[Plura-list] How John Deere leverages repair-blocking into gag orders

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue May 31 11:10:47 EDT 2022

Read today's issue online at: https://pluralistic.net/2022/05/31/dealers-choice/

Today's links

* How John Deere leverages repair-blocking into gag orders: A farmer's only local dealership refuses to fix his tractor because he advocates for Right to Repair.

* Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.

* This day in history: 2007, 2012, 2017

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading


🤌🏻 How John Deere leverages repair-blocking into gag orders

John Deere is justifiably notorious for its campaign to block farmers from fixing their own agricultural equipment. The company is #RightToRepair's archnemesis, and no amount of misleading feel-good stories about how it keeps its heavy hand on farmers' tractors forever can change that.


There are many reasons to worry about Deere's assertion of a monopoly over farmers' ability to maintain their vital equipment. For one thing, Deere has *terrible* information security, and the defects in its software infrastructure means that much of the world's agricultural machinery could be bricked or corrupted by attackers:


Food security is so important, and Deere has such a comprehensive monopoly over the world's food production, that agricultural right to repair is an absolute no-brainer. There's a reason that farms have had workshops since the dawn of agriculture: when the storm is coming and the crops need harvesting, you can't wait for a service-call:


Naturally, farmers understand this. They have a front-row seat to Deere's ugly, extractive practices. Farmers are some of the Right to Repair movement's most eloquent, best-organized activists - even though Deere's lobbyists has so many statehouses sewn up that they manage to kill agricultural right-to-repair laws:


This won't last forever. The idea that farmers are too stupid to maintain their own tractors is belied by Deere's own long history of improving its products by sending field engineers to identify and copy farmers' own modifications to their tractors:


But the anti-repair axis - led by Apple, and incorporating Big Car, Big Ag, and Big Appliances - are determined to milk their monopoly over repair for as long as they possibly can, and this is one area where their innovative genius can't be denied:


Here's one way that Deere can extend the life of its repair monopoly: they can refuse service to farmers who complain about Deere's behavior. That's what happened to Jared Wilson, a Missouri farmer and vocal repair advocate:


As Matthew Gault writes for Motherboard, Wilson's tractor's AC stopped working, which meant that he would have to bring in the harvest under sweltering conditions - stuck in a glass box under direct sun for hours a day. Wilson only has one dealership within range: Heritage Tractor, whose manager refused to service his tractor.

The manager said that Wilson was "not a profitable customer" because he had complained about Heritage to Deere corporate. The dealership told him that his practice of complaining to "outside people" about repair meant that his business was no longer welcome. Which "outside people" has Wilson been speaking to?

The Missouri legislature:




And the Federal Trade Commission.

Wilson is a fifth-generation farmer, whose forebears also used Deere products. He seen the number of Deere authorized service centers in his region dwindle from three to just one in under a decade. That drawdown occurred even as Deere was abusing the law to make it illegal for farmers to fix their own tractors, or source repairs from third parties:


For Wilson to get his tractor fixed anywhere but Heritage, he'd have to haul it 80 miles. Luckily, Wilson eventually got Heritage to fix his tractor.

All it took was a complaint to the FTC.

Deere says that today's farmers lack the modern skills needed to maintain their own equipment. They imply that the skills deficit here is an inability to maintain electronic equipment. It turns out that the real vital skill for the modern farmer is the ability to complain effectively to federal regulators.


🤌🏻 Hey look at this

* The Art of Futures https://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/the-art-of-futures/

* Share Festival XVI in Torino https://brucesterling.tumblr.com/post/685744288761593856/hurray-for-us (h/t Bruce Sterling)


🤌🏻 This day in history

#15yrsago EFF finds HUGE block of hidden info in new iTunes tracks https://web.archive.org/web/20070613223916/https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005282.php

#10yrsago Google not guilty of infringement in Oracle/Java suit https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/05/google-wins-crucial-api-ruling-oracles-case-decimated/

#10yrsago Arrêtez-moi quelqu’un! Vowing to violate Quebec’s anti-protest law https://web.archive.org/web/20120522035607/http://www.arretezmoiquelquun.com/

#10yrsago Canadian border guards demand inbound journalist’s mobile phone contacts, prohibit writing while in-country https://inthesetimes.com/article/reading-lolita-in-montreal-canada-doesnt-want-more-journalists

#10yrsago Globe and Mail turns celebrity photos slideshow into commentary on Quebec protests https://web.archive.org/web/20120531001713/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/celebrity-photos/celebrity-photos-of-the-week-may-30/article2446691/

#5yrsago Rebecca Solnit on how Trump’s quest for more adulation made him “the most mocked man in the world” https://lithub.com/rebecca-solnit-the-loneliness-of-donald-trump/

#5yrsago Why don’t people use secure internet tools? https://www.ieee-security.org/TC/SP2017/papers/84.pdf

#5yrsago Bad news: tech is making us more unequal. Good news: tech can make us more equal. https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/may/31/technology-is-making-the-world-more-unequal-only-technology-can-fix-this-cory-doctorow


🤌🏻 Colophon

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* Some Men Rob You With a Fountain Pen, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Yesterday's progress: 518 words (9734 words total)

* The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Yesterday's progress: 581 words (6384 words total)

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 508 words (92849 words total) - ON PAUSE

* A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

* Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW

* Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Apple’s Cement Overshoes https://craphound.com/news/2022/05/30/apples-cement-overshoes/

Upcoming appearances:

* OpenJSWorld (Austin), Jun 8

* UK Competition and Markets Authority Data Technology and Analytics conference (London), Jun 15-16

* A New HOPE (NYC), Jul 24

Recent appearances:

* The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real-World Tech

* Privacy is the New Celebrity

* Revolutionizing Activism — The Power of Utopia (Center for Artistic Activism)

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.

Upcoming books:

* Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

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