Editor’s Note: On February 10, Dave Kanicki of Farm Equipment wrote his E-WATCH e-column on “The Next High-Tech Battle in Ag,” which included observations the just-published article that appeared in Wired by Kyle Wiens the previous week. Wiens’ February 5 article, “New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers” spurred a follow-up article again this week (April 21) in Wired in which Wiens centered on John Deere and the OEM's claim of "who" actually owns the tractor on the farm. Wiens penned an op-ed piece for Wired on April 21 that was titled, “We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership.” Below are the first few paragraphs from Wien' piece; you can read the full article here.
“It’s official: John Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.
"In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere — the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker — told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”
"It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.
"Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.
"Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software underpinning the products they buy—things like smartphones, computers, coffeemakers, cars, and, yes, even tractors. So, Old MacDonald has a tractor, but he owns a massive barn ornament, because the manufacturer holds the rights to the programming that makes it run.
"This is an important issue for farmers: a neighbor, Kerry Adams, hasn’t been able to fix an expensive transplanter because he doesn’t have access to the diagnostic software he needs. He’s not alone: many farmers are opting for older, computer-free equipment."
To read Wiens’ full commentary and observations, along with what is being done to stop the movement, you can read the full article here