Widespread computerization and ubiquitous smart devices have enabled software-based copyright governance to reach into new domains. Beyond their instrumental utility, these devices are also containers of vast amounts of information in the form of software and technical know-how. Through copyright and anti-circumvention rules, however, this information can be cordoned off and confined to exclusive distribution channels. This can have a significant impact on research. While copyright law traditionally conceives research as the use of expressive works within institutional settings, this paper proposes a broader conceptualization that includes device research, including informal inquiries and DIY activities. Whether for the purposes of modification, repair, user innovation, or testing, device research involves the analytical engagement with physical devices. With a particular focus on repair-related activities as a modality of device research, this paper refers to product teardowns, reverse engineering, security research, and testing analyses. It then looks to case studies that exemplify the ways in which copyright can impede this type of research. In highlighting the conceptual overlap between the Right to Repair and Right to Research movements, the authors propose that a broader concept of research in copyright that includes device research could normatively reinforce and bolster support for a Right to Research in international copyright law.
Rosborough, Anthony, and Aaron Perzanowski . "Repair As Research: How Copyright Impedes Learning About Devices," (2023). PIJIP/TLS Research Paper Series no. 101. https://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/research/101