Monday April 10, 2017

Farmers get Cornholed by DRM Software

American farmers have always felt underappreciated when in fact they grow food that people consume around the globe. These stalwarts of entrepreneurship still appreciate and practice the D.I.Y. culture that this country was founded upon. But alas every good thing much come to an end to appease the greed of a corporation. John Deere initially made it illegal for American farmers to repair their own tractors that they have worked their fingers to the bone to purchase. By invoking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, or DMCA, John Deere was breaking the backs of the American farmer by selling them tractors that they are prohibited from repairing.

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Then the Library of Congress in 2015 passed an exemption and farmers could work on their tractors. But John Deere refuses to sell the software necessary to unlock the tractor after the repair. A farmer tells the story of a $120 sensor part that stopped him from plowing for 24 hours because he wasn't allowed to diagnose his own tractor, and the local dealer was 40 miles away. This simple part required a technician to come out to repair the fan belts as everything is under a digital lock. Even if he was smart enough to know the exact sensor that he needed to repair his tractor, a John Deere rep still has to input an unlock code to authorize the repair. This has led farmers into the dark recesses of the internet and black market software piracy as John Deere won't sell them the software.

Eastern Europe is now the place that farmers are being forced to turn to if they want to perform D.I.Y. maintenance on their tractors. By using their credit cards on dodgy websites, American farmers can order everything from keygen generated unlock codes to the cabling that they need to interface their computer to the tractor. One unlock mod allows farmers to choose which type of fuel that they run in their machines. John Deere mandates that they control every aspect of the tractor and would surely ban alternative fuel usage.

What do you think? Should farmers be allowed to work on their own tractors? As long as they stick with the rules that the Library of Congress mandated, why should John Deere prohibit them from the software necessary to carry out the repairs? Why are they forced to visit warez websites for their software? Don't they have enough stress already?

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment آ… arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." "If a farmer bought the tractor, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it," Kevin Kenney, a farmer and right-to-repair advocate in Nebraska, told me. "You want to replace a transmission and you take it to an independent mechanicآ—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can't drive out of the shop. "What happens in 20 years when there's a new tractor out and John Deere doesn't want to fix these anymore?" the farmer using Ukrainian software told me. "Are we supposed to throw the tractor in the garbage, or what?"