For my first post I thought I'd share something I wrote about a month ago on my Facebook page:
Remember the thing a while ago about John Deere saying that
farmers don't own their tractors because the computer software that runs
the tractor's control systems is copyrighted by John Deere? Now
General Motors is making the same claim about their cars.
here's my take: It has been a long standing thing that when you buy
computer software, such as Windows or Photoshop, that you don't actually
buy it, you just buy a long term license to use it. This allows the
manufacturer to retain rights that allow
them to prevent you from misusing the software, such as stealing parts
of the code for other uses, or making modifications to the software.
have no problem with that aspect of this situation. GM, and John
Deere, can claim copyright and ownership of their software even when it
is in your tractor or your car. They can tell you that you are not
allowed to modify the software. This is in their best interest. If you
reprogram your tractor's engine control unit to somehow put out a bunch
of extra horsepower you are running the tractor outside their design
limits. I also don't really have a problem if they were to tell you
that if they have found that you have modified their software that your
warranty is instantly null and void, since you are now pushing things
beyond the limits they designed it for.
But I don't see how John Deere or GM can claim ownership of the tractors or cars that contain their software.
to the computer analogy. Even though Microsoft retains rights to
Windows and Adobe retains right to Photoshop when they are installed on
my computer, that does not mean they own my computer. I own the
computer, and I have every right to remove Windows at my whim and
install Linux, or remove Photoshop and install some other photo editing
same should apply to John Deere and GM. We own the cars. We own the
tractors. We may not be allowed to modify their software, but if we
could obtain replacement software, we should be able to install that and
keep ownership and use of the tractor or the car, and do whatever we
want. GM doesn't own a car, and John Deere doesn't own a tractor, just
because it contains their software, any more than Microsoft owns my
laptop because it contains Windows.
people believe that GM is doing this to push out independent auto
repair businesses and auto parts stores. If a garage can't get the scan
tools and such to work on a car you'd have to take it back to the
dealer. I don't believe that retaining ownership of the software gives
GM this right either.
to the computer analogy. Microsoft still "owns" the Windows OS on my
laptop. That doesn't prevent many other software companies from writing
programs that can look into the Windows OS and see what it is doing,
such as task manager programs, software that monitors disk or memory
usage, or programs that fix issues in Windows to increase performance.
independent auto repair shops still have the right to plug in a scan
tool to monitor the performance of your engine or any other system in
the car. GM retaining copyright on the software doesn't prevent this.
The independent shop still has the right to change any parameters that
the scan tool allows them to tune, just as I can change settings in
Windows to tune how my computer works.
concepts have been legally established long ago in the world of
software licensing, and they apply the same to cars and tractors as to
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