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Can copyright restrain the repair of vehicles?

Written by Sam O'Toole on 18 December 2015

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John Deer, General Motors, Lexmark and Apple what do they have in common? They believe that they, the manufacture, should remain in control of consumer devices, products and in John Deer’s case...tractors.

Starting with tractors, in particular the farmers that don’t own their own tractors. John Deer has stated to the US Copyright Office, that owners of their tractors, have “an implied licence for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”. The reasoning for this is found in the copyright in the software that runs throughout its tractors to help operate it.

John Deer has stated that if people were afforded a provision to modify the software it will “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”. 

It is understandable that John Deer wants to protect its software, what is not so understandable is that this includes repairs of the software, effectively a repair of the tractor.

In an interesting argument, John Deer believes that if owners are able to modify the software in the tractors, it could allow for the pirating of music through the tractors entertainment system.

To any farmers that have pirated music through their tractor, Lawdid is very impressed, although we do not condone any form of copyright infringement.  

Does this mean that if a farmer wishes to repair his or her John Deer tractor he or she should speak to the copyright department at Lawdit?

Our American farmers perhaps, this is due to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in particular section 1201, that aims to stop people from breaking digital rights management restrictions.

The Association of Global Automakers, Auto Alliance and General Motors have joined in too. However, Tesla the electric car giant has not decided to join in notwithstanding the fact that its cars rely heavily on software. 

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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