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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

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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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12 Comments

12 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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How to handle an acquisition like a boss

(BUSINESS NEWS) One way to grow your company is to be acquired. Here are some tips on how to not blow an acquisition.

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Acquisition

One way that a small business can become a big business is by being acquired. Maybe your business plan has always been to sell, or maybe it has never occurred to you.

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But if you find yourself being wooed by a potential suitor interested in buying your business, John Warrillow at Forbes.com has some advice to make sure you don’t blow it.

No harm, no foul

He says that, whether or not you are ready to sell your business, there is no harm in meeting with a potential buyer. Even if you don’t think you’d like to sell at the moment, the meeting could be useful for gaining “competitive intelligence” that could help you negotiate later.
For the most part there’s not much too lose and much to gain from meeting with a potential buyer, but Warrillow does warn against a few rookie mistakes.

First of all, he says, like a teen hoping for a second date, it’s important not to appear too “eager.”

Even if you’re desperate to hand over the business, play it cool, and insist that your company is not for sale, but that you are willing to meet for “a strategic discussion.”

Strategery

During said discussion, “let them do 95 percent of the talking.” Warrillow suggests writing out and rehearsing a list of questions so that you can control the conversation and get more information out of your suitor than they get out of you.

Part of holding your cards close to your chest includes refusing to name a price.

No matter how much they insist, hold true to your claim that the business is not for sale, and don’t give them even an estimate of the price range you’re looking for. Wait for them to name a number first, in a formal expression of interest.

Once you’ve received the expression of interest, hire an intermediary broker to help you with the deal. And whatever you do, don’t sign a Letter of Intent that prevents you from shopping around for other competitive offers.

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So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Under pressure

Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

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You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

Interview questions

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Watch out for tricks

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Spanish?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Handle the heat

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

Asking isn’t the most illegal part

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

#Interview

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The 7 communication hurdles stifling your company’s efficiency

(BUSINESS NEWS) Whether communication is too little or too much, or delivered poorly, every company has room for improvement.

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company communication

One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in your company is going to be communication. It underlies almost every productive action within your business, whether it’s conveying instructions to a subordinate or disclosing your results to a client or investor; accordingly, even a small inefficiency in your lines of communication can result in a major loss of time/money.

Fortunately, knowing the key hurdles to effective communication—and learning to overcome them—can help you smooth out these problem areas and build a more efficient business.

How Communication Affects Your Efficiency

Ultimately, your business’s efficiency is impacted in three key ways:

  1. Message accuracy. If you convey the wrong information, or the right information in a confusing way, it can lead to errors and misunderstandings.
  2. Time consumption. Every message you send and receive is going to cost time from both the sender and recipient. If that time is excessive, it could result in waste.
  3. Cost. You also need to consider what you’re paying for your communication solutions, and whether each solution is worth it.

The Biggest Hurdles

These effects tend to manifest in response to these seven major hurdles:

1. Obsolete or unreliable tech. If you’re trying to save money by relying on old devices, or platforms that haven’t been upgraded in years, it could have a substantial negative impact on how you communicate. You might experience delays when making phone calls, missed messages in your chat logs, or a serious lack of mobility. Thankfully, making upgrades can make most of these problems go away. For example, investing in newer devices can dramatically improve your connection speeds and mobility, and switching VOIP providers can be a relatively easy transition to prevent delays and hiccups from interfering with your phone calls.

2. A lack of clear communication standards. How are your managers expected to relay instructions to subordinates? How are your subordinates expected to communicate progress to managers? How are your meeting recap emails supposed to be structured? If you aren’t sure of these answers, it’s a sign that you don’t have clear communication standards within your business. Formally documenting these expectations can keep communication clear and consistent for all your employees, in virtually all areas.

3. Inefficient modes of communication. If your employees aren’t using communication mediums correctly, it can also lead to problems. For example, if they frequently call meetings that could have been communicated in the span of a single email, it could waste hours of company time. If they use email instead of having a conversation over the phone, it could lead to confusion and unanswered questions. Each type of communication requires a different approach.

4. Departmental silos. Another major problem is departmental silos, which can make communication more difficult or nonexistent between two groups of people within the company. These silos tend to develop when different departments have different standards and expectations for communication, and when those departments rarely intermingle. You can correct this by integrating your departments more frequently, and getting everyone on the same standards for communication.

5. Unstructured meetings. Meetings are a major source of time waste in companies, since they involve many people at the same time, and often recur on a consistent basis. All your meetings should have a designated leader to keep the meeting on track, a specific intention or goal, and a time restriction to keep things tight and concise.

6. Poor listening. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication — and we aren’t doing enough of it. Too often in business environments, participants in a meeting or conversation are more focused on talking than listening, but listening is more effective for understanding and collaboration. To develop better listening skills, avoid distractions (like checking your smartphone during a conversation), allow time for the other person to speak, and use active listening tactics, like rephrasing what you’re hearing.

7. Overload. Too much communication can be a bad thing. If your employees are sending emails back and forth constantly, or if you’re paying for so many communication apps that you can’t keep track of them, it’s only going to result in confusion. In many ways, fewer, more concise messages are superior modes of communication than message bombardment—and you’ll pay less if you have fewer apps to worry about.

If you can overcome these seven significant communication hurdles, you can make your business far more efficient. While some of these changes may take a few weeks to settle in, others may grant you a positive change immediately — so inspect your company’s internal and external communication, and work hard to make things as streamlined as possible.

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