In the software world, it's long been the practice that you don't purchase software, you purchase a license to use it. But as software increasingly gets woven into other products - like the many chips and circuits that run your modern automobile - this practice starts to chip away at the traditional sense of ownership of physical goods.
In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deereâ€”the worldâ€™s largest agricultural machinery maker â€”told the Copyright Office that farmers donâ€™t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive â€œan implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.â€It's a conversation with profound implications for the future. Check out the rest at Wired.
Itâ€™s John Deereâ€™s tractor, folks. Youâ€™re just driving it.
Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repairâ€”and decide whether John Deereâ€™s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.