Both Republicans and Democrats are pursuing laws to make it easier for people to fix cellphones, cars, even hospital ventilators. In Europe, the movement is further along.

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Photo: Kilian Seiler

By Paola Rosa-Aquino

If you buy a product — a car, a smartphone, or even a tractor — and it breaks, should it be easier for you to fix it yourself?

Manufacturers of a wide range of products have made it increasingly difficult over the years to repair things, for instance by limiting availability of parts or by putting prohibitions on who gets to tinker with them. It affects not only game consoles or farm equipment, but cellphones, military gear, refrigerators, automobiles and even hospital ventilators, the lifesaving devices that have proved crucial this year in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, a movement known as “right to repair” is starting to make progress in pushing for laws that prohibit restrictions like these. …

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