Farmers Fight for Right to Repair Own Tractors

It all comes down to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2016 1:23 PM CDT
Farmers Fight for Right to Repair Own Tractors
In this April 2, 2012 photo, Derek Long uses a John Deere tractor in preparation for planting corn in Loami, Ill. A slowing global economy and the effects of a prolonged U.S. drought caught up to Deere & Co. as its net income rose 11% but fell well short of Wall Street's expectations.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Farmers in Nebraska, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New York are staging something of a mechanical revolt. They're attempting to get legislation passed in their states that would enable them, for the first time since the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to repair their own tractors or get an independent mechanic to help. At the root of the morass is the software that helps run modern tractors and their sensors, diagnostic tools, and other high-tech elements. If farmers so much as open the metaphorical hood to check out the computers they could be violating the federal act, reports Modern Farmer. Mick Minchow, a Nebraska farmer for more than 40 years, is among the many who are fed up, reports Lincoln Journal Star.

As it currently stands, any problem with his John Deere 8235 R requires a trip to the dealer and costs him important time. What he'd like to be able to do, per the paper, is something as simple as looking up the system code to determine if it's a serious problem or something as mundane as replacing a filter. John Deere's argument, as reported by Wired, is that giving farmers free rein over the software would "make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression, and ingenuity of vehicle software." Other potential issues that have been floated: the financial hit such a change could wreak on dealerships, and the complications of buying used equipment whose software was improperly changed. (This copyright dispute involved a bustle in your hedgerow.)

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