Famous Apple repair company wants to fix McDonald's ice cream machines

Ice cream being poured
(Image credit: iFixit)

The iFixit name is one that you're no doubt familiar with. It's a company that normally turns its hand to tearing down and then fixing Apple hardware, like the iPhone 14, for example. But now it's turning its hand to something new. Something very close to all of our hearts.

We're of course talking about McDonald's ice cream.

Everyone knows that buying ice cream from McDonald's is almost impossible. No matter when you go, the machine isn't working. And it turns out that a lot of the time the machine might work if only its software wasn't getting in the way. Now, iFixit wants to demystify these ice cream machines and has called for law changes to make it legal for more than one company to be able to fix them.

A stranglehold on ice cream

The gist is simple. Taylor, the company that builds these ice cream machines, is the only one that can actually fix them. The company is the only one with repair manuals and its engineers are the only people who know what the machines' obtuse error codes mean. What's more, these ice cream machines often stop working at the drop of the hat, all at the behest of software that calls a halt on proceedings at any sign of trouble — even if that trouble doesn't actually stop ice cream from being made.

Taylor, predictably, makes a ton of money on callout fees to fix these machines. Even if the actual fixing doesn't require all that much work.

However, iFixit notes that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prevents companies from bypassing Taylor's software locks. That makes it illegal for companies like iFixit to fix these things, even if they can. It's the same for the McDonald's workers, too.

"For those of you who aren’t copyright law buffs: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has a section (1201) that makes it illegal to bypass software locks on devices, even to repair them," iFixit notes. "This might have made sense when it was all about CD piracy back in the day, but fast-forward to today, and it’s a straight-up brain freeze."

Now, iFixit is teaming up with Public Knowledge to ask the Copyright Office to make ice cream machines exempt from the DMCA, allowing third-party repair shops to fix things without needing Taylor to get involved.

Will iFixit win out here? Who knows? It's impossible to second-guess copyright law or the people in charge of it. But the next time you walk into a McDonald's only to be told the ice cream machine's offline, just remember whose fault it is. Because it sure isn't the employee standing in front of you.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.