Licence to drive: US farmers may find John Deere still own (part of) the tractor

A proposal by John Deere in the US could see the machinery manufacturer retaining still owning part of the machines.

The proposal is part of a submission by John Deere to the Copyright Office, and comes under an Act on the copyright of technology in machines, which is undergoing review.

Technically, the proposal says that while a farmer buys a tractor, he can own the doors, the windows and the tyres.

However, the software of the machine is owned by John Deere and that “the vehicle owner receives an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”.

In a submission to the US Copyright Office John Deere is claiming that it owns the right to the software of the vehicle.

A vehicle owner does not acquire copyrights for software in the vehicle, and cannot properly be considered an ‘owner’ of the vehicle software.

Under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) 1998, manufacturers have said that while consumers own the product they have bought, they do not own the software that operates that product.

John Deere says that “third-party software developers, pirates, and competing vehicle manufacturers will be encouraged to free-ride off the creativity and significant investment in research and development of innovative and leading vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, and authors of vehicle software”.

Some machinery manufacturers have digital locks on their software, to stop people tampering with the software.

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