As farmers struggle for the right to repair their own tractors, the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) says that John Deere is refusing to release information farmers need.
- For years, John Deere has restricted farmers’ access to tractor repair, saying that farmers cannot have the right to repair their equipment because they may make modifications.
- Colorado farmers won the right to repair their equipment earlier this year, but the SFC says John Deere is not complying with the terms of its General Public License (GPL) software.
- SFC says that John Deere needs to release its source code, allowing farmers to access the information necessary to make equipment repairs.
Why it’s news
For many farmers, John Deere’s restrictions on tractor repair pose a severe problem. Dealerships are their only repair option, which can often be expensive and time-consuming. Every day a piece of farming equipment is out of the field is a drain on the farmer’s potential profit.
SFC argues that Deere must release its source code because it contains copyleft code like Linux distributions, IT Brew reports. SFC director of compliance Denver Gingerich demanded that John Deere release the source code along with “scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable.”
John Deere representative Jen Hartmann says that the company has sent SFC around 1.78 gigabytes of code and has complied with the terms of its GPL licenses.
“We do not, however, support customers modifying embedded software due to risks associated with the safe operation of the equipment, emissions compliance, engine performance, and uncertainty created in the used equipment market,” Hartmann says.
Software locks on Deere devices mean more expenses for farmers. The maintenance and service sector of John Deere makes up about 20% of sales.
“We want users to have the freedom to use their devices as they wish and to make repairs and modifications so that they can make the device do what they need it to do and not to be stuck waiting for some sort of repair that they could do themselves. If it takes a week at the wrong time of the year, the farmer could lose their entire crop,” Gingerich says.
According to Gingerich, the scripts Deere used to compile and install executables on the equipment are just as valuable as the source code. With that information, users can customize the information displayed on their screens or upload data to their private storage rather than the cloud.
Earlier this year, Deere’s senior sales and marketing vice president, David Gilmore, agreed to certain right-to-repair provisions, including lessening existing restrictions.