American farmers reluctantly find themselves resorting to the black market because of a legally binding licensing agreement imposed by John Deere and other similarly situated manufacturers.
Given this restriction, which John Deere apparently crafted to circumvent an agricultural vehicle exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, many heartland farmers believe that they have no alternative but to download jailbreaked or bootlegged software or firmware for their John Deere tractors. The farmers purchase the software from Eastern European hackers operating in clandestine online forums.
Self-hacking comes into play because the contract requires farmers to use often distant John Deere tractor dealerships or authorized repair shops for any and all repairs, rather than an independent mechanic that may be just down the street and whose services are less expensive.
The Motherboard website details the controversy over farm equipment software that some say creates an aftermarket manufacturer monopoly and associated inflated repair costs.
“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.
Said one Nebraska farmer, “The only way we can fix things is illegally, which is what’s holding back free enterprise more than anything and hampers a farmer’s ability to get stuff done, too.”
Added Motherboard: “The nightmare scenario…is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it.”
Against this backdrop, right-to-repair legislation has emerged in Nebraska and several other states. If enacted, such measures would force manufactures to sell replacement parts to stand-alone repair facilities and direct to consumers, as well as require public disclosure of service manuals. Right to repair goes beyond tractors and can apply to smartphones and consumer electronics and appliances as well.
In a lengthy statement, John Deere insists that it is protecting tractor owners from software modifications made by uncertified technicians. It also maintained that a tractor owner is free to repair his or her own equipment and obtain diagnostic manuals with that in mind. An executive with the trade organization Repair.org described the company’s statement as “total crap,” however.
In as a separate instance of corporate control, Natural News reported several years ago that the biotech industry began installing data collection and monitoring devices into tractors and other farm equipment as a scheme to implement a program of prescription seed distribution. Farmers across the nation are reportedly uneasy since this technology may be used to dictate their way of agriculture production, thereby invading their privacy. (RELATED: Read about more corporate excesses at MonsantoMafia.com.)