John Deere Promised To Back Off Monopolizing Repair. It Then Ignored That Promise Completely.
from the freedom-to-tinker dept
Five years or so ago, frustration at John Deere’s draconian tractor DRM helped birth a grassroots tech movement dubbed “right to repair.” The company’s crackdown on “unauthorized repairs” turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM (and the company’s EULA) prohibited the lion’s share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for “authorized” repair (which for many owners involved hauling their tractors hundreds of unnecessary miles), or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.
John Deere certainly isn’t alone in trying to monopolize repair, resulting in massive backlash and proposed legislation in more than fourteen states. Hoping to appease angry consumers and lawmakers, in late 2018, John Deere and a coalition of other agricultural hardware vendors promised (in a “statement of principles) that by January 1, 2021, Deere and other companies would make repair tools, software, and diagnostics readily available to the masses. In short, they managed to stall right to repair laws in several states in exchange for doing the right thing.
As it turns out, they never bothered to really follow through:
It is now three years later. The agreement is supposed to be in effect. No right to repair legislation has been passed. Deere, the dealers, and the manufacturers got what they wanted. And, yet, farmers are still struggling to get anything promised in the agreement.”
Groups like US PIRG, which are spearheading the push for right to repair legislation, were notably unimpressed in a report released last week:
“The increased presence of software in agricultural equipment has allowed manufacturers such as John Deere to take control of the repair process at the expense of the equipment owner. The creation of software locks and keys required to authorize repair severely limits farmers and independent repair shops? ability to fix broken farm equipment themselves.”
John Deere, Microsoft, Apple, and countless other companies have a vested interest in making independent repair impossible and cumbersome. And as they attempt to scuttle the more than a dozen right to repair laws winding their way through various state legislatures, they’ve leaned on all manner of dodgy arguments, from claims such laws will result in hackers running amok in your state, to claims that such legislation would result in a spike in sexual predators.
In reality, they just don’t want to lose control and repair revenue to competition, the environmental, consumer, and real world impacts be damned.