A tech repair firm best known for smartphone fixes wants to be let loose on McDonald’s ice cream machines.
As its name suggests, iFixit has long been associated with Apple gadgets – and also partners with companies like Samsung and Google to provide replacement parts for their customers’ devices.
It is also known for posting “teardown” videos online, in which products are disassembled to show people how they work and how they can repair them at home.
It’s now made one such video for a McDonald’s ice cream machine and is calling for a change in US copyright law that would allow them to be fixed more easily.
There’s a law to stop McDonald’s ice cream machine repairs?
Yes, it’s called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
This is designed to stop people from fixing commercial equipment protected by copyright law – in this case, McDonald’s ice cream machines.
These are made by a company called Taylor, and an agreement it has with the fast food chain means only it is allowed to fix them.
Another firm, Kytch, has reportedly made a product that can read the error codes the machines spit out, but iFixit claims they are banned from use in McDonald’s restaurants.
In the teardown video, iFixit’s sustainability director Elizabeth Chamberlain said it would love to make its own device that can read the codes, “but we can’t because of copyright law”.
The video, which features the same model used by McDonald’s, a Taylor C709 Soft Serve Freezer, shows it spit out what iFixit said were “nonsensical” codes that were otherwise impossible to discern.
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What can be done about it?
The first thing iFixit has done is apply for an exemption to the copyright law for ice cream machines.
It has already successfully done this for devices like smartphones and games consoles.
In addition, iFixit wants the US Congress to reintroduce a law called the Freedom to Repair Act, which would let it distribute any tool it makes to mend the ice cream machines.
At the moment, companies can stop third parties from developing and distributing repair equipment or instructions.
iFixit is working with a non-profit called Public Knowledge to campaign for the law changes.
Kathleen Burke, the group’s policy counsel, said: “In principle, copyright should not prevent anyone from repairing a device they own regardless of whether that device is consumer or commercial.”
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Ms Burke also cited a website dedicated to tracking the status of McDonald’s ice cream machines: McBroken.
At the time of writing, just over 12% of the chain’s ice cream machines are said to be broken – though thankfully, my local one is up and running.
The Taylor C709 Soft Serve Freezer breakages are likely driven by the machine’s tendency to overheat, according to the iFixit teardown video.
According to Taylor’s website, the counter-top machines are capable of serving 350 ice creams per hour and can operate safely for two weeks before a full disassembly and clean is required.
Sky News has contacted McDonald’s and Taylor for comment.