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Farmers can’t legally fix their own John Deere tractors due to copyright laws

John Deere is synonymous with farming and they are making a bold move stating you do not own the product after purchase, so you cannot alter it. Say what?

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John_Deere

John Deere tractor owners are so very restricted

I live in Oklahoma. Farm country. I took this assignment because it infuriated me. I do not farm, but I have friends and family that make their living farming. John Deere has been synonymous with farming for as long as I can remember and for good reason: they make a good product. Their latest statements have me worried and you should be worried too, even if you don’t farm.

John Deere recently submitted a letter to the U.S. Copyright Office asking to forbid their customers from modifying the software that operates its machines. What on Earth do copyright laws have to do with tractors?

Wait, copyright laws are at the root of this mess!?

It comes down to digital rights management (DRM), or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): these two acts made it illegal to circumvent a copy-protection system. In essence, they state the consumer doesn’t own the software of the product, only the product. John Deere is fundamentally stating that if you tinker with your tractor software to get it running the way you need it to, you are a pirate, and therefore, in violation of the law.

I call shenanigans, as do many others. In fact, Wired magazine ran an article about this very thing, which then prompted a response from John Deere to their dealers stating (among other things) that, “similar to a car or computer, ownership of equipment does not include the right to copy, modify, or distribute software that is embedded in that equipment. A purchaser may own a book, but he/she does not have a right to copy the book, to modify the book, or to distribute unauthorized copies to others.”

As Supreme Court attorney Mark Wilson points out, this was not the best example. He said, “when I buy a book, I own the physical book and I can do whatever I want to it, short of republishing the content. I can give the book away, set it on fire, make notes in the margins, or I can turn it into a lamp.” If this is true for books, why not software (so long as you’re not redistributing it, as Wilson stated)?

Why does this matter if you’re not a farmer?

Simple. Old-fashion ingenuity used to be a thing here. If you found a way to make a product work better for you, more power to you. There were no government regulations preventing you from ramping up the horsepower in your car, or transferring your music between computers by burning your own CDs; you did it because it’s more economical, and frankly, more rewarding.

Think about this in the larger scheme of technology as a whole: our daily lives, for the most part, have become techno-centric, and placing restriction on this technology could become quite cumbersome. If my computer crashes, you better believe I’m going to try to fix it myself first, but, government regulations could prevent this if the DRM way of thinking isn’t stopped.

If my computer was subjected to these restrictions, I would have to take my computer in to an authorized repair center and who knows how far away this would be, be without my device for who knows how long, and then presumably pay for the repair and/or shipping. This has gone beyond ridiculous. The original premise of the DMCA was a good one. It was meant to protect industry as we went into the digital age, but as technology advances so should our laws.

#CopyrightLaws

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Marco Cota

    June 28, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    First the article title is misleading. I own three John Deere Tractors and I can repair them all I want to legally. Anyone can repair the John Deere Tractors. The Directive by John Deere states that it is illegal for anyone to alter the specific settings in specific performance areas of the engines. This was mostly done for owner protection safety and JD warranty issues. Anyone can even repair these parts, replace them, but not alter the settings. Horsepower can be increased by altering the settings and is the major reason this issue got brought up. The amount of horsepower increase is clearly dangerous for the operator and can damage the engine. John Deere has the right away on this one.

  2. Mitch Tanenbaum

    June 29, 2015 at 12:36 am

    I suggest that if people don't like it, which I don't, they should buy a competitor's tractor. They should verify that that competitor doesn't have a similar policy to Deere.

    If Deere loses enough business they will figure out that this is not a good marketing plan and change it.

    That of course assumes that the Copyright Office signs up for Deere's plan which is not a given. This may be a moot point.

  3. Bill Bradsky

    June 29, 2015 at 1:42 am

    It shouldn't be a crime to do anything that has no victim. The manufacturer of tractors in no way suffers from people "hot rodding" the equipment after it leaves the dealership. In fact, many auto manufacturers make loads of money selling their performance cars specifically because it is very easy to modify the software and "tune" the ecu to handle hardware changes (intake, exhaust, turbo, etc.). Honda with the Civic and Ford with the Mustang can attest to the viability of such a business model. If John Deere wants to punish its customers for buying its tractors, then they're going to go to some Chinese manufacturer who doesn't give a hoot what you do with it after they get your money. Sigh. One more American manufacturer down the tubes.

  4. jeff fichten

    June 29, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    It's mine! I can do with it what I want! If I leased it that would be different. I paid for the equipment and the technology, it's mine! As long as I don't try to sell any of the technology I should be able to make changes. This really pisses me off.

  5. Mathew

    July 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    I'd like to say, you sign a form, voiding your warranty and you can modify your heart out. But as soon as that happens and somebody figures out to hack your machine and make your tractor form crop circles while you try and figure out what the hell is going on, I don't think anybody would like it.

  6. Joe

    January 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    They are saying you only lease the product for the life of it, then if it brakes it is only fair they pay to fix it as in any other thing you lease on this world. The owner is the one that pays for the repairs, not the leasee. They don’t want you fixing it or modifying it their product because they are starting they own it, then if it brakes, they should be responsible for the repairs.

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  9. Faylinn

    April 7, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    I have a good size property and have been considering getting a tractor, but I have yet to decide which type. Your article makes me wonder about other brands. Do you know whether or not other tractor companies like John Deere have made such copyright rulings for their brands?

    • Lani Rosales

      April 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      We aren’t aware of any, but it’s not a beat we cover very often, so we might not be the most reliable source of info on tractors. We DO know that JD has made the ruling, but a precursory search doesn’t show others following the same path.

      • Emil Blatz

        January 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm

        Perhaps in the aftermath of the VW Diesel emissions scandal, you may begin to understand why. In that instance it was the manufacturer, deliberately altering the software that led to massive liability ($20B and counting.) But, a similar emission or other aspect (safety) concern could come about if owners were tweaking the software and Deere either explicitly or implicitly was aware of it, they could have liability. So, they have to disclaim it.

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  11. Chris Thomas

    October 23, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Hi my friends. Y’all are missing the real crux of the argument. JD owners are also not allowed to reset it bypass safety locks on computer controlled systems. So, if a “low tire pressure” alert forces a tractor to shut off, you, as an owner, have to call JD to and a technician out to rest your tractor before it will start again.
    Additionally, if you drive a tractor that forces you to stand up to observe wheel alignment or implement position, during use, even though you may be in a fully enclosed pilot house, unbuckling the seatbelt may shut the tractor completely off. The logical next step would be to connect wires to bypass the seatbelt switch. Well, now JD is adding unnecessary electronic components (resistors, computer chips, etc) to prevent bypassing. And if you try, instead of being able to reprogram your computer, you note have to buy a completely new seat belt assembly, and john deere service to have your$250k tractor annoy you the way that it was before you tried to fix it in the first place.

    • Lani Rosales

      October 24, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      That sounds AWFUL. I’d rather use an 80s model that is slower and clunkier but doesn’t have any computer chips inside…

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Business News

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!

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White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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