Can companies really say you don't own something you buy because of software?

Episode 1181

Louis from Hollywood, CA

Louis is concerned that John Deere has taken the attitude that farmers don't really own the tractors they buy, and as such, they refuse to provide support to repair the software that drives the tractor. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle” but do not own it. The issue was brought up in a recent article in Wired magazine by the editor of IFixIt.com.

Leo says that it's against the law to do that with automobiles, but apparently it's legal to do it with tractors. It's very similar to how farm seeds have been copyrighted, preventing them from being replanted.

Leo says it's the wrong direction, though he isn't sure it's wrong for digital goods and Leo says that the copyright office needs to rule against this attitude. There is a strong public interest to be able to repair the things we buy.