.