Farmers in Canada are also reduced to secretly fixing their tractors, thanks to DRM

In 2011, the Canadian Conservative government rammed through Bill C-11, Canada's answer to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in which the property rights of Canadians were gutted in order to ensure that corporations could use DRM to control how they used their property -- like its US cousin, the Canadian law banned breaking DRM, even for legitimate purposes, like effecting repairs or using third party parts.

So it's no surprise that all the bad stuff that Americans are having to deal with is also turning up in Canada.

Case in point: in America, desperate farmers are downloading illegal Ukrainian firmware hacks that deke out John Deere's software, which tries to stop you from fixing your own tractor.

In Canada, farmers are doing the same, with the same furtive shame, because Canada's idiotic DRM law says that they must not break John Deere's DRM, even at the cost of letting their crops rot in their fields.

F: Well, pretty much every farmer runs into the same problem. The big problem is logistics. What they've basically done is try to create a new revenue stream for their service departments without thinking about the logistics of trying to support a huge number of farmers that are geographically spread out with limited dealer resources. When you phone your dealer and they say, "Well, we can be there the next day." I mean, in a 12-hour day a modern combine will take off $50,000 or $60,000 of grain. So, I mean, that's revenue that might be sitting under the snow because the dealer couldn't come out to spend 10 minutes with a laptop to unlock a new part.

Saskatchewan farmer hacks his 'smart' tractor to avoid costly dealer fees [As It Happens/CBC]

Notable Replies

  1. Why would you believe that ? What has the dealer done to earn it ?

  2. FTFA:

    And to your second point, FAFA:

  3. I appreciate the additional link. I think it's totally fair to be angry that you can't diagnose trouble with your equipment or be able to replace parts yourself - this just wasn't well explained in the original story. This information about what the problem was makes the farmer more sympathetic to me.

  4. No problem, it's fair to be critical. I hope I did not come off too harsh. It gets to be a sore point, because it feels like we encounter the same arguments over, and over, and over again, as the principle issue gets worse at every iteration.

  5. Where did you see the mention of 'advanced features'?

    Selling a single hardware model; with various levels of software feature unlock, is certainly a common enough business model(virtually ubiquitous with 'enterprise' network appliances of various sorts); and I'm definitely more sympathetic to the idea that "just because we sell software via unlock codes for our firewall widget/logic analyzer/whatever, not in boxes, we should still be able to sell software" than I am to the "You'll pay what we tell you for the privilege of having us re-bless your hardware if any of the tamper switches trip, suck it up and like it"; but I didn't see any mention of there being advanced features, not included in the original purchase, that the farmer was cracking access to; just a need for dealer-only 'diagnostic' stuff if you so much as looked at the hardware funny.

    Some unpleasant experiences with firmware unlock keys certainly haven't endeared them to me; but (while I prefer to OSS it where I can), I can't take the 'well; but the software was burned into flash, not loaded from a CD I bought in a box, so it should be free!' argument too seriously); but the idea that you need gear re-blessed by the vendor every time you touch it is just plain noxious. If Farmer MacGuyver is doing something that brutalizes emissions regulations or the like, he may have to have a chat with the feds; but if he wants to have a go at doing it without dealer authorization, I can't think of any justification for the dealer being involved.

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