Ag Attorney: Sorry Right to Repair Advocates, But You’re on the Wrong Side of History

(via AgLaw.us)

This recent article on Motherboard is getting a lot of press: “Why American Farmers are Hacking Their Tractors with Ukrainian Firmware”, writes AgLaw.us blog author and well-known ag attorney Todd Janzen in a recent blog post.

The article alleges that John Deere requires farmers to sign a license agreement that forbids farmers from repairing their equipment (without a John Deere technician), and as a result, farmers are reprogramming their machines to run on bootlegged firmware.

I understand the issue. John Deere’s license agreement prohibits new tractor owners from tampering with the “Security Measures” on embedded software. Right to Repair advocates want the ability to modify this software to perform repairs and modify their machines. After all, farmers own their tractors, shouldn’t they be allowed to edit or replace their software?

But this argument misses one key fact: A John Deere tractor is slowly becoming more of a software device than a hardware device. As the software component of a new tractor becomes more important than the hardware, the desire to repair will decrease to the point that very few people will care.

Head on over to AgLaw.us to read Janzen’s full opinion on Right to Repair.

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4 comments on “Ag Attorney: Sorry Right to Repair Advocates, But You’re on the Wrong Side of History

  1. don’t need a computer run tractor to farm. the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s tractors still do a great job at 100 plus horse power.

  2. Matthew, do you have a farming background? If so, are the walls in your shop or sheds covered with John Deere memorabilia—implying your family and you have a bias toward John Deere? Do you have any personal legal training in copyright law? What makes you think you’re qualified to tell a large and growing number of farmers they don’t have a legal right to understand, tinker with, or repair products they own?

    Are you and the folks at Precision Ag drinking green Koolaid? How much advertising does John Deere pay for in PrecisionAg and CropLife on a monthly or annual basis? Is your sales team giving you any feedback that John Deere is unhappy about articles that highlight their anti-farmer/-tinkerer policies? Is John Deere threatening to reduce their advertising budget if you don’t say what they want you to? Why do you think John Deere is unhappy? Why do you think they’re threatened? If they have no anti-farmer intentions, why are they so defensive?

    You see, I think asking questions is a better place to start that just stating, “You’re Wrong!” You’re starting with presuppositions. A true journalist would put those aside and dig deep, ask questions, capture opposing views from reputable and opinionated sources. They’d wrestle with hard questions, facts, and opinions before publishing their own account of the situation. They wouldn’t just say, “You’re wrong” and give zero supporting information for a fluff statement like that.

    Are you afraid to dig deep? Are you afraid to ruffle feathers? Do you honestly think you’ve exhaustively explored what’s happening behind the scenes? Do you think deeper exploration of the issues and careful consideration of the long-term potential outcomes, either way, in a public forum is warrantless? That’s liberty my friend. Either you advocate for it, walk a spineless yellow line, or are against it.

  3. As an engineer for a equipment manufacturer (not Deere) and former farm kid, I find it funny people trust Ukraine hackers with their expensive complex equipment. I agree back in the day a person could easily tweak their equipment, but today’s equipment has so many interdependent systems that modifications will likely result in big problems…the amount engineering & development of these systems is intense, just randomly changing code is likely to be a receipe for problems…some of complexity has brought about improved efficiency & comfort, but a lot has to do with EPA regulations. I always thought the emissions regulations for off-road equipment made no sense for areas as wide open as Nebraska where I’m from. But if people are so worked up, consider what the on highway market did with glider kits. If I was farming, I would prefer a 7100 series magnum vs a new tractor with electronic controls.

  4. They are replacing the copyrighted Deere software with third party software? They should be able to do this, if they want to. Deere should probably consider that infuriating multi-generational customers is a really, really, really shortsighted business practice.

    If they wanted to, those John Deere ‘owners’ could form some sort of tractor software co-op, and make their own tractor firmware – ideally they would release it under the Free Software Foundation’s General Public License (google it if you want to – it’s freely available on their site) used by Linux and other software, so anybody could use it.

    Ultimately, if Deere is building things you really aren’t happy with, it might be prudent to buy something else. Deere needs to consider this, too.

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