GM Says That While You May Own Your Car, It Owns The Software In It, Thanks To Copyright

from the copyright-is-broken dept

Last week, we noted that Senator Ron Wyden and Rep. Jared Polis had introduced an important bill to fix a part of the DMCA's broken anti-circumvention laws found in Section 1201 of the DMCA. For whatever reason, some people still have trouble understanding why the law is so broken. So here's a story that hopefully makes the point clearly. Thanks to DMCA 1201, John Deere claims it still owns the tractor you thought you bought from it. Instead, John Deere claims you're really just licensing that tractor:
In the absence of an express written license in conjunction with the purchase of the vehicle, the vehicle owner receives an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle, subject to any warranty limitations, disclaimers or other contractual limitation in the sales contract or documentation.
How nice of John Deere to say that your ability to operate the vehicle is really subject to the "implied license" it granted you. These comments (and many others) come in response to the ridiculous triennial review process in which the Librarian of Congress reviews requests to "exempt" certain cases from Section 1201's rules against circumvention. We discussed the ridiculous responses from some concerning video game archiving last week, and the John Deere statement is in response to requests to diagnose, repair or modify vehicle software. And, of course, lots of car companies are against this, including GM, which argues that all hell will break loose if people can diagnose problems in their own cars' computers. It, too, thinks that you don't really own your car and worries that people are mixed up in thinking they own the software that makes the car they bought run:
Proponents incorrectly conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.... Although we currently consider ownership of vehicle software instead of wireless handset software, the law’s ambiguity similarly renders it impossible for Proponents to establish that vehicle owners own the software in their vehicles (or even own a copy of the software rather than have a license), particularly where the law has not changed.
But the real conflation here is by GM, John Deere, and others, in thinking that because they hold a copyright to some software, that somehow gives them ownership over what you do with the copy you legally purchased with the car itself. Once that purchase is concluded, the vehicle owners should be seen to have given up any proprietary interest in the single vehicle you bought. But thanks to copyright and Section 1201, that's an issue that faces "uncertainty." And that's a problem.

The companies lay out a parade of horribles that will happen if people can circumvent the DRM they put in their vehicles, mostly focused on the idea that people might soup up their car, making it dangerous. But that's not a copyright issue. People have always souped up cars, and before there was software in cars, no one argued that Ford could prevent you from turning your Mustang into a drag racer. It's only copyright that has rewritten the very concept of ownership in a dangerous way. As Kyle Wiens notes in his article at Wired in response to the "but, but, car modders!" argument:
They’re right. That could happen. But those activities are (1) already illegal, and (2) have nothing to do with copyright. If you’re going too fast, a cop should stop you—copyright law shouldn’t. If you’re dodging emissions regulations, you should pay EPA fines—not DMCA fines. And the specter of someone doing something illegal shouldn’t justify shutting down all the reasonable and legal modifications people can make to the things they paid for.
But, by far, the most ridiculous in the "parade of horribles" comes from John Deere who was really, really, really, really stretching to try to come up with some way to pretend this is really about copyright issues. It argues that allowing farmers to modify the software in their tractors might lead those farmers to (and I am not making this up), listen to infringing music while they farm.
Moreover, TPMs for vehicle software for entertainment systems protects copyright owners of copyrighted content against the unauthorized reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works. For example, vehicle software for entertainment systems supports the playing of copyrighted music files and copyrighted audio books, among other expressive works. A vehicle driver may listen to sound recordings, while passengers may watch or view television and movie content. TPMs for in-vehicle entertainment systems encourage content providers to create and distribute highly-expressive copyrighted works that might otherwise be easily copied or pirated if the TPMs were circumvented. Consequently, circumvention of the above TPMs for purposes of “personalization, modification, or other improvement” is likely to encourage the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and use of copyrighted software and content.
I really feel sorry for whatever recent law school grad had this issue dumped on their desk and was told, "make this about copyright... some way... any way."

But all it really does is highlight the sheer ridiculousness of Section 1201 and how it's destroying property rights.



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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 3:12am

    This really shouldn't be that difficult

    If a piece of software is required for something to run, whether it's a car, or tractor, or whatever, then the idea that the software and hardware should be treated as separate items is ridiculous.

    No one buys a vehicle and believes that they are making two purchases(or a purchase and a license in this case), one for the car, and one for the software required for it to run. That would be like buying the car, but licensing the wheels. One does nothing without the other, so the idea that they should be treated as separate items is absurd. The customer may not have bought the software itself, but they most certainly should be recognized as having bought a copy of it, and be free to do with it as they will, even if that involves cracking or bypassing any DRM infections.

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    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:33am

      Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

      "If a piece of software is required for something to run, whether it's a car, or tractor, or whatever, then the idea that the software and hardware should be treated as separate items is ridiculous."

      If we had judges and juries that could understand basic technology, going at this from a binary switch perspective would probably be the "winning" argument against it.

      After all, software is nothing more than a series of switches - you wouldn't argue that you needed a yearly license to have a turn signals or headlight switch, would you?

      Unfortunately, as we see just about daily, that is way too technical for a current courtroom to understand.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:49am

        Re: Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

        Software is just digitally written clockwork.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 11:39pm

        Re: Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

        Unfortunately, as we see just about daily, that is way too technical for a current courtroom to understand.

        I don't agree with that. These assholes are trying to redefine reality via bizarro world rules. That can't be all that hard to refute. Farmers have already seen through this !@#$ and are avoiding new tractors and buying older ones not subject to this idiocy.

        They can try all they want to push this crap, but even morons on the street are seeing through it for what it really is.

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    • icon
      Feldie47 (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 11:35am

      Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

      What we're seeing now is nothing more than the inevitable outcome of 'Brave new World' meets Capitalism. The most profitable creations now are not the steel mills of Carnegie, but the ones and zeros of a Jobs or a Gates. It is only natural that those ones and zeros, formerly not considered worth anything should now assume the status of property. Screwed up? Yes. But predictable. The fact that ones and zeros are little more than knowledge translates to knowledge becoming 'owned property.' Here's where Huxley's classes meet Orwell's 'Big Brother.'

      Easy translation: The car you once owned and tuned up now becomes rented by you and illegal to tune up. The corporation owns the car and the process. With less people going to jail for Marijuana, we'll fill the jails with car-modders.

      Don't laugh. The stage is being set.

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      • icon
        tqk (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 11:54pm

        Re: Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

        Easy translation: The car you once owned and tuned up now becomes rented by you and illegal to tune up. The corporation owns the car and the process. With less people going to jail for Marijuana, we'll fill the jails with car-modders.

        Don't laugh. The stage is being set.

        I just heard The Who's Magic Bus pop into my head. "You can't have it!" As in "No, I will not pay for this shite, and you're insane to think you're going to get my money for this kind of insanity."

        You're a pessimist. I'm not. I'll bet a lot of people won't stand for this.

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    • identicon
      hobo, 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:26pm

      Re: This really shouldn't be that difficult

      Agreed. Their current interpretation would mean that if you bought a book and made margin notes or underlined a passage or crossed something out, that DCMA penalties would kick in.

      The only claim they should have is that you can't cut and paste your copy of the software and sell some other product with their software code in it. But you don't need DCMA for that.

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  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:18am

    resale value

    The logical next step is to disallow the use of the car without a software-license from the manufacturer, rendering most cars unsellable on the second hand market without paying large sums to the car-maker.
    Further steps: yearly license payments to operate your vehicle & payments per designated allowed driver.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:14am

      Re: resale value

      "Further steps: yearly license payments to operate your vehicle"

      Embed that in the financing paperwork and many people would never notice (*). In fact maybe it's already there - with so many people apparently only caring about the monthly payment it would probably even be an easy sell even if they were told it was there.

      And for cash sales: oopsie no warranty or software fixes/upgrades. Add in a few bugs appearing over time, create an after-market opportunity, voila - profit!

      * = Wasn't there a company that, to make a point, embedded some text stating that by accepting the software licensing agreement, people signed away their eldest child? Scroll, blah, scroll, blah, where's the accept button, oh there it is. Click.

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      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 1:20pm

        Re: Re: resale value

        Several companies have tried the 'hide funny stuff in the TOS' trick before, though I think the most telling one was when one company included a line where people could get something like one thousand dollars just for contacting them in the TOS, and it took something like three months for someone to claim it.

        No one reads TOS's, in part because no one has the time to do so, and given many of them are chock full of legalese, unless you keep a lawyer on speed-dial, reading won't do you much good in any case.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 1:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: resale value

          "given many of them are chock full of legalese, unless you keep a lawyer on speed-dial, reading won't do you much good in any case."

          This is precisely why I stopped reading them. Since I'm not a lawyer, it was a pointless waste of time.

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          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 12:05pm

            James Madison used recently in another thread, but it's a good quote

            It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.
            -- James Madison

            This quote seems to speak specifically to click-wrap contracts that have word counts exceeding Macbeth or Hamlet.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:24am

    I thought that the intent of copyright was to progress science and the arts, and not advance the cause of big business by turning everyone into serfs.

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  • identicon
    Rick Hernandez, 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:26am

    Property rights?

    John Locke is turning in his grave. Life, liberty and property have become life, liberty, and a license to use property.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 4:59am

    This is about surveillance

    Manufacturers are building more and more surveillance and tracking capabilities into their vehicles. Insurance companies and law enforcement agencies love this, because it provides them with yet another source of data -- e.g., OnStar no doubt supplies a full data feed to the NSA, whether they'll admit it or not, whether they know about it or not.

    Nobody involved in that wants the data flow interrupted, so using DRM anti-circumvention to prevent owners from taking control of their own vehicles and thus their privacy is a useful strategy. Of course adding some FUD and a bogus safety argument helps, too.

    It is of course perfectly possible to build a car that doesn't spy on its owners -- but that's not what's happening. New vehicles, just like smartphones, are architected from the ground up to be instruments of surveillance.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:17am

      Re: This is about surveillance

      It occurred to me a while ago that copyright is the perfect tool for the surveillance state. John Deere just confirmed that.

      "but we have to track every song and video you play, just so we can confirm all the copyrights are paid for"

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:11am

    Welcome to the sad, sad present.

    What's the point in selling a product if you can't sue the consumer?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:12am

    Corporatism and communism are two sides of the same coin. IP maximalists and Stalinists have so many parallels, such as lack of regard for basic rights, a deep hatred towards the free market, and denial of ownership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:50am

      Re:

      Well there's no such thing as the free market, but I agree with your sentiment.

      We could have a freer, more open market if we were more willing to rein in anti-competitive behavior, but those involved scream "Property rights!" "Free market!" etc., and are allowed to get away with all sorts of shenanigans.

      The trouble is, those inclined to partisanship and Red Scare fallacies fall for it. Thinking for yourself means not letting screeching special interest groups and media darlings do it for you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 9:22am

      Re:

      Actually, they're quite different. IP maximalism is not about collective ownership, precisely the opposite. Technically, communism doesn't even have to be anti-market; that's why market socialism is a thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 25 Apr 2015 @ 8:53pm

        Re: Re:

        Technically, communism doesn't even have to be anti-market;

        Genuine question: if everything is owned in common, what market is there for buying and selling?

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    • identicon
      Cal, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:42am

      Re:

      Exactly!

      Let me compliment you on being able to critically think about more then one subject and put the pieces together!

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 5:14pm

      Re:

      Cancerous child come back when you know what communism is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Haywood (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:15am

    Unintended concequence

    I own 2 John Deere tractors and this little move will steer me elsewhere for my next purchase. GM lost me with the Onstar built-in surveillance system.

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    • icon
      Paul Renault (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:23am

      Re: Unintended concequence

      Make sure you let them know. Like, in a letter.

      Maybe even include a suitably-obscured photocopy of the invoice for the non-Deere tractor you bought.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 1:26pm

      Re: Unintended concequence

      My last GM was a 2007 model so maybe things have changed but back then all you had to do to disable OnStar was to just unplug a fuse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:22am

    Abuse of Copyright

    I shouldn't have to go about my daily life worrying about some company disrupting that daily life by taking me to court over something they don't like me doing with a product I own, that they sold me, that I legally purchased with legal American tender that I legally earned.
    Once you've sold me the product, it belongs to me and that includes everything that comes with, software included. I may not own the software design, but I own the copy that came with my product that I purchase and I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it that suits me, including modifying and reselling as a whole. What I can't do is make copies to sell.

    If I don't own the product I've been sold, I want my money back.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:26am

      Re: Abuse of Copyright

      One more thing...
      If a product I purchased, that I own, contains parts (including software) that I don't own, and stripping out the parts I don't own renders the product inoperable, then you've sold me a defective product and I want my money back.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re: Abuse of Copyright

        " then you've sold me a defective product and I want my money back."

        You can want all you want. Doesn't mean it's going to happen.

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      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 5:12am

        Re: Re: Abuse of Copyright

        But it's also my choice if I want to remove or alter the firmware in my property, potentially rendering it inoperable.

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    • identicon
      Thurman, 21 May 2015 @ 9:04am

      Re: Abuse of Copyright

      See, this is where Microsoft started this crap. You own your PC, but the software is licensed by Microsoft. If Microsoft wanted too, it could revoke the license therefor preventing you ever legally running Windows on any computer. I have yet to see them do it, but they still legally can.

      However, the software that is encoded in the BIO of the computer is not under a lease agreement, so the software that actually controls the computer is not sold separately like GM and John Deere would make you believe. I can install several Operating systems on a computer and it will still work. So GM, and John Deere need to get a life and quit trying to swindle one from the consumer.

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      • icon
        nasch (profile), 21 May 2015 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re: Abuse of Copyright

        If Microsoft wanted too, it could revoke the license therefor preventing you ever legally running Windows on any computer. I have yet to see them do it, but they still legally can.

        Do the license terms say they can do that? If so, that sounds like something that could be challenged in court and found to be an unconscionable contract term. I suspect it doesn't actually say that.

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        • identicon
          Thurman, 21 May 2015 @ 12:30pm

          Re: Re: Re: Abuse of Copyright

          You don't buy Windows. You don't own Windows that you put money down on. You purchase a license agreement to use said software according to the agreement. At any time Microsoft can revoke that license. It is legal and binding. I use to work for them and they made this point very clear to all employees. Only Bill Gates owns Windows. Here is your example: Say a company purchases a volume license agreement, but fails to protect it and it get out on a hackers site. Sorry about your luck, your purchase is now null and void and anyone who tries to use that key finds out that it has been revoked. Say said company goes back to Microsoft to get another volume license. They could be denied due to their lack of adherence to following previous agreement. So yes, Microsoft can revoke a license and the money you just forked over could be lost in no time at all.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 21 May 2015 @ 3:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Abuse of Copyright

            The implication of your claim, which perhaps is not what you meant, is that for an ordinary buyer of Windows, Microsoft could at any time and for any or no reason decide to revoke the license for that copy. Are you making that claim? Because that's very different from a corporate volume license agreement where there's an actual contract that's legitimately negotiated by both parties, and then someone violates the terms of the contract.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:52am

    Some implications

    Let us follow the manufacturers' argument, that they own the copyright on the software delivered as part of the vehicle and therefore, by implication, the entire vehicle.

    I see a couple of problems with this.

    1) If the manufacturers claim copyright, then the licensee (that's you) is unable to sell on the car, since that would be distribution of their copyrighted work (i.e. the in-vehicle software).

    2) Do you, upon buying the car, sign a licensing agreement with the manufacturer to the effect that you agree to having purchased a license, not the software?
    A license can not be implied just because on party wishes it so. And what if you don't agree to their terms?
    Can they remove 'their' software and leave you with the car you bought? If not, the licensing terms could be deemed unconscionable and therefore invalid.

    3) If memory serves (so I could be wrong), the majority of in-car software is built on top of open source software and, if so, the manufacturers have to abide by the terms of the that license, which, as likely as not, prohibits their claiming ownership of anything other than the bits they added on top.
    Anything else invalidates the license.

    This brazen (and unilateral) attempt by car manufacturers to turn the concept of ownership on its head is a sure sign the system is broken and needs fixing.

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  • icon
    Decadre (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:12am

    What is the over and under in years before the house you purchase isn't a home that you actually don't own because of the software that makes it a "smart" home?

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    • identicon
      KT, 13 Aug 2015 @ 2:04pm

      Re:

      I would say pretty far off, but something like a home is fundamental to the concept of freedom. --Stick with me through this logic--
      Right now someone could actually build or retrofit a house, at great cost, with software so ingrained that if it were to be removed, the house would be unlivable. If the builder sold the home and then terminated the software license because the buyer violated some condition (i.e. writing code on top of the software) this problem would be solved. More precisely, the precedent for solving this problem would be established if the buyer took the seller to court. Such a case would highlight the flaws in any argument in favor of copyright protection prevailing.--This would be an ideal case, but scenarios could also work. Any case without the lobbying power of the auto industry would be preferable.

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  • identicon
    Stephen, 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:38am

    It Gets Worse

    It gets worse.

    I own and use a car that's over 16 years old. Depsite that the car the car still runs more than satisfactorily. Plus I can still easily get parts for it. In contrast, the average lifespan for the operating system of a computer is around five years. Microsoft Windows 2000, for example, which is nearly as old as my car, is no longer being supported by Microsoft. Neither is Windows XP. That means that while you can still use those systsmes if you truly want to Microsoft is no longer providing updates to fix problems with them. That includes fix for security problems, system crashes, etc.

    That raises the question of how long car software makers like John Deere are going to support the software they produce for cars. Will the day come when they too will say: sorry, we aren't producing any more software updates for your make and model of automobile.

    What then?

    Consider the current problem with one particular model of Takata airbags which the press have been reporting on. That model is used in many car models. It can also, potentially, kill the occupants in certain situations. Imagine if Takata could say: "We don't support that model any more. Have a nice day."

    At least with airbags you could (maybe) find a different airbag manufacturer. Or at least disable the airbag system in your car. Neither of those is really an option for the software in modern cars. So what happens if car software is still being used beyond the period the software maker will be providing updates for? What happens if one day a fatal (so-to-speak) bug is discovered in that software. Will their response be:

    "Sorry, we no longer support that version of our software. Try our latest version. It has lots of terrific new features. Unfortunately, it does not support your current auto hardware. We can supply you a list of suitable auto dealers on demand. Have a nice day."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:52am

      Re: It Gets Worse

      Will the day come when they too will say: sorry, we aren't producing any more software updates for your make and model of automobile.

      Updates only matter if the software talks to the outside world, to eliminate vulnerabilities, or to fix bugs that are causing users problems. If the vehicle is working properly, and has no outside connections, then updates are not required.

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      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:42am

        Re: Re: It Gets Worse

        Well, in the first place, all nontrivial software has bugs. When bugs are discovered, particularly bugs in software controlling deadly machines like cars, updates are required regardless of whether or not any outside connections are involved.

        In the second place, all modern cars are communicating with the outside world (unless you do something like disconnect the car's built-in cell). Hackers have even developed various exploits for the cars that let them do rather nefarious things remotely.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:39am

        Re: Re: It Gets Worse

        Updates only matter if the software talks to the outside world, to eliminate vulnerabilities, or to fix bugs that are causing users problems. If the vehicle is working properly, and has no outside connections, then updates are not required.

        Unless external factors affect operation. Say, a change in the formulation of fuel (to 15% vs 10% ethanol, which is currently working its way through the system.)

        Or the enablement/crippling of satellite radio, on-board wifi, GPS, text-to-speech, auto-pass toll payment systems ... there are lots of systems on board a car beyond propulsion.

        Or a mistaken built-in "bug," like a date code that's all 9s that's somehow tied into a safety system (time since last service?).

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      • identicon
        Stephen, 27 Apr 2015 @ 9:44pm

        Re: Re: It Gets Worse

        Updates only matter if the software talks to the outside world"
        FYI, most if all makes of automobile now have software which talks to the outside world--via wireless connections. On the one hand this allows the techs to more easily diagnose problems remotely. On the iother hand, security is (reportedly), in general, pathetically primitive and meagre.

        For example, here is a WIRED article titled "Watch This Wireless Hack Pop a Car’s Locks in Minutes":

        http://www.wired.com/2014/08/wireless-car-hack/

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  • icon
    Kevin (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 6:53am

    Why does copyright matter here?

    "GM Says That While You May Own Your Car, It Owns The Software In It, Thanks To Copyright"

    I own books that I don't own the copyright to. But I write and scribble in them all the time. Once you own it, you can do what you want to it. You just can't sell it after you change it.

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    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:15am

      Re: Why does copyright matter here?

      Precisely the issue here.
      Also, your last sentence makes no sense. If I scribble in my copy of a book, does that mean that I'm legally barred from selling it? (I might have a hard time finding a buyer because it's damaged, but that's beyond the point.) I don't think such a law exists.

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    • icon
      ottermaton (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:53am

      Re: Why does copyright matter here?

      You just can't sell it after you change it.

      Where did you get such a silly idea?

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    • identicon
      Book Scribber, 23 Apr 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re: Why does copyright matter here?

      I have sold books with my scribble in them. It is called collage texts and some second purchasers find them more valuable them the originals. I take excellent notes....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 May 2015 @ 8:39am

      Re: Why does copyright matter here?

      Why would a manufacturer decline to include designed obsolescence in the form of reduced or eliminated functionality as a means to force a hardware refresh? If the software is closed, IPR criminalizes decompilation and reverse engineering then crippled functionality must be expected. The market will always follow maximum profit. Without repercussion, bricking old hardware is inevitable.

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      • icon
        tqk (profile), 12 May 2015 @ 10:56am

        Re: Re: Why does copyright matter here?

        Why would a manufacturer decline to include designed obsolescence in the form of reduced or eliminated functionality as a means to force a hardware refresh?

        Because said mfgr would want me to buy from them at my next purchase?

        A geek watching the history of vendor lock-in in computing is the last person you want to try to convince of that silly argument. The machines that inter-operated best with the others flourished. The systems that governed themselves with open, defined standards are the most robust.

        The ones that reinvented the wheels attempting lock-in are the most fragile and easiest to suborn.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thurman, 21 May 2015 @ 12:42pm

      Re: Why does copyright matter here?

      Gee. I sold many and purchased many "used" books for college that had scribbling in them. Never was an issue even with bookpool.com or amazon.com.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:40am

    #7 & #9 -spot on.

    GM recently earned a lifetime boycott from me, when I discovered I couldn't even get the car I wanted to buy, without on-star. As #7 mentioned- GM is moving to include on-star in all their vehicles... on-star logs everything and sends it to GM, who openly admit to selling the data to third parties, and allowing it's use for anything. You can still unplug the box- but then you don't get navigation or sat radio.

    I predict within the decade people will literally be killed by hackers due to the negligent design of these systems- these systems run on the same network as the abs brakes, and other safety critical features, and they lack even basic security measures.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      Yes, that's a deal-killer for me as well, but it's an entirely expected position. OnStar was created by and is owned by GM, after all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rich Kulawiec, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:03am

      Re:


      I predict within the decade people will literally be killed by hackers due to the negligent design of these systems [...]


      First, I doubt it will take that long.

      Second, I doubt that it'll require hacking skills. The enormous databases being built by operations like OnStar are are a motherlode for pedophiles, stalkers, rapists, serial killers, and other fine upstanding citizens. They will be hacked -- not necessarily by those people -- and they will be sold on the open market and they will be used to target individuals.

      Of course, this may have already happened.

      Third, direct attacks against vehicles are of course laughably simple, but makers are taking the same approach as voting machine vendors: (1) deny (2) lie (3) obfuscate (4) attack researchers (5) censor research (6) block research using DRM/copyright/etc. It'll probably take a number of high-profile deaths before regulatory agencies step in and force makers to actually address these problems. However, absent a complete re-engineering of the systems, that won't be effective: security never works as add-on, it has to be baked in.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 12:25pm

        Maybe the Snowden revelations will change that.

        Now that we know that our phones and internet services betray us regularly to a predatory government, it will raise the deductive leap that this applies to anything else that uses telecommunications until it is standard policy to install robust security (e.g. encryption).

        I mean, c'mon world, we did this for wireless telephones and garage-door openers thanks to illicit listeners and burglaries. I'm pretty sure that a mayor didn't have to get his house invaded for those technologies to be developed.

        It would be a nice touch in a contemporary spy/action thriller for an abduction team to use a remote-access service hack to disable their target's vehicle and unlock the doors.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 7:48am

    Sigh

    I guess I won't be able to modify our Prius to be a killer autocross racer! What a drag (so to speak)...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Erik, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:01am

    This is why old cars are better...

    Any car after the 80's can be a computer nightmare, this is why I buy old cars. They have very few, if any, computers (like just enough intelligence to run the fuel injection system), and no outside connections. And in most cases this software has already been hacked or modded by someone and the code is out there. Can't claim anything on the car if it's all old school physical parts.
    Also the argument could be made (although I don't know how true it would be) that it's more environmentally conscious to continue using an old car as resources aren't continually being used to keep building new ones. That argument may not hold a lot of water with an old muscle car though...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:58am

      Re: This is why old cars are better...

      "the argument could be made (although I don't know how true it would be) that it's more environmentally conscious to continue using an old car as resources aren't continually being used to keep building new ones."

      Yes, I wonder about this as well. Older cars are much, much worse on the environment than newer ones in operation, but when taking into account manufacturing impact, which way does the balance tip?

      It was the Prius that got me thinking about that years ago, because batteries and chips are both very bad for the environment to manufacture (and dispose of), and I wondered if the overall environmental harm is actually lower with the Prius vs traditional cars. Studies since have shown that generally speaking, no, it's not lower. It just changes the type and location of the environmental impact.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:02am

    You're welcome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:06am

    i was of the opinion this all started because some entertainment industries owned judge sided with the industries concerning various pieces of media that people wanted to play on their friends machines or sell them on to someone else! it didn't help at all when an equally industry owned judge sided with Sony over the 'other O/S' that it had purposefully included to gain sales but then purposefully removed afterwards. all that John Deere is doing is the same as so many other companies now, regardless of the product. selling it, moaning when not selling enough but then telling customers they haven't actually bought anything except the right to use whatever until the manufacturing company decides otherwise. the place to get this changed is to educate the courts and the judges who just side almost eternally with whatever company is sued, screwing customers in the process!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:28am

    I say we all mod our cars computer system just a bit, and then tell GM and the rest that we modified it and let them try to sue all their customers. It will not be long before the first company to sue a customer is out of business, after that I am sure the rest will fall in line and let us do what we like if we want to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:36am

    In that case, I'm only licensing my money to them, and this license is revoked the moment they stop me from doing what I want to do with my property. (with the exception of copying copyrighted material) If I didn't say that, that's because it was implied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bureau13 (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 8:39am

    I know for sure that the next time I get hit by a vehicle manufactured by GM (or John Deere, although that seems unlikely) I'm adding them to the lawsuit. I mean, they're the owners, right? That software they own allowed the accident to happen...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 9:44am

    I wouldn't have to work on a car's crappy copyrighted software if my car didn't break down. I'm not paying a mechanic $100/hr to fix by car. That's extortion if I no longer have a choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 9:57am

    Irony

    The irony is that the concept of a software licence was originally invented to give the purchaser MORE rights than copyright itself allowed.

    Thus the licence typically allowed you to make the ephemeral copies necessary to run the program, to install it onto your hard drive and to make a backup. All of this would have been technically illegal under copyright law as understood in the 50s and 60s.

    Thus the licence was always IN ADDITION to the rights that you automatically acquired on purchase.

    Now however they seem to want to make the licence into something that takes away rights that you had. This may not be legally sound - but since when has that stopped them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Not Apparent, 23 Apr 2015 @ 11:11am

      Re: Irony

      Sounds exactly what evolved from the origins of marriage licenses granted by the state if you were too incompetent to enter into an agreement to wed through common law and sanctified it through you pastor or priest by God.

      Now the state doctrine which sounds as evil as evil can be, "parens patria" is what the state feels gives them sufficient legal standing to own your kids.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 10:17am

    First Sale Doctrine

    The company sold it as a package. You bought it as a package. First Sale Doctrine is invoked: It is yours to do with as you please. If you break it, the company can refuse service if you violated the warranty. But, you should have access to diagnostic codes so you can mod (*cough*) repair the item if so desired.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Junk Mail All Week, 23 Apr 2015 @ 10:58am

    Square Fender Wells

    Tires in square wheel wells look like round pegs in square holes. They look messed up. I don't want software in my truck. Stick that in your square holes. I ain't buyin a GM.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:04pm

      Re: Square Fender Wells

      "I ain't buyin a GM."

      You might want to expand that to "I ain't buying a new truck", since all new vehicles have this problem.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:01pm

    Cue all the inappropriate car analogies in the ensuing copyright discussion... oh wait.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bob Webster (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:28pm

    GM Owns the software?

    If GM owns the software in my car, that means they can permanently disable my car whenever they get the urge. They can just remove the software they own from the car I own, and my car becomes a large brick.

    Need a boost in auto sales? Kill 10,000 cars and put some demand into the market. Legally.

    Remind me not to buy GM products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 12:41pm

    This may present a case for a class-action suit.

    I remember when Microsoft had to re-device Windows 95 because Internet Explorer was overly integrated (as part of Windows Explorer). At the time Netscape was the primary competing product, and there was concern about how given hardware was only accessible through specific software, when the company developing the software had an investment in limiting how the software was used.

    As was noted by the folks of Digital Research, people who make hardware shouldn't make software, and people who make operating systems shouldn't make applications, in both cases due to the moral hazard that arrises. Sure enough Microsoft Windows is full of hidden features that are intentionally included yet concealed to give licensed developers an edge over those coding on their own. And some are reserved for the in-house developers such as those who make the Office suite.

    If there's a separate license for vehicle software vs. vehicle hardware, then it should be possible to run the hardware with third-party software. That, or the software should be required to be open-source and licensed for life. To do any less creates a moral hazard in which the company creating the software will be tempted to optimize the software as best suits the company and not the end user, lest it run the engine to wear out faster, or just stop running at all after the one-hundred-thousanth mile.

    Of course, the courts may be so deep in the pockets of the manufacturers that this is moot. So these are thoughts for the next iteration of civilization, once we re-invent the motor vehicle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 1:49pm

    Open Source?

    This article makes me wonder if the automotive software could be replaced with open source software. That way you could actually own 100% of your vehicle.

    Also, since they are claiming that they "own" a portion of your vehicle, wouldn't that also make them legally responsible for a portion of the liability that would occur when your car is in an accident?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 9 Jul 2015 @ 9:22am

      Re: Open Source?

      The use of the term "TPM" in some of the quotes in the article would seem to carry the implication that these systems will only run software which they consider "trusted", i.e., which is signed by a key which they recognize. Unless a way to add your own keys to the TPM is provided, this would seem to mean that any way of getting your software to run on that hardware would constitute circumvention of access protections, and thus a DMCA violation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 9 Jul 2015 @ 9:53am

        Re: Re: Open Source?

        The use of the term "TPM" in some of the quotes in the article would seem to carry the implication that these systems will only run software which they consider "trusted", i.e., which is signed by a key which they recognize.

        I'm not sure - what if they mean "technical protection measure"? You're assuming it means trusted platform module, right?

        this would seem to mean that any way of getting your software to run on that hardware would constitute circumvention of access protections, and thus a DMCA violation.

        That might be true regardless of which TPM they're talking about, or even whether it has a cover sheet.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 23 Apr 2015 @ 2:55pm

    so what then, when you die they take ownership of it again or they sue your estate?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 3:27pm

    cars with more sensible systems.

    "all you had to do to disable OnStar was to just unplug a fuse."

    Nav and sat radio are integrated into that box now. BMW is worse- no separation of anything- same with Audi. BMW's have been unlocked and stolen through the system in europe- it was all un-encrypted until recently. Researchers say bmw's security is still poor.

    Toyota, kia, hyundai, subaru, and (ironically) ford- all seam more sensible wrt privacy/security, at face value, for now at least, they have no in car cellular connectivity- they need your phone for that= you can refuse it an internet connection. Toyota saleman said no telematics at all in trucks. (though he could be wrong- I'm looking into it further).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:06am

      Re: cars with more sensible systems.

      "Nav and sat radio are integrated into that box now."

      Which is generally not a big deal. The built-in nav systems tend to be awful, so you're better off using your smartphone or third party nav system anyway. Sat radio might be an issue (even though you can do that with a third party device as well), but most people don't care about sat radio.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2015 @ 5:42pm

    And remember Whatever believes that corporations claiming ownership over your legally purchased stuff is perfectly acceptable. What a jackass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:51am

    Using the ever popular gov surveillance telescreen (smartphone) kinda defeats the point of not wanting to be tracked. Third party double din nav systems do seam to work fairly well- not an option on every model unfortunately, and a good one will set you back 500-1k+$.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Elporko, 26 Apr 2015 @ 6:35am

    Another revenue stream...

    Just imagine when these vehicle manufacturers realise that they can charge an annual software licence fee...!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TonyG, 5 May 2015 @ 2:40am

    They could have trouble with this in the UK. We have a law about "fitness for purpose" so a car (hardware) without the software to run it is not "fit for purpose".

    One problem I can foresee is the problem of selling a car on - if the software is licensed, do you have the rights to transfer that licence to the new owner? If not, then the car companies are in heaven, because they would be the only ones who could sell cars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thurman, 21 May 2015 @ 12:52pm

    Here is what seems to be missing in all this.

    I don't recall ever having to replace the hard drive in a vehicle. From what I can tell it is all EPROM. Since it is only read only, it can't be modified by any other means that with the appropriate equipment such as an OBDII. It isn't like I can plug my laptop into it and reprogram it.

    GM and the others want proprietary control. Simple solution would be not to purchase proprietary devices. That's what I do in the computer industry. I won't own a Dell printer because the only people I can get the ink from is Dell. You make it difficult for me to work on an engine, and I won't buy your engine, nor will I endorse anyone else to purchase one either. It is that simple.

    Of course we all know that when GM starts suffering because no one will buy a car from them, the first thing they will want is another "Bail Out" from the government. So who really wins here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2015 @ 4:12pm

    Nothing rents like a deere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobby Robbins, 23 May 2015 @ 4:39pm

    Bunch of commy crooks.

    If we don't actually own the junk, then you junkrolet and junk deere, and other junk makers are responsible for any maintenance costs, or problems.
    If you don't want the owner messing with the operating system, then make the electronic crap optional. I would much rather have the vehicles with no electronics period, much easier to work on, and much more reliable. I see that Nissan is not part of this communist takeover. I for one think that GM and Chrysler should have went completely under, and if Ford sides with GM on this, then they should go under also.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The west siders website, 10 Jul 2015 @ 9:46pm

    Agree

    The use of the term "TPM" in some quotes in the article seems to carry the implication that the software system that considers only "reliable" is executed, that is, signed with a key that is admitted.

    I'm not sure - what if they mean "technical protection measures"? You're assuming that means the Trusted Platform Module, right?

    This would seem to imply that the way to get their software to run on hardware that would avoid access protection, and therefore violated the DMCA.

    It may be independent of TPM that they are talking about, or even if you have the correct cover.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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