The Market Ticker
Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Consumer]

Read this carefully folks, because it does not apply only to farmers...

IT’S OFFICIAL: JOHN Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

Oh really?

This is flatly wrong, and the corporate world and government needs to hear loudly and clearly: Cut this crap out or we will revoke the privilege of your existence.

And yes, it is a privilege.  Corporate existence is a legal fiction enabled by us.  So is government; all governments exist only because the people allow them to.

There is a general principle that we must enforce as citizens: If you buy a thing, no matter what it is, in a free exchange of funds for goods, you own it and may do with it as you wish -- period.  Attempts to prevent that must be dealt with by the authorities as theft and fraud, because they are.

If we demanded this and enforced it let's talk about what would change:

  • You wouldn't need medical insurance of any sort.  The cost of medical care would drop by 80% in an afternoon.  You could buy a course of treatment for Hepatitis C that someone else lawfully acquired in India for $900; today Gilead demands $80,000 for the same thing and gets it because it's a felony for you to acquire it from other than them, even when the person who wants to sell it to you got it legally (that is, they did not steal it.)

  • You wouldn't have to pay $300 for a car key.  Your house key can be duplicated for a couple of dollars at the corner hardware store.  So could you car key, right up until the manufacturers started chipping the keys and refusing to allow anyone other than dealers access to the software to program them.  This is allegedly for "anti-theft" reasons but whether you can prove you're the owner or not (say, by possessing the title and/or registration) they still refuse to give you the tools and security code to program the key.  This effective monopoly gives them the ability to charge 50 or even 100x the reasonable cost of the key with the chip embedded in it because you are forced to go back to them.

  • You could have your car repaired or enhanced without going to the dealer.  For some things today this is flatly impossible, and it's gotten much worse over the last 10 or so years.  There is no "security" issue here, simply secrecy for the purpose of screwing you by restricting competition.

  • You could use your smartphone on any network you wished.  This one you "sort of" won on already, but the manufacturers are trying to reverse that win.  You bought the phone, you own the phone, but a software lock prevents you from using it on any other than the network to which you originally attached it.  Who owns that device, once again?

  • Your medical costs would drop by 80% overnight, with essentially all chronic conditions being able to be paid for in medication or devices with cash for virtually everyone.  You would only need "insurance" for truly catastrophic events, but even those would drop in cost by that same 80%.  The entire reason to have "Obamacare" in the first place, say much less medical insurance for virtually everyone, would vanish like a fart in the wind.

What happens when this sort of software is embedded in your furance, for example?  If you think this is a fantasy you're wrong; this sort of software, protected by so-called "digital locks", is showing up in everything.  How long will it be before this is abused to lock you out of your own home or prevent you from heating it because of some alleged "violation" that the manufacturer conjures up, and how does that meet with the premise that you bought and  paid for said object?

Copyright law prevents copying, but the underlying assumption is that if you copy a thing it's for the purpose of distributing it to others.  That's because historically-speaking the two were inextricably intertwined; nobody made a copy of a book without the intent to give it to someone to read at the same they possessed it.

Today this is flatly not true; if I "copy" the software in my car into a computer for the purpose of changing it on my car I still have one operational copy of said software in use at a given time -- it's in my car.  Likewise, if I "copy" the software on my cellphone, washing machine, refrigerator, garage door opener or other device and change it, provided I use it only on a device that I lawfully acquired and own there ought to be nothing wrong with that.

This is where the law must be changed; the intent of the law is fine but the wording and rank abuse by companies like General Motors, John Deere and others must not stand.

Since these firms assert that we in fact didn't buy that which we paid for and which they sold to us I have two solutions -- either they cut that crap out or we must alter the law and force them to comply with the doctrine of "first sale" -- that once you have lawfully acquired a thing it is yours to do with as you wish -- period.

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