Is there really a copyright on my car and can I really not touch it?  Back in the days when cars were just mechanical contraptions and not computers with mechanical appendages attached, an average Joe could open the hood and know what he was looking at.  Not only that, he may be able to do something when the engine was making that noise that the mechanic never seems to hear.       

Adding to the sense of helplessness on looking at a modern engine is the fear that if you wanted to take the bull by the horns and try to adjust any of the various processors and little computers around the engine, there is a risk that you could be violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

Of course this has not stopped various hackers from attempting to get more out of their cars than intended by the manufacturer.  The automakers don't like anyone fooling with the computer programs imbedded in the processors spread around its vehicles so the software is protected by encryption and other techniques that the DMCA prohibits anyone from messing with.  

In particular the DMCA prohibits the unlocking of access controls which is more commonly associated with Digital rights management technologies used on DVD's and music files to discourage piracy.  Unfortunately, for the new breed of automotive enthusiast interested in hacking his car, he may be technically subject to this law.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has requested that an exemption be granted for our auto hacker as part of a periodic process before the Copyright Office to determine what these electronic locks should be permitted to apply to.  A similar process led to the Office determining that cell phones could be locked by wireless providers.  Our autohacker at least is looking for a different outcome this time.