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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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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

How companies are embracing the gig economy to fight employee burnout

(BUSINESS NEWS) The gig economy has had plenty of ups and downs, but employers are using it to advantage their teams and the gig workers. It’s a pretty interesting model we’re watching evolve…

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If you’re an employer of a lot of people, it’s no secret that there are a lot of moving parts involved in the day-to-day processes of keeping the business going. You’ve got full-time employees, people earning both salary and hourly wages, part-time workers, and more than likely have used a staffing agency over the years to fill in the blanks.

Depending on your experience, some managers love working with temp agencies, while others aren’t the biggest fans. Like toppings on a hot dog, it all comes down to personal preference.

But, there’s one segment of the market that’s roaring – the gig economy.

While on the surface, it might seem simple (someone comes in and does a job and leaves), it’s a little deeper than that. Depending on the industry, there needs to be a more nuanced approach to solving how staffing issues are handled.

When you think of the gig economy, you’re probably thinking of Uber or GrubHub, but a whole world has opened up – you can get your car fixed in your driveway or hire movers to come and take boxes away. There are a lot of apps out there putting money in people’s pockets thanks to taking on tasks like food delivery but also working on a crew for a day or being hospitality staff for a corporate gig.

Many people love the gig economy because honestly, the Internet has democratized our lives so much that millions of workers would rather be their own bosses, which honestly works to the advantage of businesses as well.

First, there’s less demand for the business because if they need a specific job taken care of, they can bring in some ringers to bang out the job, collect their pay, and move on. For companies, this helps because they’re only paying a one-time fee versus keeping someone on staff and paying them annually.

The boom right now is applications connecting workers with businesses who need help.

Instead of the consumer being the end-user, the applications connect a worker with a temporary or sometimes long-term employer with a click.

And the process is simple – workers are in just as much control as the companies. The price point is established by the company and the hours and people they need, but the worker can set their skill level and availability. So, when there’s a match, everyone wins.

While some of the companies offering access into the space, provide workers with gigs for whatever length of time, some of them are even doubling down on retention, offering W-2s and full insurance for staying in the worker community so employers have a larger pool to choose from.

This model works because it incentives both parties: the worker gets to work on their terms and still receive benefits, and the company gets the staff they need for project work without the HR/taxes/risk.

Listen: That W-2 aspect is enormous. The reason being is if you’ve ever had to deal with a 1099, they’re the worst. Taking away the burden of taxes is a significant win for the worker, especially those of us who still have trouble figuring out, “should I claim one or zero?”

Because this model addresses a major staffing problem, concerning short-term help, it’s still very focused on the worker.

The aspect of flexibility is built into the fabric of the concept, considering the labor pool is what matters – you can have a bunch of open jobs, but you need qualified and motivated people to fill those roles. While this is a gig-working scenario, it’s also unique in that there’s less focus on the person performing an idealized task like delivering food, but rather jumping on a team to solve a problem or finish a job.

Basically, they’ve digitized the temporary staffing model but cut all of the ugly overhead and worker quality issues out.

They’re taking a labor market and connecting it with a consumer via an app on the iPhone. But, the consumer isn’t someone who needs a ride to the airport, it’s a company who needs help staffing a Pearl Jam concert in a stadium.

With the market evolving pretty much on the hour these days, there’s a clear through line at play – we’re seeing more and more businesses adopt gig workers, if even for the day.

It’s easier to bring someone in as a temp to help clear projects or just get things finished the regular staff is too busy to handle. One of the biggest pluses of the model is that it helps avoid employee burnout.

For a place like a hotel, if there are a bunch of small jobs that keep piling up, it’s easier to spend the cash for a day or two worth of work rather than add to an already overworked staff’s load.

It’s a new world that’s evolving every day, but with every swipe, tab, and click, we see the workforce develop in ways we could have never imagined just a few short years ago. If the future of work is now, imagining five years from now is mind-blowing.

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Business News

How to work with someone who’s a never-ending stress mess

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Working with, or around, people who seem to always be carrying stress can be detrimental to your health and theirs, here’s how to deal with them.

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My baseline level of anxiety is pretty high. I get stressed out if I forget to pack a fork in my lunch even though there are utensils at the office. If someone is mean to me, I get on edge. If I make a small mistake I’m probably going to carry it with me for a few hours.

Others may not exhibit stress unless they’re up against a tight deadline or coming from a difficult meeting, but it seems like they’re always inclined towards stress regardless of their schedules. While many people exhibit stress in understandable, fleeting situations, for some stress is a default setting. It can be difficult to work with someone who’s always stressed out.

When someone is perpetually stressed, it takes a toll on everyone else too. That energy can be toxic and leave you wondering if you should be helping or if your colleague is intentionally being a Debbie Downer.

For starters, don’t make a judgement call about your coworker. Everyone handles stress at different levels, and for some people that means not really handling stress at all.

You may be able to breeze through your day with minor frustrations while others are thrown off by the smallest thing.

Holly Weeks, author of Failure to Communicate, notes “Don’t think what can I do to change this person?” Instead, she suggests considering how to neutralizes the situation and move forward.

If you want to offer the most basic form of help, acknowledge what’s going on and offer a compliment. Even if it doesn’t seem like much is going on, simply letting your stressed colleague feel heard and appreciated can make an impact.

Author of How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb, explains stressed people are “feeling out of control, incompetent, and disrespected. A compliment is your easy way to help them get back to their better self.” Make sure you’re not enabling them by dragging out the situation, though.

Acknowledge, offer some praise, and try to move with the conversation.

Although it’s not necessarily in your job description to fix your coworkers problems, you can still offer support. You may not actually be able to do anything, but offering assistance gives the other person a chance to think through solutions.

Webb also suggests brainstorming way to “reduce their cognitive load,” to ease what’s making your coworker feel overwhelmed.

Some simple solutions include splitting requests into smaller steps, shortening emails, or dividing work into parts.

Ultimately the job needs to get done, but you can provide your coworker with more manageable means of accomplishing tasks by breaking things into chunks.

You can also check in on your coworker to find out if you should be concerned, or if their stress limited to the work environment. If their stress is beyond what you can reasonably handle with these de-escalation tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone about further steps to take.

Check out our mental health series for some more insight if you’re concerned your coworker’s problem may be more than regular stress.

Just like some people are easily stressed, some easily pick up on the negative feelings of others. Be aware of how your coworker’s stress is affecting you. If someone is truly draining you, try to get some distance.

While that may be difficult in a small office, Weeks recommends keeping in mind that out of all the “office characters…the stress case’s temperament [is] less of a problem” than others.

Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to destress your coworker, but you can certainly make your work life a little easier if you take these steps to make for healthier, happier collaboration.

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Company offers extra vacation days to nonsmoker employees

(BUSINESS NEWS) A Japanese marketing company offers extra vacation days for nonsmoker employees who don’t utilize smoke breaks – sound good to you?

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a huge fan of “The Office” (I mean, who isn’t?) I spend a lot of time reflecting on the awesomeness of that show and the situations that characters go through at Dunder Mifflin.

One thing that always stuck with me was a scene where Kelly is talking about how she will take up smoking in order to get the 15 minute breaks throughout the day. This statement made me think about how odd it was that smokers got breaks throughout the day while nonsmokers stay inside, maybe taking a water cooler break.

Being from Chicago, I always thought the concept of smoke breaks was crazy, anyway. I remember visiting my dad at work as a kid and seeing people standing in the freezing cold, smoking outside of his building. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Chicago in the middle of January, but having to spend 15 extra minutes in that weather would be enough to make me stop smoking, cold turkey (pun intended).

All of these memories about the weirdness of smoke breaks came back today when I learned about Piala Inc., a Japanese marketing firm, and their new plan to give non-smokers six extra vacation days a year.

The policy was introduced in 2016 after employees complained about colleagues receiving multiple smoke breaks throughout the day. Since its implementation, 30 employees have taken advantage of the extra vacation days.

“One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems,” company spokesman, Hirotaka Matsushima, told The Telegraph. “Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers some extra time off to compensate.”

This is a great incentive for companies to offer employees. Not only in terms of equality, but would also be beneficial for a company’s health and wellness program.

While I’ve never fallen under the spell of nicotine, I would like to think that I’d prefer six extra days off compared to the habit of smoking. Apparently others are starting to feel this way as the company has reported that it has helped at least four people to stop smoking.

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