Tag: monopoly

Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair

Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.

and

… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger

rjb

Hacking the Tractor

We’ve looked at the way tractor manufacturers are trying to lock their customers in by preventing the servicing or maintenance of their tractors by anyone other than their own approved and licensed shops. This post is about farmers beginning to push back. This one highlights a change in copyright law that allows farmers to work on their own tractors without breaking the law. Now some farmers are going a little further. Some of them are downloading software from the dark web that allows them to hack their tractor’s software. This motherboard article does a good job of explaining 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.”

[farmers]…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.

Waiting for a licensed technician to show up can put a big dent in your work day, sometimes your work week, depending on how busy they are. Even in a case where you can get a part replaced by a local shop, you still have to wait for the official technician to come and “authorize” it before your tractor will work. Everything is fine but you’re helpless until they collect their fee for unlocking the new part. It doesn’t matter how much it costs you, or how much it sets you back in your work, or even if the delay causes you to lose your crop. That’s your problem, not theirs. Faced with this, some farmers are turning to cracked software that they can download from the internet. They are then able to “authorize” their own repairs and get back to work.

The recent legislation that allows farmers to work on their own tractors would seem to make using the cracked software legal, but the software hasn’t been legally acquired. Versions of the software can be legally purchased from the manufacturer, but you have to sign an agreement that disallows using it to do what you want. It’s not hard to see why some farmers would be tempted by the cracked software when the whole purpose of the company that sold them the tractor seems to be to use its monopoly power to squeeze more money out of them.

This has been about farmers and their tractors, but the same thing is happening with other things that we buy and think we own. The makers of cars and phones and computers and so on are all trying variations of the same thing. They want us to get used to the idea that we don’t own these things, but rather we only get a license to use them. They want us to get used to their idea that we should have no right to repair our own stuff. Thank goodness for the existence of organizations like iFixit.

rjb

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