That’s right. You may have paid $100,000 or more for that new tractor, but guess what? Since the software DNA, the alleged “intellectual property” of John Deere is embedded in the thing, you actually do not OWN the vehicle. It’s still John Deere’s even if the vehicle is paid off, at least the guts of the beast.
In other words if you want to mess with the code within the tractor, and GM is arguing the same thing for its cars, you – according to the John Deere and GM lawyers – are potentially violating copyright provisions. Violating the law. Even if you are only trying to repair the vehicle you own. (Or at least thought you owned.)
This is insane. Software is like hardware in most respects. In the 1970s a Firebird was full of technology developed by GM, but it was analog. Gear heads across the country modified engine blocks, paint jobs, wheels, you name it. And when they did they didn’t violate IP laws. They just had cooler cars.
Today the heart of a car or tractor is in the software. One should be able to get under the hood and modify the software as one sees fit. It’s the same as installing running boards or a new exaust manifold only it’s 1s and 0s instead of steel and chrome. You OWN your vehicle.
But according to John Deere and GM, not really.
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.