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'Right to repair' measure draws fire at Georgia Capitol

Bill would require disclosures to expand opportunities to repair electronics, machinery, the text reads.

ATLANTA — A bill being called a "right to repair" law is getting some pushback at the state Capitol. 

The proposed legislation would require manufacturers to release information that would allow consumers to bypass authorized repair shops to fix their own machinery or electronics.  

This is a bill that has its roots in rural Georgia. For generations, farmers have repaired their own tractors and farm implements. But farm equipment has gotten high tech, says state Rep. Clay Pirkle (R-Sycamore) – a farmer who wrote the "right to repair" bill.

"It only provides that independent people and the owner of the product can work on the stuff that we buy," Pirkle said.

But Pirkle said the bill would also apply to electronics, from phones and laptops to potentially medical equipment and video games. 

Critics of the bill lined up at a hearing at Georgia's Capitol to argue that the disclosures required would expose manufacturers – including video game companies, which spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop programs.

"There is a thriving modification market to offer hardware, tools and code to modify game consoles in order to play these illegal games downloaded from the internet," Misty Holcomb of the Entertainment Software Association told the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee at the Georgia Capitol.

"We see a lot of issues with proprietary information," added Will Bentley of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.

Backers say the bill is a long-overdue step to bring down the price of repairs by limiting the secrets now embedded in electronics.

"We just want the right to repair," said Ken Peck of Smart3rdParty, an independent repair company in Peachtree Corners. "We don’t want the code. We don’t want to modify the code. We just want to just get it back to our customer to get it back up and running."

The committee did not vote on the measure. Its chairman suggested it would hold an additional hearing.

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