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You Might Lose The Right To Own Your Vehicle

An article on Wired claims that automobile and other equipment manufacturers, as well as organizations representing them have been pestering the U.S. government to ‘confirm’ that their customers don’t own their vehicles. Their interpretation of that is: The manufacturers want to claim ownership of the vehicles which their customers purchased from them. At the very least, they will I have to admit that is ridiculous, and I hope that Wired misinterpreted it. The organizations include, but are not limited to John Deere, a tractor company, and General Motors (GM).

A yellow 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray - Front View.
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. CC Image Credit: Kompulsa.

The article said:

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive ‘an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.’

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

GM argued that prohibiting modification helps innovation. Few things prohibit automotive innovation more than the inability to work on cars. Innovators have to learn how to work on existing cars before they can start developing new technologies for them, and of course, they have to be able to test their new technology as well.

Possible Motives

Over the past 20 years, manufacturers have been gradually incorporating more semiconductor technology into automobiles. Today, they have evolved into computers running (proprietary) software. Proprietary software is not open to the public for modification, so its vendors want to protect it. That isn’t a bad thing, but trying to prevent people from conducting any car repair overall is going too far. They are also trying to lock down their proprietary technology to prevent their competition from accessing it.

Another possible, more sinister motive is to force owners to go to manufacturer-authorized dealers for repairs. This could also prevent third-party repair centres from doing repairs. There is an enormous aftermarket industry for automobile parts in the United States. Some of them manufacture lower-quality budget parts for people who can’t afford OEM parts, while others manufacture aftermarket parts which are even higher quality than the original OEM parts, enabling people to enhance their vehicles in incredible ways.

That culture of car modification could go up in flames. As sad as that is, there is nothing sadder than the potential price explosion that could follow if manufacturers get their way. Competition is the greatest phenomenon shielding you, the consumer from exorbitant prices. Automakers will still have other car manufacturers to compete with, but the aftermarket parts industry is giving them quite a run for their money. Aftermarket parts are often much cheaper, than genuine parts.


If you don’t like a law, you have the power to prevent it from passing. There is a petition for virtually every publicly known law on the table. People have already sent 40,000 comments demanding reform to the copyright office to protect consumers’ right to modify their own devices, especially cellphones, tractors, and game consoles. Even the locks on kitty litter pans and coffee makers were under consideration.

An IFixit blog post said:

Under the DMCA, breaking those digital locks—even for the purpose of modification and repair—can put owners on the wrong side of the law. But every three years, the Copyright Office performs a review to decide which technologies should be exempt from the law. Basically, after companies like Keurig and CatGenie lock down coffeemakers and kitty litter pans with DRM, the Copyright Office steps in to decide if owners can break those locks.

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