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Do You Own What You Own? Not So Much Anymore, Thanks To Copyright

from the a-disaster dept

Do you own the things you own? No, that is not a riddle being served up by the Cat in the Hat. Nor is it a rhyme spoken by the Lorax -- after all, he speaks for the trees, not for copyright laws.

It seems like every week there is a debate about a new topic involving ownership rights. Consumers are engaged in a constant tug of war with rights holders over what they can do with the products that they already purchased from them. A wide array of questions has confused the understanding of fundamental issues such as when people can resell or repair the things that they bought. The First Sale Doctrine stipulates that a rights holder is no longer entitled to control the distribution of a good once it has gone through a legitimate first sale. However, recent technological developments have created a new disagreement to this long-standing law -- do people ever actually own the things that they purchased? Were the products ever truly sold to them, or is everything instead just a temporary lease?

Take the recent debate over Nest products. Nest is one of the leading companies in "smart" thermostats for personal use. These products utilize a variety of light, sound, and heating sensors to automatically regulate the climate in a home and increase energy efficiency. Back in 2014, Nest purchased a company named Revolv that also made "smart" thermostats and proceeded to continue selling them for $300 each.

This once promising acquisition soon turned into a highly publicized controversy when Nest recently announced that it would be disabling the Revolv product line. At first glance this hardly seems worthy of news coverage. This is not the first time that a company has decided to suspend sales and maintenance of an older product. For example, Microsoft stopped maintaining Windows XP and the Zune, while video game companies slowly stop making new products for their old systems (eg. Playstation and Xbox) upon the release of a new platform. The Nest case has become a lightning rod because as opposed to these examples, it's not just stopping the maintenance, upkeep, or the addition of new features. Nest will shut down the device entirely, rendering it as nothing more than a $300 doorstop.

How can a product that was purchased legally by a consumer be turned off by a flip of the switch by the company that sold it? The answer is as simple as it is troubling -- it is because that consumer does not in fact "own" the product. Yes, they own the physical device. But they only lease the software embedded inside the product that makes it go. And because this is a license, the company that made the product retains the right to shut it down. The product was not sold with any stipulation on the box that said that it carried this risk. A consumer would have to be a copyright lawyer to foresee this result.

Every day new telephones, watches, cars, books, and even household appliances like refrigerators are introduced into the market and have had a tremendously positive impact on our lives. An increasing number of products that did not contain any software five or fifteen years ago now do. As this trend continues to grow, the same phenomenon will grow with it. You will own less and less of your own products and will instead simply be leasing them. Maybe one day you will wake up and discover that you are out $300 because the company decides it would rather sell you a different product and shut yours down.
This is not just limited to electronic products. The use of a license to control the resale of a variety of other, totally unrelated products has also grown substantially. Sports teams like the New York Yankees, Golden State Warriors, and Minnesota Timberwolves have all started to use the very same tactic. You might buy a ticket to the event, but you can no longer freely sell it, donate it to charity, or give it to a friend like any other product that you would purchase. Teams are forcing ticket owners to either sell through a select service (of which they get a cut of the revenue), or get their tickets revoked. These services set a variety of economic controls, such as a pricing floor, in order to limit the ability of people to freely exchange the tickets that they lawfully purchased.

As technology continues to be intertwined with every day goods and services, we have to ask ourselves if we want to accept the erosion of our ownership rights. My organization, and those that we work with do not believe so, and will continue to fight to make sure that you do, indeed, own the things you own. A variety of large and small companies and associations have come together to form the Owners' Rights Initiative. ORI has worked with members of Congress of both parties such as Blake Farenthold and Jared Polis in order to ensure the protection of every persons' ownership rights. They've introduced the You Own Devices Act, or, YODA, to ensure that essential software travels with the hardware you purchase. Representatives Farenthold and Polis are leaders in this arena, and ORI is working to build even more champions. Join us in the fight by contacting your Congressman and Senator and asking them to cosponsor YODA.

Lyle Gore is CEO of Ethos Dynamics, a technology reseller in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the past-President of the United Network of Equipment Dealers (UNEDA) and represents the organization on the Steering Committee of the Owners' Rights Initiative.

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  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 8:09am

    Double check.

    Back in 2014, Nest purchased a company named Revolv that also made "smart" thermostats and proceeded to continue selling them for $300 each.
    Do you have a source on this? I haven't read anywhere that Nest continued selling the devices; most articles said they immediately stopped sales. Also Revolve was about integrating various home automation products into a cohesive interface; not another thermostat.
    How can a product that was purchased legally by a consumer be turned off by a flip of the switch by the company that sold it? The answer is as simple as it is troubling -- it is because that consumer does not in fact "own" the product. But they only lease the software embedded inside the product that makes it go. And because this is a license, the company that made the product retains the right to shut it down. The product was not sold with any stipulation on the box that said that it carried this risk. A consumer would have to be a copyright lawyer to foresee this result.
    This isn't really the best example for your argument. This was because consumers don't own the servers on which the product is entirely dependent. You may have needed a certain amount of tech savvy to see that coming, but it's not a case of exerting IP rights to shut off an otherwise self-contained product.

    The YODA legislation wouldn't have prevented this situation unless it's going to outlaw cloud services or mandate a minimum support period; even if a company no longer exists.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:43am

      Re: Double check.

      This can be easily solved with a home server. Honestly, the idea that personal computers can't handle the processing is kind of laughable nowadays.

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

      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:53am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        Sure, I agree that Revolv could have spent time and resources to better handle the shuttering. But are we proposing a law that says you have to open source your code if you drop support for something? Nest bought Revolv for that code (or the developers and concepts behind it) and turned it into the Works With Nest platform. Having to divest a bunch of resources in an acquisition would probably add many unintended effects.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 10:22am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        That only works if there's software to run a server on your home computer, and you can get the device to contact your server instead of trying to contact the company server.
        That would require reverse engineering the server. Good luck getting that publicly distributed without facing a massive copyright infringement lawsuit.

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

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        Seriously though, no.

        I have a Withings scale that can send my weight, heart rate and BMI to my phone. Except that it doesn't go *directly* to my phone. Every measurement is sent to a server in France before I can see it on my phone. To get a copy of the data I have to log into their website.

        I can ignore their software setup routine that wants auto-post every measurement to Facebook and Twitter. (I get the distinct impression that a crack addiction is a job requirement in the Withings boardroom.) But I take issue with the privacy loss and remote server requirement, neither of which was mentioned when I bought it.

        Now, someone HAS figured out how to simulate the remote server. And figured out how to customize a specific model of router to redirect traffic from the scale to their own server. And they've even posted some sample source code.

        But even with all that, doing it yourself is beyond the capabilities of the average web developer let alone most people.

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

      • identicon
        corey, 8 May 2016 @ 3:49pm

        Re: Re: Double check.

        there is no need for home server, The computing could of been done within the device.

        The creator had decided in advance, that it wanted to control the purchasing cycle of the consumer, of its goods and services. Thus server they control and use to kill the device that governs a critical aspect of you "shelter"(home).

        This is a perfect example of "FORCED OBSOLESCENCE" through extortion.

        see if you don't pay them or another company to replace the device, you die from elements of cold or heat.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:18am

      Re: Double check.

      "This was because consumers don't own the servers on which the product is entirely dependent."

      Yes, this.

      Do not use cloud-operated services or devices that you can't afford to have vanish without warning.

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

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:25am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        With all of the clever names and clever applications of old terms making their way into the modern lexicon, I'm really surprised that no one seems to be using the term "head in the clouds" for people who fail to think these things through.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 11:51am

          Re: Re: Re: Double check.

          I dunno, I've been thrilled with my HP Cloud-Enabled Black Ink Cartridges. They're $200 a pop, but I feel a lot safer knowing that I can access my ink when I'm away from home & need it. There's nothing The Cloud can't make better.

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

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:50am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        There is a big difference between a Barbie doll that quits responding to your kid because the cloud service is gone and a thermostat that quits controlling the temperature because the cloud service is gone.

        The Barbie doll is still a doll and the kid can still play with it. The thermostat should be required to act as a normal thermostat instead of a hunk of inanimate junk. I can go to Walmart and get an electronic thermostat that replaces an old analogue thermostat for $10. For $300, even without the cloud, it should do better than my $10 thermostat.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Double check.

          The value of things like Revolv and Nest are worth the expense and a few inconveniences. The functionality behind smart thermostats (as opposed to the Barbie) isn't for simple entertainment, it's an incredibly important part of social and technological evolution. Without the ability to tell remote servers and the companies that run them everything about our environment on a minute-by-minute basis, how are we going to know if we should feel a tad chilly or a wee bit warm? I, for one, am far too busy with other things to be expected to keep track of and make decisions about things like that all by myself.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 6:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: Double check.

          For $300, your thermostat could provide every single feature that the Nest does without involving any servers or software that aren't in your possession and control.

          You won't see this, though, because it eliminates the ability for them to continue to monetize you over time.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:09am

      Re: Double check.

      > I haven't read anywhere that Nest continued selling the devices; most articles said they immediately stopped sales.

      Define "stopped sales."

      Consumerist.com has a regular feature, "Raiders of the Lost Walmart." It highlights items, usually obsolete technology, still on the shelf at Walmart and usually at comically high prices.

      The current is a music player bundled with Walmart music store downloads - even though that music store (required because of the DRM system) shut down in 2008. Other finds just on the first page include WebTV devices, cell phones and multiplayer games that no longer work because the services needed to run them have long ago shut down.

      If Nest stopped selling Revolve products, does the mean that they recalled all those they'd already sold, but were still in the distribution pipeline? Might there still be Revolve products sitting in stores even now and for years to come?

      Even if not, Nest bricked the Revolve products at most 17 months after people were buying them. They may not have had a legal obligation to keep the servers running longer, but they certainly had an ethical one.

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

      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:43am

        Re: Re: Double check.

        I'll freely admit I wasn't watching this as it happened in 2014, so I'm not sure what was meant. But most articles had Nest stating that the device would "no longer be available for sale" or something similar. That's distinctly different than "purchased... and proceeded to continue selling them for $300 each" so I'm legitimately interested if there's more information I haven't seen. If Nest was letting these things out the door after they had the keys to Revolv their responsibility dramatically rises in my estimation.

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:27am

    This was because consumers don't own the servers on which the product is entirely dependent.
    What you don't seem to understand, and the point about Nest makes perfect sense, is that because we don't "own" the software running our product, it can be made useless.

    With the video game examples above, not a single one of my products has stopped working despite:
    -game servers are long gone, which only affects those games
    -account(s) are no longer valid, but do not affect the hardware
    -disks still play and don't require a single authentication with a server

    In the past 3 years alone, almost every physical product has been pushed to find a server simply to allow companies to control the hardware.

    My refrigerator should never, ever stop working simply because Samsung decides it has had enough of running an app no one uses.

    My car had better not stop working simply because the ODB computer software is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

    These are but two examples of a growing problem. Hell, I can't even play a single game on my console anymore unless I'm connected online.

    The "interconnected" world and the false belief people don't own hardware is a perpetual war just waiting to explode, because one day, when consumers finally pull their heads out of their asses, are going to realize the problem.

    The most terrifying piece of this IP bullshit: HOAs now have the "legal" authority to take away your house simply because A) you don't own the land it's on and B) you failed to pay the fees.

    Your own damn home now part of this IP bullshit.

    Welcome to the United States of North Korea. All praise our might corporate overlords.

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

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      What you don't seem to understand, and the point about Nest makes perfect sense, is that because we don't "own" the software running our product, it can be made useless.
      I certainly understand that this can be the case and I regularly evaluate the specs, implementation, and dependent features of products before I buy them. I was trying to correct the misconception put forth in the article that a company was reaching out to sabotage firmware happily spinning away on customers' devices.
      But they only lease the software embedded inside the product that makes it go.
      This may be the case in some of the instances we've seen, like tractors or phones, but it didn't happen here. The firmware on Revolv hubs is the same as it always was; it's just useless because of shortsighted implementation. (which may have been technically necessary; none of us know) It might seem like a black box non-difference to a lot of consumers, but it makes a big difference in the way it would be legislated and we need people who understand why and how these systems work to write the laws.

      I agree with your point about products that needlessly ping a server just for a company to maintain control, and unlike you I have lost access to a game that should otherwise be playable. But rather than banning server-side code there needs to be a concession that protects consumers (if this is agreed to be a serious harm) while not hamstringing new innovation and progress.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re:

        The concession should be that if a company removes a piece of software or a server that renders a product useless, then if they not going to reinstate such services then any 3rd party gain the ability to legally offer it. If the company has genuine reasons for withdrawal (high mantenence costs, major security issues that won't be fixed, etc) this should not be an issue. If the reason is because they want to fleece people with older products, the consumer comes first

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

      • identicon
        corey, 8 May 2016 @ 4:09pm

        Re: Re:

        You don't need to be tech savvy to write laws for items that are considered "internet of things" and "mission critical" like thermostats.

        Example All devices shall be designed and constructed in a fashion that, it will still function as intended, in the event that the company discontinues sales or terminates internet services or goes out of business.

        So a thermostat still functions as a thermostat it was designed to be, even if the company discontinues its online features. Or if it requires internet authentication, that if the software can not reach the authentication server and is connected with the internet, it will bypass the authentication and still function as intended (in event the authentication server is ever taken down)

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

        • icon
          Jeremy Lyman (profile), 9 May 2016 @ 4:52am

          Re: Re: Re:

          A succinct and elegant law might be possible, but I think it takes both legal and technical experts to understand the ramifications of what is codified.

          Your example law seems to address the issue of mostly good-faith termination of services, but is wide open to exploitation by the kind of bad company forcing obsolescence on customers that other commenters are so concerned about. Just change the protocol offered, and everyone needs to upgrade.

          Also your example would nix entire categories of devices like amazon's fire stick which won't work without the back-end servers. Heck, would the iPhone with app store be allowed? You can't install programs without apple's servers; isn't that a pretty major intended feature?

          I think a better solution than banning certain technologies is to make the requirements expressly clear to consumers. These qualities are dependent on external resources and are therefor services, not features. Or something like that. It's not so much that leveraging server-side functionality is innately evil, but that the people buying things don't understand what they're buying.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:52am

      Re:

      This wouldn't necessarily be a problem if not for the other side of copyright - the DMCA prevents you from altering the device to make it continue to work. With previous devices, if a part became obsolete, a person could modify it in any way to keep it running, or a 3rd party could make their own modified parts. With software, not only are other developers prevented from making their own patches/servers etc, you're also prevented from making the product you own work. If it's got software, you have to buy more (well, or break the law, which many will do of course)

      I think there will be a tipping point once this tactic becomes known to the general public through its abuse, the question is how many such devices are purchased in the meantime

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re:

        I has never been a problem to pirates. And they wonder why piracy never goes away despite multiple efforts to stop it.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re:

        With software, not only are other developers prevented from making their own patches/servers etc, you're also prevented from making the product you own work.

        Unless you use Free and Opensource software, when you can modify it yourself, or pay others to modify it for you.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Indeed, but most devices have some proprietary closed source element to try and stop people from doing that, even if the majority of code is FOSS based

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 11:17am

        'the question is how many such devices are purchased in the meantime'

        And there you go. With corporate America's financial attention span focused only on the next quarter, nothing will change until consumers actually starve some of those companies into extinction.

        Good luck with that.

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

      • identicon
        corey, 8 May 2016 @ 4:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Your a little confused on what the DMCA does

        you can alter a device to keep it working under, "Fair use protects your rights" and other laws protect that right

        The "TOS", "ULA", "EULA" is the one that blocks you from modifying software through "contract law".

        DMCA says you cannot create or distribute devises or services that bypass DRM or other lockouts that maybe present. Like creation or distribution of "copy any dvd". Or creation or distribution of DVD decrypt.

        You can bypass it yourself you just can't share "the bypass" with anyone else.

        This is why the movie industry and such NEVER sue individuals who bypass drm and lockouts and keep how they bypass to themselves. Because it is protected under "fair use" related laws. If the industry sued and lost the case in court, it strengthens "fair use laws" by setting an official legal precedence. Which in turn clarifies the confusion of what the DMCA really is and does. Right now the industry is relying on people ignorance and confusion of the DMCA, to block all fair use related issues like repairing things or modifying things to make it work correctly.(By creating fear of perception of being sued)which is working in favor of industry.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 9 May 2016 @ 3:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "You can bypass it yourself you just can't share "the bypass" with anyone else."

          Exactly. So, since most people have neither the ability nor inclination to modify, the result is the same as if they were literally blocked from modifying it at all. For 99% of the market, it's locked up unless people agree to break the law to allow them access.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      The backlash comes in flavors:

      - Open hardware and software initiatives will gain traction as corporations become more and more obnoxious
      - People will simply stop buying the 'IoT' and connected stuff altogether
      - Pirates will save the day by providing ways to bypass server authentication

      In my case I will avoid these products altogether. But if I happen to fall into some trap I say LONG LIVE THE PIRATES!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:56pm

        Re: Re:

        But we can't just disregard the effects of law on software and open software and hardware. Corporations can get redundant and ridiculous patents on software and things like instruction sets. The solution isn't to simply 'migrate away' because the law will simply follow to prevent us from migrating. We must actively participate in the legal process.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 3:17pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          While I agree, participation in the process is essential, it's also true that the legal process is stacked against us. As such, it's equally essential to work around it as well.

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

    • icon
      Dan (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:48am

      Re:

      The most terrifying piece of this IP bullshit: HOAs now have the "legal" authority to take away your house simply because A) you don't own the land it's on and B) you failed to pay the fees.

      This has bugger-all to do with either IP law or ownership of the land, but instead results from the private contractual arrangement that you agree to when you buy a home that's governed by an HOA. If you don't pay fees/assessments/dues/etc. as required by the HOA rules, they can place a lien on the property. If you continue to not pay, they can foreclose on the lien--force the sale of the property, take what they're owed, and give you the rest.

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

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re:

        It's worse than that. You can buy a home without ever signing a single paper with a HOA, and they can still take your home away. That happened to my dad some time back. He bought a home with a converted garage. The local HOA, which he never even knew existed and never signed with and never paid a fee to, claimed the converted garage violated their rules. They gave him a choice - convert the garage back, or lose the house. He lost the house... which was then sold WITH THE SAME CONVERTED GARAGE to another unsuspecting sap. This is a scam common in many big cities (Houston, TX, in this case). HOA collude with real estate and the banks to cycle people through known bad houses for a cut of the money.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 9 May 2016 @ 7:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          In the ♪ ♫freeee market, ♬ ♭the freeee market♬ ♭...

          And if you don't like it you can vote with your feet. After they've taken your money. Good luck with getting it back!

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 9 May 2016 @ 7:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          In my state, the authority of a HOA is specified in the property's deed. I assume that this is the case everywhere, but perhaps not. Reading the deed before purchase should have revealed the HOA.

          If there truly was no written link between the ownership/purchase documents and the existence of a HOA, your father is in an excellent position to sue to recover his loss.

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

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 10 May 2016 @ 2:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            There's your problem: not everybody can afford to sue. If Joe's father does elect to sue, I hope he gets his costs back as well as his money.

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

            • icon
              John Fenderson (profile), 11 May 2016 @ 9:33am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              You are right, and this is an issue that I harp about here (and elsewhere) quite a lot. But in this case, things aren't quite as bleak as that -- he could expect half a loaf instead of nothing.

              Because there's a real asset that can be liquidated here, many very competent attorneys would take a case like this on contingency. Best case, the guy would win back his investment plus enough to cover the attorneys. Worst case, he'd get a moral victory plus an inadequate amount of pocket money.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      Yes but at least you get a vote when it comes to HOAs. If you don't like it vote for other people to run it. Or vote the HOA away. Or don't buy an HOA house.

      People buy HOA because they want their neighborhood to meet certain standards that the law doesn't require. Yet someone must administer this. Administering it costs money and takes time. Someone needs to pay for this.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 9:42am

    If YODA is involved then the Force is with us, we will defeat the copyright side of the Force!

    Ahem. At some point somebody would deliver a lame joke with Star Wars involved, no?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 10:35am

      Re: Yoda

      There is only own or own not, there is no lease.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      English: Jane will go to the copyright office.
      German : Jane will to the copyright office go.
      Arabic : To the copyright office Jane will go.
      Yoda: Go to the copyright office, Jane will. Confront the Dark Side there, she must.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 10:15am

    What we need is clear labeling on packages indicating that what the consumer is buying is a service, that can be terminated at any time. Until this happens, companies can continue this bait and switch tactic of selling services as products. We have gone from planned obsolescence to expiration dates on when a product will die.

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

    • icon
      TasMot (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Actually, it's even worse than planned obsolescence. With no notice, the day after the purchase, the "service as a product" could be turned off. Planned obsolescence at least was a pre-determination that after a period of time the product would wear out and need to be replaced. Like after a hammer is used 6000 times, it would fall apart and a new hammer would be needed. This way, the hammer company would stay in business selling replacement hammers. In this case, the whole company got purchased and suddenly all of the existing products just stopped working. Well before the 6000 nails got hit.

      At least when a mobile phone is purchased, the consumer knows that they depend on the phone company. Except for a few die-hard techies who would even think that the fancy new thermostat would require a "thermostat company" to stay in business to regulate the temperature in your house. This one was especially tricky because there was no monthly fee for the service, so whomever bought the thermostat company did not feel obligated to maintain that expense with no subsequent monthly fees to offset the cost. And who wants to pay a monthly fee for the thermostat in their house. Especially since the old one worked fine. The new thermostat is supposed to save money, not cost $20/month more.

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

      • icon
        Jeremy Lyman (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re:

        The folks who bought a Revolv in 2013-2014 were heavy into early home automation or "IoT" devices to need a unifying hub solution. (again, not a thermostat!) I think one of the issues is that many spent thousands of dollars and were ecstatic with the things Revolv enabled. So they felt a sting much larger than paying $300 for only a year of use. They don't want a refund they want their system back!

        But they should have been acquainted with the term "Bleeding Edge" and if they weren't they are now. I think I would feel a lot more sympathy if this was a geriatric mobility device, WiFi baby monitor, or an actual thermostat.

        I have danced the bleeding edge, and I have been cut. Part of the thrill of being an early adopter is not getting burned picking the wrong standard or platform. But if you're gonna gamble there's gotta be risk. We can't make everything a sure-thing; what would be left to gloat over?!?!

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

    • identicon
      corey, 8 May 2016 @ 4:59pm

      Re:

      Lets all get on the same page here.

      "planned obsolescence": predetermined/designed , yet unknown exact date or expiration of goods or services.

      "Forced obsolescence": termination of goods or services by corporation, based on whatever whims said corporation decides is the termination date or reason of said termination for the goods and services they provide. With no fore knowledge or idea of life cycle by the consumer.

      What I would like to see is techdirt run a series of "Forced obsolescence" Stories. This covers the issue surrounding corporations retaining control over goods and services that are sold after the "first sales doctrine". This would help get everyone on the same page about the corporations practice of killing goods and services after first sale, where if they had not done so, the goods and services would still function without the corporations interference. That do not fall under planned obsolescence.

      Bricking people thermostats, that are owned by the homeowner, after said homeowner completed the first sales doctrine, is "Classed" as "FORCED obsolescence" Because the device was deliberately killed by the company that sold said device. In order to FORCE said homeowner to buy a replacement to replace a product that worked perfectly before it was "Artificially" killed off by corporation

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:30am

    This can be fixed with a very simple, straightforward law: If any company offers a purchased product that is dependent upon external hosted software for its basic functionality, and then decides to discontinue support for that software, they have the legal obligation to release that software, in its entirety, under an open source license, with the complete documentation necessary to allow users to establish their own servers and convert the product to use these servers instead of the obsolete ones, before they turn their servers off.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      Or, alternatively, make it illegal to sell a product that provides wholly in-house (including communicating with owners via a secure connection) services that requires a connection to an external server. Rentals are fine, so long as they are genuine rentals - no up-front buy-in and with a fixed regular rental fee, open to cancellation by either party with the same notice term. In fact, why not make it either-or, giving the abusers less to whine to the useful idiots about, so less chance of preventing/overturning such legislation.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 10:36am

    "Welcome to ArtiPilot™ 24.0, where should I take you today™? While you decide, allow me to remind you that ArtiPilot™ 25.0 is now out, full of exciting new features, all yours for only $500! Shall I make the payment on your behalf right now? Please remember, after the grace period of 90 days following a new release, operating a vehicle with an obsolete AI on public roads becomes illegal, punishable by life in prison. Please press (1) to authorize payment or (2) to enter a destination manually. Your ArtiPilot™ is always there for you!™"

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 10:52am

    A better example...

    Let me give you a better example: "Diablo" by Blizzard.

    I purchased the first Diablo when it came out years and years ago and every so often I load it up and play it again. The point is that I can still do this after 10 or 15 years.

    Diablo III uses an always-on Internet connection to validate your license, to connect to the auction house, and any number of other reasons.
    What happens in 10 or 15 years when Diablo V is released and Blizzard decides they don't want to support Diablo III? Sorry, you can't play your $50 game any more because the company shut down the servers.

    Or a better example: Photoshop.
    I bought a copy of Photoshop on a CD and installed it on my laptop. I can use it wherever I take my laptop: the house, the garage, even the beach.
    If I subscribe to Adobe's monthly cloud service, I can only use it over an Internet connection. And when the service goes down (as it did a few years ago), I'm ****ed and I can't do the work my clients are counting on. Why? Because the company owns the software, not me, so I'm at their mercy.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 2:12pm

      Re: A better example...

      Use GIMP

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 7 May 2016 @ 2:59pm

        Re: Re: A better example...

        I find GIMP is easier to use than Photoshop.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 8 May 2016 @ 7:07am

          Re: Re: Re: A better example...

          Yes, me too -- by a longshot.

          The fact is, though, that both Photoshop and Gimp are complex, feature-rich applications that have very different user interfaces. I suspect that if someone has been using these tools for a long time, then the one they use the most is easiest for them.

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

    • identicon
      corey, 8 May 2016 @ 5:13pm

      Re: A better example...

      in regards to diablo 3(your example only applies to PC version of diablo 3.) Not console. The part that actually has relevance is the "updates and patches" for those that have the original disk regardless of platform.

      Even better example that is actually playing out right now before your eyes.

      Microsoft and windows vista/7 vs windows 10

      I am windows vista/7 user. I HATE 8.0 8.1 and (10 which uses 8.0 core programming.)

      Microsoft pulled the Shall not work on new hardware 2017 and beyond as a means. despite claiming to support till 2020-2025?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 11:39am

    We've seen this progression before.

    GM exec's used to gleefully take credit for "inventing planned obsolescence". Eventually they so completely fucked up their product line and became so corrupt that they went bankrupt.

    But we are at the point where aristocrats who perpetrate fraud are rescued by the state. So the law is now so subjective that it really isn't law anymore. It is more of a cool kids club arbitrated by nerd judges who are only invited because their parents don't notice when the booze is missing.

    We've seen that progression before too, sometime around 1776 I think it was.

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

  • identicon
    Joe Murray, 6 May 2016 @ 12:14pm

    Mainstream won't put up with this.

    Nice write up Lyle. I can't see companies continuing the practice once the mainstream becomes aware of the issue. Consumers won't want to be subjected to bricked devices, tickets, automobile safety features. Another differentiator for marketing folk to tout when the time comes.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:14pm

    smart product; dumb buyer.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 12:20pm

    After Microsoft's killing of the authorized music servers, I promised myself I would never, ever, buy another song that requires on line connection to keep it playing. It's like buying air, you can't really show anything for your purchase. The company that sold you this song or your library, doesn't hold the copyright to ensure it stays up. Nor is there a guarantee that what you spent money for stays yours.

    Amazon has demonstrated the same with it's ebook bookshelf. Complaints against a particular book results in the company removing the book. Suddenly the book you bought, is gone and your money is not refunded; it too is gone.

    I refuse to buy something like this under someone else's control as to whether you can access it or not. It's a waste of money depending on someone else to hold your goods for you and if they get tired of doing that, all you've done is piss money down the drain.

    Nor will I allow IoT appliances in the house. There's no wifi for them to connect to and there is not going to be one. It's purposely left off. If it will not function without the internet, I don't need it and I don't want it. Therefore I will not spend money on it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 1:06pm

    'Do You Own What You Own? Not So Much Anymore, Thanks To Copyright'

    that seems a little bit off to me. shouldn't it be something along the lines of 'Do You Own What You Own? Not So Much Anymore, Thanks To Judges Only Doing What the Copyright Owners Want'?

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

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 6 May 2016 @ 1:22pm

    Cars Also Use Software

    New cars are almost to this point now, but surely when autonomous cars become the norm it will definitely be the case.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2016 @ 2:28pm

    Gotta say, it's actually kinda surreal-funny to realize that I live in a world where a conceptual Corporate Person can declare ownership of a conceptual rounded corner, but a real person doesn't necessarily own the real things she pays real money for.

    Is this the point where Phillip K Dick would write a novel about the ambiguity of reality?

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 6 May 2016 @ 5:59pm

    I wonder when book publishers will issue hard copy books that have hidden chips that cause it to spontaneously self combust (or the print disappears) if you give it to a friend or take it to a book exchange. How about a plant that comes from Monsanto that when it detects non-GM plants in your house it releases a toxin that destroys them. The list is pretty well endless.

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 6 May 2016 @ 11:43pm

    This condition isn't going to change anytime soon. In a sane world, people would be outraged about stuff like this, but if such products provide even 1% more convenience than what came before, the general public will stampede to buy them, regardless of the long-term consequences.

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

  • icon
    Eric (profile), 7 May 2016 @ 7:34am

    There is still basic consumer warranty law. Businesses must support the product throughout the warranty period. Like cars, when manufactures discontinue a model, they typically are required to make parts available for 10 years because of the perforation law. In the case of the Revolv, I am sure they stopped selling the product longer than the warranty and shut down the service after that.

    It is the concern with these "connected" (spy) devices. The service the offer consumers is the bait for these companies which collect data about them and sell them to other entities which is the profit. Many of the apps that you use on your phones dont need back-end systems yet they are designed this way. I am more and more only buying products that work autonomously for this reason and will start slowing my upgrade of iphones because the features dont outway the risks of the app not being supported tomorrow. And for the connected home, with the cost, no way. Remember, free has no value.

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

    • identicon
      corey, 8 May 2016 @ 5:20pm

      Re:

      Businesses found a way around the basic warranty law. Shorten the warranty period. Now I am seeing goods that use to have 5 year warranty, down to 30 days

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

      • icon
        Eric (profile), 8 May 2016 @ 5:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Then it is your choice as a consumer whether to buy it or not. There are many people who buy things based on the warranty (cars again). Consumers are also short-sighted in being surprised that a device that requires a backend system to operate to work in perpetuity. When is a reasonable amount of time that a company has to support an obsolete system? Maybe consumers should start pushing back and buy devices that don't need a back-end system in order to operate.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 8 May 2016 @ 6:32pm

        Re: Re:

        Years ago, I came to the realization that warranties were effectively worthless and have ignored them ever since.

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

  • icon
    John Mitchell (profile), 7 May 2016 @ 7:51am

    No "first sale" required

    It is a common misconception that "The First Sale Doctrine stipulates that a rights holder is no longer entitled to control the distribution of a good once it has gone through a legitimate first sale." That is half right. But no "first sale" has ever been required since Congress first codified the doctrine in 1909. Since 1976, the Copyright Act establishes this as an entitlement belonging to the owner of a lawfully made copy. It does not limit how ownership comes about. So 17 USC § 109(a) applies to one who gains ownership by gift as well as one who already owns the material object (such as a piece of paper, a CD, or an iPhone) onto which the work is fixed by authority of the copyright owner of authority of the Copyright Act. Accordingly, if Microsoft authorizes you to download its work onto your laptop, you still own your laptop and may sell it without Microsoft's permission.

    With respect to a Nest device, the question is who owns the gizmo, not who owns the software (as in the intangible work of authorship copied onto the gizmo). Under the Copyright Act, Nest has no greater right to erase or disable the operation of the work on the gizmo than J.K Rowling has of rendering the pages of my lawfully made Harry Potter book unreadable.

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

    • identicon
      corey, 8 May 2016 @ 5:29pm

      Re: No "first sale" required

      @John Mitchell Exactly Another Prime example from slightly different perspective on the same point you made: the "news paper" that is bought by one person, then is given to the neighbor to read and then given back to the original purchaser. So long as no "DUPLICATE" copies were made of the original copy. The original author creator has no say of what happens to said paper after first sale.

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

  • identicon
    -, 8 May 2016 @ 7:35am

    The DMCA is a threat to society

    The DMCA needs to be destroyed.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2016 @ 10:25pm

      Re: The DMCA is a threat to society

      The DMCA needs to be destroyed.

      It's getting easier to think we should start making a list of stuff that needs to be preserved, rather than destroyed. It'd be a hell of a lot shorter, and a 'Good Things That Kinda-Sorta Make Sense' list has a bouncy, upbeat feel. A "So Bad They Aren't Even Wrong, We're Doomed!" list is a bit of a downer.

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

  • identicon
    David, 9 May 2016 @ 5:36am

    Bad comparisons

    I love this website, but this was a very poor article. The comparison between Nest and tickets is apples and oranges. Also, what you cite with tickets is a *good* thing that the ticket companies are doing. Its purpose is to prevent what has always happened, ticket brokers gobbling up all of the face value tickets before real people can, and then selling them at a huge markup just so that they can profit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 May 2016 @ 9:50am

    Don't buy their shit, since you can't own your own shit.

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

  • identicon
    Jack, 2 Jul 2016 @ 9:33am

    Not that I am for the idea you don't own software that runs a device you purchase, but I can see in a digital setting that besides a seller favoring forced upgrades to new devices, there could be legitimate issues with safety and security operating devices that use dated and unsupported software that could put others at risk besides the owner.

    For example if you had just one computer with vulnerabilities trusted on a network everyone on it is potentially at risk. Not because you couldn't prevent compromise, but you just can't manage all the variations that every device could introduce.

    Sometimes we have to be directed to do what's really in our best interest. Why buy something new if the old device still does what we want right? Well that is fine, but if it was that simple we wouldn't have things like insurance either because in my opinion the majority of people don't believe they need that as well. After all nothing is going to happen to you so why pay for that.

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


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