Minnesota May Be First State To Pass A Right To Repair Law

from the fix-it-your-damn-self dept

Minnesota appears poised to be the first state to pass "right to repair" legislation taking aim at corporate efforts to monopolize repair. The grass-roots technology movement in support of these bills began in rural America, where the draconian DRM embedded in John Deere tractors made repairing them a costly nightmare for many farmers. The movement has also been prodded along thanks to efforts from companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Apple to effectively ban third-party repair of games consoles and phones; a move that not only restricts consumer freedom and drives up consumer costs, but creates additional unnecessary waste.

California recently became the 20th state to eye such legislation, though Minnesota appears likely to be the first to actually pass such a law. Minnesota's law has passed through committee and awaits a vote in the Minnesota House, and if approved (which seems likely) would take effect in early 2020.

Not too surprisingly, both John Deere and Apple lobbyists have descended upon Minnesota to prevent that from happening. For its part, John Deere doubled down on the primary (and false) argument most of these companies are making; namely that if you let consumers and authorized third-party shops repair consumer tech, you're putting consumers at risk:

"A John Deere spokesperson said the parts, diagnostic and manuals are already available to its owners, and that customers can contact a dealer where “trained technicians provide expertise and assistance with service issues in the shop or, in many cases, remotely in the field.” It stands by the general opposition to release software to the masses, citing the software’s purpose to make sure equipment runs safely, properly, and up to changing standards. Other companies also argue intellectual property should be protected."

Granted that ignores that in many rural areas, there's no "authorized" repair option for hundreds of miles, meaning that farmers often have to pay to have the tractor shipped that distance (generating huge additional costs). In desperation, some tractor owners have turned to using pirated Ukrainian firmware, which obviously creates its own issues in terms of security and stability.

Apple, Microsoft, Sony, and Verizon have all utilized similar arguments, all focused on the unsubstantiated claim that breaking down these repair monopolies will result in a steady parade of untold security and safety horribles. When a similar law was proposed in Nebraska, Apple lobbyists attempted to claim that passing such a law would turn the state into a "mecca for hackers" and various ne'er-do-wells. It's a pretty flimsy argument, one used specifically to obscure one goal: to pad revenues by banning repair shop competition.

As such Apple can often be found harassing independent repair shops all around the world, while ignoring one central truth: as owners of these devices, they should be able to do whatever the hell they'd like to do with them as long as they're not harming themselves or others.

Filed Under: competition, minnesota, ownership, right to repair


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 26 Apr 2019 @ 2:05pm

    John Deere ... stands by the general opposition to release software to the masses. Other companies also argue intellectual property should be protected.

    There is something very wrong with any state of affairs in which a freaking tractor can be considered worthy of intellectual property protection, backed up by immoral DRM and unconstitutional laws defending the use of such DRM.

    Repeal the DMCA. Take off and nuke the whole thing from orbit. At this point it's the only way to be sure.

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

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 26 Apr 2019 @ 4:09pm

    In The Beginning....

    For what it's worth, some people are keeping in mind exactly how they got started on their way to becoming a Midas-wannabe.

    While Wozniak pulled out several years ago, Jobs just couldn't let go of the fact that he and Woz started in a garage, and that this same phenomena could happen all over again.... outplacing Apple in their (tiny) market share of PCs. (Phones are a different story, here in the USA, but overseas... who knows?)

    Same story for Microsoft - Bill and Paul sitting in front of a mainframe terminal in their middle-school years, yadda yadda and so on.

    Need I mention other so-called "Captains Of Industry"?

    The lesson here is, if you make it big, you can be replaced by someone else making it bigger... in a manner of speaking. It's that fear that's driving this think-of-the-children style nonsense espoused by Big Corpa. (That's a derivative of Big Pharma.) They've taken the word "Safety!" and used it as a cover for "Profits!!"

    Orwell had his newspeak, Big Corpa has theirs. And it ain't fiction, either. Sigh

    sumgai

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Apr 2019 @ 4:22pm

    Keeping the customer in mind, not the investors

    When John Deere and Apple and the related parties arguing against the right to repair make expert technicians with all possible needed parts and tools available within 30 minutes of requirement, or sooner, at a reasonable cost, then we could stop this argument.

    Since that isn't going to happen, then the choice is to get their fakakta software off what they sell and train the local technicians on how to fix what is in the field, in the field, along with the parts and tools to do those fixes, or accept that their machinery will go out of warranty fast with third party fixes or won't be bought.

    Once those machines go out of warranty due to the need to get them fixed at a reasonable cost (regardless of the warranty period. but do expect lawsuits), don't expect any resales, but do expect your salespersons to be threatened with a variety of charges that come from shotguns, whether well aimed or not.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2019 @ 5:38pm

    A standard sales procedure in sole high end equipment manufactures such as power plants, gas turbines et has been to sell the equipment at cost or a slight loss and them make a profit by selling spar parts and service at inflated prices. Most times the customers were very willing to do this as construction of new plant and equipment is paid for from after tax income while service and replace parts is paid for from pretax profits. The difference in paying for the equipment in after tax profits and pretax profits can add up to a few hundred million dollars for big ticket plants. Of course the tax man looses out by this arrangement.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Apr 2019 @ 6:05pm

      Re:

      " Of course the tax man looses out by this arrangement."

      So does the farmer, and the Iphone user, and the Ipod user, and...etc.....Oh, and the freelance/independent repair professional.

      The manufacturers could adjust their business models and satisfy the customers, rather than investors, and create a whole 'new' method of commerce.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2019 @ 5:15am

      Re:

      "A standard sales procedure in sole high end equipment manufactures such as power plants, gas turbines et has been to sell the equipment at cost or a slight loss and them make a profit by selling spar parts and service at inflated prices."

      Have you looked at those "at cost or a slight loss" prices they charge for their products that cost an arm and a leg to maintain like it's rocket science or something. Certainly you are not expecting me to believe that these corporations are selling their products at a loss and recouping the diff in maintenance.

      The situation is similar to the planned obsolescence of year years. Corporations would hire people for the sole purpose of designing things that would break prematurely thus increasing their sales.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2019 @ 6:12pm

    LOL

    DIY is killing the maintenance/repair business.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2019 @ 6:56pm

    Wait, you mean out_of_the_blue was wrong?

    Mind. BLOWN.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 Apr 2019 @ 8:58pm

    The argument clarified

    If a third party or the user repairs our X, it will become a WMD. So anyone besides us that wants to repair X is obviously a terrorist. This is the reason why it is so important all the moneyz be given us

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2019 @ 5:23am

    The ownership/permission culture needs to clean up their game or get out.

    What's a person supposed to do in the post apocalyptic Duke Nukem future where none of these damned high tech things work anymore.

    Should start a reality tv show of farmer communities dealing with the stupid tariffs when all of a sudden their tractor stops working and they try to fix it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2019 @ 10:44am

      Re:

      What's a person supposed to do in the post apocalyptic Duke Nukem future where none of these damned high tech things work anymore.

      Repair their (pointlessly) microprocessor-embedded but fully manual hoes and shovels in secret underground bunkers, hidden from the prying eyes of roving bands of corporate thugs.

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

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 27 Apr 2019 @ 8:53am

    Unfortunate Direction

    At one time, John Deere was recognized for making good quality products, well adapted to their jobs. Farmers could buy John Deere equipment, such as plows and tractors, confident that they would hold up.

    Buyers even in remote areas could feel confident that John Deere goods would be repairable and readily maintained, generally in the field. They could expect long life, making the investment worthwhile.

    Smarter management would probably be reluctant to bugger away many years of good reputation. Dumber management might say that you need to bring it an hundred miles to the nearest repair facility to install a new blade on the plow or a new tire on the tractor.

    Or, go buy a [competing foreign brand] and bolt on your own new blades as needed. Here's the box of parts and a pictoral sheet of instructions for doing the same thing you and your father and his father have been doing for nearly a century.

    for repairs "in the field", this is a term of art distinguishing the need to bring equipment to a repair facility. repairs of farm equipment "in the field" may actually be performed in a barn.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2019 @ 12:43pm

    Thanks Techdirt for running this story. It has been an issue for several years for these owners of Deere tractors. This is again another reason to despise these monsters. You spend a half a million dollars on a new tractor and get the corporation in your face telling you that you don't own it so you can't fix it by yourself.Some ten wong here..

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

  • icon
    spamvictim (profile), 27 Apr 2019 @ 1:03pm

    copyright vs. right to repair

    I don't understand how a state law can work. Firmware like the stuff in a tractor is copyrighted, and there's unfortunate federal laws against breaking DRM even if it's technically easy to do so.
    Federal law always supersedes state law. So why can't Deere just say too bad, it's copyrighted and you go to jail if you hack it?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2019 @ 7:27am

      Re: copyright vs. right to repair

      "So why can't Deere just say too bad, it's copyrighted and you go to jail if you hack it?"

      idk, maybe because farmers around the world hate them for it and will not purchase any more of their products?

      It is not a violation of any laws to fix your own possessions, in fact it shows personal responsibility, ingenuity and self reliance. Apparently these human attributes are despised by those who would enslave the consumers to their products. All business dreams of monopoly as that is their goal.

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

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 28 Apr 2019 @ 8:19am

      Re: copyright vs. right to repair

      Is it circumventing if all they do is replace one little black box with another that does exactly the same thing but without all the hidden "features "?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2019 @ 5:34am

      Re: copyright vs. right to repair

      Unfunded mandates for one - it is fully within the discretion of the state to say "fuck you - we are not wasting money and political capital on making our farms less productive".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2019 @ 9:16am

    The deceit is in the design itself. Why would there just not be a program that keeps track of the various critical functions and control over computer modules that can easily be replaced by the owner? The pressures and temperatures of different fluidsbe monitored by guages. Any farmer could fix his own equipment. The deceit is premeditated to force payment to corporate technicians for repairs. That equals EXTORTION.

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


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