Supreme Court Allows EULAs On Seeds
from the don't-drop-those-appleseeds,-johnny dept
Richard Ahlquist writes: "A farmer has now felt the wrath of the SEULA or the Seed End User License Agreement! It turns out one farmer who goes by the name Homan McFarling decided after his crops came in to hold some of the seed generated from his produce and use it to replant the next year. Evidently the seed police at Monsanto found out about this (perhaps he didn’t buy any new seed the next year) and sued McFarling. That was in 1999. Fast forward to today and you will find that the Supreme Court has decided that he did indeed violate the license agreement by planting his own seeds and he is being fined $375,000.
The story presents an interesting thought. These genetically engineered strains are built to thrive better than our existing crops. Once the seed manufacturers have managed either through attrition or engineering to destroy our natural plants, they will control the agriculture world wide because in order to grow anything you need seeds. If it’s illegal to hold seeds from the crop you grew to replant because of the license agreement it would effectively mean an end to many smaller farms as they become unable to compete with the superior seed and the prices charged for it. Now where is that trademark application so I can trademark SEULA….."
We wrote about this case initially a few years ago, when it was going to the appeals court, where we hoped there would be a little common sense applied, recognizing how silly it is to tell someone they cannot replant seeds from the very plants that they, themselves, grew. It’s rather unfortunate that the Supreme Court disagreed. The real problem here is yet another artifact of bizarre intellectual property laws. Tangible goods and digital goods are very different. Intellectual property laws try to make digital goods more like tangible goods, but due to the nature of those goods, it actually provides even more control — such as when it comes to limiting what a buyer can do after they’ve bought the product. It’s quite depressing that, rather than helping people realize how these laws are problematic, they’ve just made producers of tangible goods start to drool about the possibility of putting similar rights on tangible goods.