Software locks may not be exactly as illustrated

(March 28, 2017) Most of us have purchased a DVD movie and watched the threats of jail and fines for copying the content on the opening screen.  Any farmer who has purchased private sector based canola seed (and paid seven times the cost of publically created Certified Seed) knows about these types of draconian copyright notices and contracts as well.

What many farmers may not know is the same types of provisions (laughably called “protections”) are now being applied to the software which runs those nice display monitors in newer combines, tractors, and other farm equipment.

Like a DVD, you may think you have bought and own the tractor but you may not own or control the software which allows it to operate.

Last week one of Canada’s best east coast writers and reporters, Parker Donham, published a column on this subject which every farmer ought to read.

Donham reports that if farmers do their own repair work, even simple mechanical repairs, this may violate the machine’s software licence and render it useless until the farmer pays the company to re-activate the software.

Last year the University of Calgary had its main computer server hacked by bandits.  Using malware implanted on the system, these high-tech pirates froze the U of C’s computers until the University coughed up $20,000 to remove this “ransom ware.”

If the article by Donham is correct, farmers can be forgiven for asking exactly what is the difference between ransom ware and the firmware landmines that are apparently part of the software of some farm equipment?

Readers may recall a report cited here a couple of weeks ago which shows that global farm equipment sales are dominated by two companies.  Repairing farm equipment is already complex and expensive.  Farmers really do not need the added complications of contending with software that makes the process more taxing than it already is.  After all, it is not like they have much choice left in the matter.

You can read Donham’s article here:  “The right to repair your own tractor.”

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