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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Implied License

Go ahead and spend big bucks for a John Deere, but you don't really own it. Instead, you have an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle [source, dated April 21, 2015].

Furthermore, this war on private ownership is not limited to John Deere. General Motors is involved as well.

Excerpt from the article at Wired (emphases mine):
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....
Goodbye to aftermarket performance tuners, such as DiabloSport Tuners, one of which Mr. AOW and I had for tuning up our Mustang for races at the drag strip:
...John Deere may be out of touch, but it’s not alone. Other corporations, including trade groups representing nearly every major automaker, made the same case to the Copyright Office again and again. It’s worth noting Tesla Motors didn’t join automakers in this argument, even though its cars rely heavily on proprietary software.

General Motors told the Copyright Office that proponents of copyright reform mistakenly “conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.”...
Using the DMCA in the above manner is an excellent method of squashing innovation — not to mention removing the joy of tinkering for those inclined to that activity.

Also see Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA.


  1. I think we know the outcome of this little surprise.

  2. How did Bill Gates become the richest man in America? His wealth has nothing to do with the production costs of what Microsoft is selling: i.e. it is not the result of his producing good software at lower prices than his competitors, or of ‘exploiting’ his workers more successfully (Microsoft pays its intellectual workers a relatively high salary). If that had been the case, Microsoft would have gone bankrupt long ago: people would have chosen free systems like Linux which are as good as or better than Microsoft products. Millions of people are still buying Microsoft software because Microsoft has imposed itself as an almost universal standard, practically monopolising the field, as one embodiment of what Marx called the ‘general intellect’, meaning collective knowledge in all its forms, from science to practical knowhow. Gates effectively privatised part of the general intellect and became rich by appropriating the rent that followed from that.
    The possibility of the privatisation of the general intellect was something Marx never envisaged in his writings about capitalism (largely because he overlooked its social dimension). Yet this is at the core of today’s struggles over intellectual property: as the role of the general intellect – based on collective knowledge and social co-operation – has increased in post-industrial capitalism, so wealth accumulates out of all proportion to the labour expended in its production. The result is not, as Marx seems to have expected, the self-dissolution of capitalism, but the gradual transformation of the profit generated by the exploitation of labour into rent appropriated through the privatisation of knowledge.
    - Slavoj Zizek, "Revolt of the Salaried Bourgeoisie"

    More and more, the nature of capitalism has shifted towards use of government to protect and collect the "rents" derived through intellectual property law. Making "public" knowledge, "private". And totalitarian governments like China are MUCH more effective at collecting those rents than "democratic" ones.

  3. @ "Using the DMCA in the above manner is an excellent method of squashing innovation"

    And that's the bottom line. The Big Corps hate free market capitalism, and they love how government regulation builds strong high wall that protect them from competition.

    I wouldn't say bye bye to the tinkerers and tuners, though. People always find a way, but the Government-Corporation-Big Labor axis of evil will continue to strangle freedom and innovation until someone figures out how to defeat them and put them back in their proper place, which is below us and serving us, not ruling over our lives.

    1. Pretty soon, the electronic fences will choke off all "outside" innovation.

  4. "Accept the things you cannot change; change what you can, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference."

    " ... Fret not thyself because of evildoers, O, rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, and He shall give thee thy heart's desires. Commit thy ways unto Him, and trust in Him ... "

    1. FT,
      We might be able to head this one off. I'm not one who favors who just lying down and letting things happen.

    2. As you wish. I still have faith in Almighty God, and must assume He knows what He is doing and that everything happens for a good reason.

      " ... Even if He SLAY me, yet will I trust in Him ..."

      "They also serve who only stand and wait."

      Remember the stories of the Oak and the Willow in the windstorm, also the Tortoise and the Hare.

      And as James Thurber humorously-but-profoundly said: He who hesitates is sometimes –– SAVED." ;-)

    3. FT,
      "They also serve who only stand and wait."

      Yes, but a key word there is also. It implies that somebody isn't standing and waiting.

    4. I'm sorry, but you really AREN'T catching my drift, dear friend. Fretting, stewing, weeping, wailing, wringing our hands, gnashing our teeth, and butting our heads against stone walls, etc. is NOT productive.

      As my father always said:

      "The sober second thought is seldom wrong."

      And here we are arguing when all I wanted to do was inject a note or two of calm, encouragement, and good cheer into the melee.

      Remember too, if you can see how it might apply, "Revenge is a dish best served up cold." ;-)

    5. FT,
      I'm not arguing. Instead, I'm pointing out that there are different roles for different people.

      A crack in any given door can result in undesired and undesirable entry. No, I'm not speaking of immigration.

      I wouldn't say that I'm Fretting, stewing, weeping, wailing, etc.

      Good cheer is not discouraged, but isn't the whole of the solutions to all problems, nor should it serve to indicate that matters of concern should not be matters of concern.

  5. Can we build an open source tractor?

    1. Well, I just had the software in mind, but I notice www.osvehicle.com . Doesn't look that mature to me at first glance, but I guess the effort demonstrates that the niche seems viable at least to those guys.

  6. I can see the argument stemming from you not owning your copy of Microsoft Office.
    You bought the license to use it.
    If it is real property, though, I bought it.
    License me the software inside it, but I own the hardware.

    1. I pretty much agree, Ed.

      Deere may have a case if someone uses the software in a competitive manner but I see no reason that personal use after purchase violates any patent rights.

    2. Now I have to ask myself.
      Where did I go wrong?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Now THAT's chutzpah! Some people have gotten a nasty surprise to find out that their $50K iTunes music collection is NOT something they can will to their children. It was licensed to one user, and transfer of that license, blah, blah, blah. Adobe doesn't even sell perpetual licenses any more - it's monthly rental only, through the cloud. A real pain for me. It's kind of like the way government is trending: you pay for your children but we own them.

    1. I'm not sure that's correct.

      If your children know your iTunes ID and password they are free to transfer the music library and authorize/deauthorize specific computers.

    2. That would be good to know if it isn't. I'll admit this is about 3-4 years ago. A big name celebrity - so someone with an attorney doing estate stuff and doing it 'legal' - made the news with this discovery about his $50K collection. I hope you're right.

    3. Wh needs iTunes when YouTube provides us with the greatest smoergasbord of music of all kinds ever made available at one location?

      If you lived ten thousand years, you could never hoe to get to the end of what's available right now -- totally free of charge.

  9. Thanks for the notice. Not that I'd ever give GM a red cent anyway for some of their vehicular swill, but now add JD to the list.

  10. Things are changing at a rapidly increasing pace. manufactures are trying to increase or just keep their market share. Their rules would stop modification of their products and keep unauthorized/uncertified technicians and owners from repairing their products. They're shifting from manufacture to rent seeking.

    You should be able to modify or repair anything you own without authorization or repercussion. If such modification voids the warranty, it's nobodies business but your own.


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