John Deere is trying to convince the Copyright Office that farmers don’t really own the tractors they buy from them. They argue that the computer code that runs the systems is not for sale, and that purchasers of the hardware are simply receiving “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”
This is a variation on the already long-running debate over whether automobile manufacturers have a lock on the firmware which drives their engines. Hobbyists know they can get far higher performance out of their rods by tweaking parameters and tailoring the control system to more specific needs. Of course, manufacturers are tuning their firmware for ’emissions control’ needs and other regulations. The upshot is that big corporations are rapidly making it illegal for people to manipulate goods that they own – err, or if you buy the corporate-speak, “license”.