John Deere Promised To Back Off Monopolizing Repair. It Then Ignored That Promise Completely.

from the freedom-to-tinker dept

Five years or so ago, frustration at John Deere's draconian tractor DRM helped birth a grassroots tech movement dubbed "right to repair." The company's crackdown on "unauthorized repairs" turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM (and the company's EULA) prohibited the lion's share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for "authorized" repair (which for many owners involved hauling their tractors hundreds of unnecessary miles), or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.

John Deere certainly isn't alone in trying to monopolize repair, resulting in massive backlash and proposed legislation in more than fourteen states. Hoping to appease angry consumers and lawmakers, in late 2018, John Deere and a coalition of other agricultural hardware vendors promised (in a "statement of principles) that by January 1, 2021, Deere and other companies would make repair tools, software, and diagnostics readily available to the masses. In short, they managed to stall right to repair laws in several states in exchange for doing the right thing.

As it turns out, they never bothered to really follow through:

It is now three years later. The agreement is supposed to be in effect. No right to repair legislation has been passed. Deere, the dealers, and the manufacturers got what they wanted. And, yet, farmers are still struggling to get anything promised in the agreement."

Groups like US PIRG, which are spearheading the push for right to repair legislation, were notably unimpressed in a report released last week:

"The increased presence of software in agricultural equipment has allowed manufacturers such as John Deere to take control of the repair process at the expense of the equipment owner. The creation of software locks and keys required to authorize repair severely limits farmers and independent repair shops’ ability to fix broken farm equipment themselves."

John Deere, Microsoft, Apple, and countless other companies have a vested interest in making independent repair impossible and cumbersome. And as they attempt to scuttle the more than a dozen right to repair laws winding their way through various state legislatures, they've leaned on all manner of dodgy arguments, from claims such laws will result in hackers running amok in your state, to claims that such legislation would result in a spike in sexual predators.

In reality, they just don't want to lose control and repair revenue to competition, the environmental, consumer, and real world impacts be damned.

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Filed Under: drm, right to repair, tractors
Companies: john deere


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  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 7:23am

    Sounds like they accomplished their goal. They delayed getting the laws passed and allowed the issue to cool off. I suspect it will be much harder for any groups to get any right to repair laws passed without the raised passions of it being a "New" issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 7:57am

      Re:

      But it hasn't cooled off. There are currently right-to-repair bills in fourteen different states.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 8:00am

      Re:

      On the other hand, with their faithless behavior, they have demonstrated that self-regulation doesn't work, and right-to-repair laws are urgently necessary to force companies to behave properly -- and probably also lost some goodwill that could have helped to weaken future regulations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        TaboToka (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 9:04am

        Re: Re:

        self-regulation doesn't work

        Self-regulation in a Capitalist system has never worked, considering the behavior an entity is supposed to curb is massively beneficial to that entity. The 'perfect' company would have no expenses at all, just customers giving it money. Product rental is an easy way to get close to this ideal.

        John Deere's scheme to lock their customers out of tractors and farm equipment makes the farmers renters, not owners.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2021 @ 1:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." - A. Smith.

          It is supremely ironic to me that so many here distrust companies while at the same time distrusting markets, when it is one of the few mechanisms that actually keeps the corporations "honest". Regulation rarely works as expected and usually only for a short period before the regulated learn how to influence and control the regulators for their own gain. This is especially true in countries like the USA, where corrupt political parties determine who runs the regulatory bodies.

          By the way, there is a very distinct difference between "capitalism" and a "free market", each of which has their own strengths and weaknesses, which are often wrongly attributed to the other. And each of which can exist in the absence of the other.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2021 @ 6:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            " so many here distrust companies while at the same time distrusting markets"

            I thought the common denominator was distrust of humans.
            btw, how is that ironic?

            " one of the few mechanisms that actually keeps the corporations "honest""

            I see the quotes, so I assume that means they claim to be honest when they are not. If it does not keep them honest, what good is it?

            Corruption is bad, agreed.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ceyarrecks (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 7:58am

    Nothing New?

    the John Deere company acting like so many raised by their mommy: "oooh I got caught, I tahwee, I no do again, pwamise,... ... she is not looking anymore? RRRAAAAAGGHH!!!!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2021 @ 8:03am

    They may have accomplished their goals but they also accomplished another for me and likely others that have learned of this. At this point there is no way I will be a John Deere customer. I won't put up with such.They have entered the 'never buy from this company' status for me.

    They may have a locked in customer base but as a result, knowing how they are doing things, they will gain a locked out base as well. I'm sure I'm just one of many who will refuse to do buy from them over their methods of business.

    There are other companies I refuse to do business with. Decades ago, Sony screwed me on a warranty. It has cost them dearly without their knowledge as I will never again own anything with the name tag of Sony on it. The whole affair left me with soured opinions over the company.

    My dollar is a vote and I do not vote for companies I don't believe in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 24 Feb 2021 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      For most of us it is probably not that hard but pretty meaningless to put John Deere on your "never buy" status -- most of us are not in need of large tractors.

      I did the same with Amazon 10 years ago, and at times it was frustrating, but never enough to break my rule. Sony is on my never buy list as well, but they have plenty of alternatives.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Melvin Chudwaters, 23 Feb 2021 @ 8:07am

    There is a simple solution.

    Enact legislation that denies copyright protection to DRMed works.

    Companies should be forced to choose. They can ask the government to enforce their copyright or they can have DRM enforce their copyright, but never both.

    If a work is released to the public in any way with DRM, then that work is public domain immediately and they should hope their DRM holds. (Works not commercially released to the public could utilize DRM to prevent leaks, and wouldn't disqualify them for copyright protection as long as it is then released publicly without DRM. Other carve-outs might be considered... defense department software for weapons of war and so forth.)

    This would go a long way towards meaningful copyright reform by itself, and needs to be a plank in any reasonable copyright reform proposals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 9:11am

      Re: There is a simple solution.

      Considering what our elected officials think about © (even the "good" ones (exception being Ron Wyden, of course)), fat chance that would ever happen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Feb 2021 @ 9:54am

    "John Deere, Microsoft, Apple, and countless other companies have a vested interest in making independent repair impossible and cumbersome. "

    I am not an economist but this sounds like it will be inflationary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 11:30am

    Repeat after me: 'Companies are not your friend'

    Companies profit heavily by lock-in, if they can force you to go to them for any repairs they're not going to let that go voluntarily as that's a huge source of repeating income, so honestly anyone who bought the 'we pinky promise that we'll give you the tools to do your own repairs, no need to pass those silly laws' thing was just fooling themselves.

    I can only hope that with this nice reminder of what liars John Deere are no-one is fooled in a similar fashion as they keep trying to derail right-to-repair laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 3:34pm

      Re: Repeat after me: 'Companies are not your friend'

      anyone who bought the 'we pinky promise that we'll give you the tools to do your own repairs, no need to pass those silly laws' thing was just fooling themselves.

      If they were actually planning to comply with the principles of right to repair, they wouldn't have objected to the laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 23 Feb 2021 @ 12:24pm

    As soon as John Deere made that promise, shareholders and Wall Street objected to it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 23 Feb 2021 @ 2:32pm

    Those fucking hackers

    Out to fuck the companies while being pedophiles and running repair shops to find families, known child attractors, and thus dominate the repair industry stealing profits from corps.

    But, think of the children - as targets.
    Do not look behind the dealer's curtain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Midwest Farmer, 15 Mar 2021 @ 10:54am

    Right to Repir: Simply stop purchasing John Deere as a start

    This is very simple, stop purchasing equipment with this kind of headache and get something else. There are other companies that don't practice this type of egregious and especially predations of this level. Ridiculous executives at John Deere and perhaps even their Board of Directors. I for one do not engage in business with any that practice this sort of behavior. Its bad enough that there really isn't any sort of oversight like auto manufactures have and these huge machines do break and worse even at a catastrophic level without any federal oversite board to protect the operators and farmers who own them.

    Just stop buying Deere products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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