27 January 2017

Farmers aren't allowed to fix their own tractors

As reported in Modern Farmer:
This might be hard to believe for non-farmers, but owners of tractors aren't actually allowed to fix them, thanks to a set of laws designed to protect software intellectual property. In fact, the craziness of this goes even further: In a 2015 letter to the United States Copyright Office, John Deere, the world’s largest tractor maker, said that the folks who buy tractors don’t own them, not in the way the general public believes “ownership” works. Instead, John Deere said that those who buy tractors are actually purchasing an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”..

But what this has meant is that tractor owners can’t repair their own tractors—and if they do, they’re in violation of the DMCA. So, if a machine stops working, its owner can’t pop the hood, run some tests, and find out what’s going on; he or she is legally required to take the tractor to a service center (one owned by the manufacturer, since that’s the only entity allowed to analyze the tractor’s issues). This can be expensive and time-consuming, and more to the point, unnecessary—at least according to farmers in several states, who are lobbying to force tractor manufacturers make their diagnostic tools available to independent repair shops and owners.
Addendum: A tip of the blogging cap to reader Vlad Tsepis, who commented that the same principle is being applied to motorcycle (and ATV) ownership.


  1. More than just tractors:

    It will soon affect everything you own. I mean everything you think you own:


    1. Thanks, Vlad. I've added that info to the body of the post.

  2. farming is expensive enough without this bs. it drives out the small farmers because they can't afford the maintenance on their equipment. only the huge farms can survive. some people are getting by renting equipment or forming co-ops.

  3. And this pre-dates the Trump presidency? Who knew?

  4. Nice update on the issue:
    Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware


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