Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware" (DE)

John Deere says:
"When a customer buys John Deere equipment, he or she owns the equipment," ...
Their actions say they are full of manure.
As one critic puts it:
"They require buyers to accept an End User License Agreement that disallows all of the activities they say are allowed in their statement," she said. "Deere is a monopolist and has systematically taken over the role of equipment owner, despite having been paid fairly and fully for equipment. Their claims to control equipment post-purchase are inconsistent with all aspects of ownership including accounting, taxation, and transfer of products into the secondary market."
It's all about the intellectual property and unfortunately the Supreme Court has been wishy-washy on a couple decisions but there is hope. As we noted in the November '16 post below:
One of the heroes of this stuff was Thai native and U.S. student Supap Kirtsaeng who won his case, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., wherein he argued he should be able to re-sell textbooks he had lawfully purchased. The Supreme Court upheld the First Sale Doctrine that "you bought it, you own it".
From Motherboard, March 21:

A dive into the thriving black market of John Deere tractor hacking.
To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.

"When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don't have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it," Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. "Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix]."
The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn't be anything a farmer could do about it.

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 … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software." The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and "authorized" repair shops can work on newer tractors.

"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 mechanic—he can put in the new transmission but the tractor can't drive out of the shop. Deere charges $230, plus $130 an hour for a technician to drive out and plug a connector into their USB port to authorize the part."

"What you've got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market," he added.

Kenney and Kluthe have been pushing for right-to-repair legislation in Nebraska that would invalidate John Deere's license agreement (seven other states are considering similar bills). In the meantime, farmers have started hacking their machines because even simple repairs are made impossible by the embedded software within the tractor. John Deere is one of the staunchest opponents of this legislation....MUCH MORE
April 2015
John Deere Tells Patent Office That Purchasers Don't Actually Own the Machine They Paid For (DE)
 May 2015 
"John Deere Clarifies: It's Trying To Abuse Copyright Law To Stop You From Owning Your Own Tractor... Because It Cares About You" (DE)
November 2016 
For the Next Two Years Auto Manufacturers Can't Have You Arrested...
...for trying to repair or modify the software on your own car.

And in a tangential development:
Big Data Down On the Farm: "DuPont Joins Deere on Software in Challenge to Monsanto" (DE; DD; MON)