John Deere & GM Say All Your Vehicle’s Software Isn’t Really Yours

2016 Chevrolet Spark Android Auto, john deere
With each passing year, vehicles become less mechanical and more digital.

Strip out all the software and modern cars lose their prized connectivity, safety, and fuel economy features.

For this reason, if you polled the average new car buyer, they’d probably be in favor of keeping their digitized equipment on-board. However, according to John Deere – one of the largest producers of agricultural equipment – and General Motors, that software in your car isn’t really even yours.

In an issue expanded upon by Wired, John Deere has informed the Copyright Office that every piece of software on its tractors is still under the company’s ownership. In other words, everything that makes a modern tractor work isn’t actually owned by the farmers who buy these machines. John Deere’s exact phrasing is that farmers have “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

Reportedly, other large companies have claimed similar types of continuing ownership related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. The act is related to the differences between hardware and software from a legal standpoint. GM is among the brands who have argued that new product software should not be modified.

Wired goes on to point out that if the Copyright Office rules that manufacturers still own the software after it’s in owner hands, then anyone who adjusts programming – even if it’s on your “smart coffeemaker” or to repair a broken tractor is breaking the law. How? John Deere argues that third parties could steal the software if an owner has access to it for repairs or modifications. Hilariously, John Deere even makes the point that access to this software to lead to illegal music downloads through a tractor’s infotainment system.

GM (and other automakers’) specific bone to pick in this case is that consumers could “conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.” By this token, anyone who has legal access to the software can make modifications to make cars go faster or violate emissions laws. While this is a valid point, it should in no way fall under the jurisdiction of the Copyright Office. Wired notes that police officers will pull over speeders and the EPA will issue penalties to law breakers.

The concept of ownership is a twisted one, and as software powers more of our lives, we may soon find that we “own” very little of what we buy.

Food & Drink

What Is Baijiu: 4 Brands to Try Right Now

Baijiu is one of the most-consumed spirts in the world. It's time to learn why.
Travel

Witness the Northern Lights at Eye-Level from a Private Charter Plane

Experience the Northern Lights aboard "the only flight in the world to take off within the Aurora Oval."
Grooming

Dollar Shave Club is Getting into the Fragrance Field with New Line of Blueprint Cologne

The Dollar Shave Club doesn't just want you to look good — it wants you to smell good too.
Travel

LAX’s Exclusive Private Suite Will Make You Love Waiting at the Airport

Now you can skate through the airport with nary a scuff on your fancy Chelsea boots.
Auto

Hyper-Sub Is an Insane Navy-Approved Speedboat-Submarine and We Want One

Because jetpacks and flying cars are so last month.
Auto

Britain’s Legendary Morgan Motor Company Announces ‘110 Anniversary’ Lineup

Experience "the nearest thing to flying without leaving the ground."
Auto

Porsche GT2 RS MR Destroys Lamborghini’s Record on the ‘Ring

Porsche's ballsiest 911 ever shaved another four seconds off its lap time to re-take the title of "King of the 'Ring."
Auto

McLaren Reintroduces a Three-Seater Supercar with the Speedtail

Now you and your two best friends can hit 186 mph in 12.8 seconds together.
Auto

Aston Martin Wants Its Flying Car Concept to Be Your New Commuter

"Air travel will be a crucial part in the future of transportation ... We need to look at alternative solutions to reduce congestion, cut pollution, and improve mobility.”
Auto

Aprilia Teases a 217-Horsepower Superbike Dubbed the RSV4 1100

The horsepower wars we’ve seen take root in the automotive world have spread to the motorcycle realm. Case in point: the Aprilia RSV4 1100.
Auto

Harley-Davidson Wants to Harness Lightning with the Production LiveWire

If Harley-Davidson wants LiveWire to be a success, not only does it need to drive well, but it needs to be priced so the next generation of riders can afford it.
Auto

Dodge Unleashes a 1,000-Horsepower Stampede Called the Hellephant

Dodge's new crate engine was designed to be a fairly plug-and-play kit.
Auto

5 Best Beginner Motorcycles for Aspiring Riders

Our top picks will have you grinning from ear to ear, seeing the sights, carving canyon corners, and doing so on a relatively respectable budget, but also keep you safe.
Culture

How to Maximize Your Mini-Moon

Though far less tedious than orchestrating a honeymoon (while also planning a wedding), a mini-moon does require a bit of planning. Here are some ideas to get you started.