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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 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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11 Comments

11 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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Business News

These stores refuse to start Black Friday early

(BUSINESS NEWS) There is a rising trend of stores being pressured to open their doors earlier and earlier each holiday weekend but these companies refuse.

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This year, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are among a group of retail super villains who have decided it’s appropriate to begin the Black Friday shopping nightmare on Thanksgiving Day, with some opening as early as 5pm on Thursday.

As someone who has only had the misfortune of working the retail tornado of Black Friday once, I would never wish it upon anyone. Yet many stores feel pressured to begin the doorbusters earlier every year.

To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers implement drastic measures to get customers in stores during the discount season.

Last year, eMarketer reported internet users in their survey were likelier to shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching retail stores crumble as online shopping continues to dominate the market.

To lure in shoppers, physical stores must come up with deals so alluring that people would kill for them.

Literally. I just googled “did anyone die on Black Friday last year” and found out that there’s a handy site called Black Friday Death Count. The answer is yes, some people died last year in Black Friday-related incidents, and in fact two of the three deaths took place at separate Walmarts.

So that makes this year’s disturbingly early foray into deal hunting even less enticing.

While I don’t hold Thanksgiving sacred by any means, moving the even unholier Black Friday back to impede on a holiday is ludicrous. But a handful of heroes are saying no seriously guys, we’re not doing this.

Over fifty retailers are putting collectively putting their foot down, and will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. While some may still be party to next-day discounts, they’re at least taking a stand.

Here’s a list of all the places you can’t go on Thanksgiving, because mercifully they’re closed:

  • A.C. Moore
  • Abt Electronics
  • Academy Sports + Outdoors
  • At Home
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Blain’s Farm and Fleet
  • Burlington
  • Cabela’s
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Costco
  • Craft Warehouse
  • Crate and Barrel
  • DSW – Designer Shoe Warehouse
  • Ethan Allen
  • Gardner-White Furniture
  • Guitar Center
  • H&M
  • Half Price Books
  • Harbor Freight
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Home Depot
  • HomeGoods
  • Homesense
  • IKEA
  • JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
  • Jos. A. Bank
  • La-Z-Boy (all corporately owned stores)
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Mattress Firm
  • Micro Center
  • Music & Arts
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Office Depot and OfficeMax
  • Outdoor Research (closed Black Friday too)
  • P.C. Richard & Son
  • Party City
  • Patagonia
  • Petco
  • PetSmart
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Publix
  • Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
  • Sam’s Club
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Sportsman’s Warehouse
  • Sprint (Corporate & Dealer Owned Stores; Mall Kiosks May Open)
  • Staples
  • Sur La Table
  • The Container Store
  • The Original Mattress Factory
  • TJ Maxx
  • Tractor Supply
  • Trollbeads
  • Von Maur
  • West Marine

And while that’s a pretty hefty list, the fact remains that many unfortunate employees will have to show up to work on Thanksgiving when they should be taking naps, or avoiding helping their family clean up after lunch.

Thinking about some retailers’ decision to open a day early for Black Friday almost makes Cards Against Humanity’s crowdfunded hole stunt last year seem reasonable. Maybe if we’re lucky, the tradition of Black Friday will get sucked up in a black hole, never to plague us again.

I guess staying home is also an option. If you opt into the shopping this year, stay safe. And if you choose to do so on Thanksgiving, maybe just don’t tell anyone.

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Business News

Amazon is extending its takeover to sportswear

(BUSINESS NEWS) As Amazon continues its quest for total retail dominance, they are beginning to try their hand with sportswear.

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Because Amazon won’t settle until it controls every single market ever, the online retailing giant is, reportedly, gearing up to start offering its own sportswear line.

Rumors that the company might get into the workout gear game started circulating earlier this year when the company posted job listings for brand managers to help create “authentic activewear private label brands.”

They hired a brand manager for athletic wear in January.

Amazon has already been dabbling in the world of fashion, having created eight clothing brands since early last year, including a men’s shirt brand called Buttoned Down that is offered to Prime customers.

Insiders say that, while no long-term contracts have been signed so far, Amazon is negotiating with Makalot Industrials Co., a producer that makes sportswear for Gap, Uniqlo, and Kohl’s, as well as Eclat Textile Co., who provides textiles for Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour.

Both Makalot and Eclat are based in Taiwan.

Apparently, these manufacturers are making small test batches for Amazon so they can run a trial on the concept. The fact that Amazon is working with experts in this market means they are serious about making a competitive, quality product.

Amazon currently sells about $10 billion worth of apparel, making it a serious competitor with brick-and-mortar retailers.

The workout wear market is a pretty big deal, so it would obviously be profitable if Amazon can come out with a good product. Customers are already crazy about Amazon’s online convenience and quick delivery, so they may be happy to find more options for sneakers and yoga pants.

On the other hand, private label brands that Amazon is already selling, such as Goodthreads and Lark & Ro may feel betrayed. Other sportswear brands can’t be too pleased either, with Nike reporting declines this quarter and Under Armour reducing its annual sales forecast.

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Business News

Ending a dismal year, Samsung says goodbye to CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a tumultuous year, Samsung now must face their CEO, Kwon Oh-hyun, stepping down.

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Among exploding phones, recalled washing machines and an indicted former chairman, Samsung has had a rough year. Just as they start to get back on track, they have one more crisis to deal with.

Kwon Oh-hyun, Samsung CEO, has officially announced his departure.

In a letter to the employees, Kwon announced his plans to leave the company by March of next year. His words touch on all of the typical sentiments, like that he “had been thinking long and hard about (leaving) for quite some time,” and that he wants to “move on to the next chapter in his life.”

What Kwon doesn’t make clear are his exact reasons for leaving.

He mentions that Samsung is in an “unprecedented crisis inside and out,” without sharing any specifics. Via his own words, Samsung needs to reshape their company to keep up with the ever-changing IT industry.

Kwon believes that young, fresh leadership could be the answer that Samsung needs.

Though Kwon’s departure may seem like another hit for the company, it could be a new chapter for Samsung as well.

And it is a change they desperately need. Recently, Samsung has made the headlines with scandal after scandal.

Earlier this year, Jay Y. Lee, former Vice chairman, was found guilty on multiple charges of bribery. The charge, which Lee is now serving five years in prison for, also resulted in the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Samsung also lived through two major recalls this year. They officially took the Galaxy Note 7 off of the market after various accusations of batteries overheating led to fires.

Samsung also recalled 2.8 million washing machines because their “violent vibrations” caused some users to be injured.

Major scandals like these are enough for any company to flop. However, Samsung is still in the game. Kwon’s letter calls for the company to start anew, which is exactly what they need to do to stay afloat.

Of course, creating devices that do not cause injuries and fires will be a start. In addition, new leadership will keep the company relevant and hopefully, revive their reputation.

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