The European Union is about to redefine the ecodesign criteria for products in several legislative proposals, including the Sustainable Product Initiative, the Circular Electronics Initiative, and the Right to Repair. These proposals aim at extending the usage time of hardware and facilitating circular use of electronic devices. The current regulations stem from 2009 and do not include any criteria regarding the design and licensing of software as an important factor for the sustainability of electronic products. Software directly influences how long consumers can keep using their devices.
Nowadays, users who want to keep using their devices for a longer time, or to reuse their hardware in a creative way, face a wide range of software barriers: from obsolescence to an unexpected end-of-support, from spare part serialization to locked boot loaders. In practice, these artificial restrictions on using and reusing hardware are ultimately imposed by software. Neither consumers nor professional third-party services can overcome them, often simply due to the obscurity of proprietary software licensing models. Free Software licensing solves many of these issues and in this way becomes crucial for an eco-friendly design and the sustainability of hardware; this is the core message of an Open Letter signed today by 38 European organisations and companies.
The initial signatories of the open letter include civil society organisations from the environmental, economic, and technological sectors. Several companies support these demands as well, showing that a more sustainable digital society and economic growth are not contradictions.