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John Deere’s Digital Transformation Runs Afoul Of Right-To-Repair Movement

When you buy a high-tech device like an iPhone, you realize much of the value is in the software, and you expect to agree to a handful of End-User License Agreements (EULAs) in order to use its apps.

Before John Deere became a software company

Before John Deere became a software company

After all, the creators of those apps have spent untold millions of dollars and person-hours creating them. They deserve to protect their intellectual property.

Smartphones, OK – but what about that tractor? John Deere is now in hot water with the ‘Right to Repair’ movement for making farmers sign EULAs in order to use their farm equipment – EULAs that prevent farmers from repairing their own gear.

There’s more to this controversy than meets the eye, however. John Deere is but one of thousands of enterprises undergoing digital transformation as it becomes a software company that runs its technology on tractors, rather than the other way around.

Background: Jailbreaking Farm Equipment

The origins of the John Deere controversy arose in the debate over ‘jailbreaking’ iPhones and other high tech devices. At issue: Apple’s right to protect its intellectual property had come into conflict with consumers’ right to run whatever software they wanted to on the smartphones they purchased.

The legal question behind this controversy centered on a part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that Congress passed in 1996. As written, DMCA criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works and also criminalizes the act of circumventing such an access control, according to Wikipedia.

However, subsequent to the passing of the DMCA, regulators took up the question of whether there should be exceptions to the law – situations where consumers might have the right to circumvent technical protection measures (TPMs) intended to protect intellectual property in certain limited situations that would also protect the rights of the intellectual property holders.

After an extensive discussion period, the US Copyright Office delineated several such exceptions in 2015, including guidelines that would allow consumers to jailbreak their smartphones. In fact, the new regulation specified 27 classes of intellectual property that the regulator would exempt from TPMs.

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Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Ted Van Pelt.

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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).