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Big Tech Lobbying Is On the Verge of Killing Right To Repair Legislation In Minnesota (vice.com) 136

Jason Koebler, writing for Motherboard: Statehouse employees in Minnesota say that lobbying efforts by big tech companies and John Deere are on the verge of killing right to repair legislation in the state that would have made it easier for consumers and small businesses to fix their electronics. According to two of the bill's sponsors, the bill, which would have introduced "fair repair" requirements for manufacturers in the state, will not get a hearing that's necessary to move the legislation forward. Minnesota Senate rules automatically kills any bills that do not have a hearing scheduled by a certain date (this year, it's March 10). Last year, tech industry lobbying killed a similar bill in New York. "Unfortunately, it's not going to make deadline this session," Republican Sen. David Osmek, one of the sponsors, told me in an email. Osmek would not give additional specifics about his colleagues' concerns with the bill, but a legislative assistant for the bill's other sponsor told me that electronic manufacturer lobbying is likely to blame, while another source close to the legislature told me that tractor manufacturer John Deere -- a long time enemy of fair repair -- helped kill the bill as well.
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Big Tech Lobbying Is On the Verge of Killing Right To Repair Legislation In Minnesota

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  • by Sebby ( 238625 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:26PM (#54000555)
    Start our own equipment company, with full parts availability and no lock-in. They'll be selling like hotcakes!
    • With hookers and Blackjack.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Forget the equipment and the blackjack.

    • Start our own equipment company, with full parts availability and no lock-in. They'll be selling like hotcakes!

      Came here to say something similar - the comment subject was going to be "Time for some traitors". Basically, some companies already in various end-user-equipment manufacturing businesses should betray the brotherhood of pillaging corporations and take this opportunity to gain some market share.

      As for the "start our own equipment company" idea, it's a good one. But going head-to-head with the large incumbents will require sizeable investment - and it's the "investors rule" mentality that leads companies to

    • Works great, and if you're profitable you can go public. Once you are public you'll have a board. And if John Deere offers your board $1B to buy them out, they can undo the original purpose of your business. It will all be perfectly legal.

      • That's why you don't go public.
    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:00PM (#54000841)

      There's other equipment companies you can buy from. One big one is Kubota, a Japanese company. I'm not sure how their repairability compares to John Deere, but given how many times I've seen John Deere in the tech news about how the intentionally make it impossible for end-users to repair their equipment, I advocate buying Kubota or other foreign brands as a rule. They certainly can't be any worse than JD. Plus that bright orangish-red color is a lot easier to spot from a distance.

      And given they're engineered in Japan, they've got to be better designed. All the Japanese cars I've ever worked on have been so much better engineered than any American car I've touched, there's just no comparison. With American cars, the engines will frequently have some clever and innovative design, but the component reliability will be crap, and the rest of the car will be crap too, with interiors falling apart in a very short amount of time, and generally poor design and layout of everything (like making it unnecessarily difficult to change the oil or do other simple maintenance). With Japanese cars, they aren't always at the cutting-edge of technology, but the component reliability is great, the overall design is great, and they seem to be designed specifically for easy servicing.

      • Cars aren't like tractors. If they were you would still see ones from the 50s and 60s not just as show pieces but as daily use models. Tractors cater to a market that expects high reliability, ease of use, and ease of maintenance, or at least the farmers I know do. I do wonder if Case IH, Ford, and CAT are pulling this shit because it would be a great way to separate themselves from John Deere. Although there is a lot of brand loyalty with tractors and makes things like VI vs. Emacs or Ford vs. Chevy fights
        • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @03:14PM (#54001399)

          If there's that much "brand loyalty" that farmers are screwing themselves by continuing to buy from a manufacturer that screws them over with repairability, when there are better alternatives out there, then fuck the farmers. I have zero sympathy for people who make stupid buying decisions (in the face of much better alternatives) and then whine and complain about how the vendor is mistreating them.

          Tractors cater to a market that expects high reliability, ease of use, and ease of maintenance, or at least the farmers I know do.

          If they're buying John Deere, then obviously ease of maintenance is not a concern of theirs.

          • Unfortunately I don't know any farmers who own anything much larger than a Model D, let alone anything approaching an 8000 series, and those are easy to maintain. I've never understood the brand loyalty with tractors either but then I am not a farmer.
            • I'm sure it's just as stupid as brand loyalty for any other brand: it's religious and has zero basis in rationality.

              There's a certain logic to preferring a certain brand if you're actually getting a great customer experience from that brand (for now, things change over time), and you can cite valid data as to why this brand's products and experience are better than competing brands. But this can only last as long as that brand's products and user experience stay good; if you continue to support and evangel

              • by caseih ( 160668 )

                It's true, and there is a lot less brand loyalty now than there was even a couple of years ago. We regularly see large operators change colors these days. And if you trade off every couple of years, then the repair-ability stuff doesn't even factor into the decision.

                But there are other factors to consider too. There's a certain amount of buy in to the GPS guidance and data acquisition technologies each color uses. Each brand has its own set of non-interoperable computer systems.

                As for me, these issues a

                • As a city boy with strong roots to rural America I still get a kick out of people who refer to tractors by color and not in a bad way it is I just don't hear that all that often. By the way my family was a red and black tractor family while my wife's was big into green with orange being acceptable. I do miss seeing the goldenrod yellow ones though.

                  By the way I always though the Ford tractors from the 60s were really nice looking machines with the 2 tone paint and space age embellishments.
                • It seems like, with a little reverse engineering, it should be possible to make aftermarket products that interface with these machines, or let different brands interoperate. I wonder how lucrative that would be.

                  • by caseih ( 160668 )

                    Aftermarket GPS guidance is very common. for example, AutoFarm can interface with any color, especially if you install a compatible steering valve block. Other companies like Outback also sell steering solutions for all makes and models. Kind of makes it easier to run multiple colors on one farm when you've just standardized on a third-party GPS solution.

        • Tractors cater to a market that expects high reliability, ease of use, and ease of maintenance,

          You think car buyers don't care about these things too (except maybe the last one)? Most car buyers I've ever heard of want cars that are extremely reliable, and easy to drive. People who DIY also value cars that are easy to maintain.

    • It's kind of funny when you consider the reason farm equipment companies tend to lobby for this sort of thing. Often times, they have to compete against their own older, more repairable models.
    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      Start our own equipment company, with full parts availability and no lock-in. They'll be selling like hotcakes!

      Not really, because you are going to charge more for it.
      It is the same situation as with razor and printers. They make the product cheap, expecting to profit on maintenance. They also use planned obsolescence in order to guarantee a stable revenue stream.
      With full part availability you won't have these options, and you'll have to make money in other ways, for example by charging a higher initial price. Also, in order to make such a model sustainable, you have to convince customers that the higher prices you

  • If those companies don't want to have customers being able to repair their equipments/electronics, these should be the conditions (I read this on another site):

    - 5 year minimum hardware warranty
    - 3 years phone support on software (included or embedded)
    - Security updates for as long as the hardware is expected to last*, and if not provided, company must provide a new 'current product' replacement free of charge (with full warranty)

    (*)"expected to last" means that if the product would normally continue to f

    • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:43PM (#54000691)
      You already have the right to not buy a product if you don't like the terms offered.
      • The problem is when there is an effective cooperative oligopoly, or a monopoly.

        Have you tried to buy a phone case for something that isn't an iPhone lately? The iPhone is the current standard for accessories, so if you want accessories you're under heavy pressure to buy Apple.

        When that kind of thing happens, you can either allow the market to drift towards an abusive monopoly or you can attempt to correct things legislatively.

        And 'right-to-repair'... well, that should be the playing field for all manufactu

        • Considering I have an android phone (and no trouble getting accessories....) Seriously though. While I would like to agree with you on monopolies, I'm not sure sure that's the case here. There are other tractor companies (including ones from overseas). I agree that there is a huge corporate interest in moving toward "locked-in" items. But as others have pointed out - that makes openness a huge selling point.
      • by Sebby ( 238625 )

        You already have the right to not buy a product if you don't like the terms offered.

        So by buying a product, you forfeit that right? Because that's basically what these companies are lobbying for.

        Funny, but I don't see the text anywhere saying I'm forfeiting that when I paid for the product that I own.

        • by Sebby ( 238625 )
          the right to repair, BTW.
          • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
            Actually, these companies are lobbying to retain ownership rights to the items they sell you. This is a double whammy on the purchaser who no longer owns the object he bought, and can only use it as the seller wants. So you buy a screwdriver and need to pry up that board? Sorry, you cannot use your screwdriver that way.
            • Actually, these companies are lobbying to retain ownership rights to the items they sell you. This is a double whammy on the purchaser who no longer owns the object he bought, and can only use it as the seller wants. So you buy a screwdriver and need to pry up that board? Sorry, you cannot use your screwdriver that way.

              Interesting, kinda like what the software industry has been ramming down our throats for years. I guess the tractor companies will embrace a subscription model soon, perhaps without the perks of upgrades. They shouldn't call it ownership without rights to repair or do anything else we want to with the darn tractors/cars/whatever. I have seen in the shade tree mechanic and hot rodding circles that the Japanese stuff is a lot nicer to work with because they haven't deliberately coded parts to each other a

      • One problem here is that a lot of this stuff isn't made plainly clear to customers before purchase. They certainly aren't going to advertise, "our products are specifically engineered so that you can't work on them, and you'll have to pay a small fortune for our technicians to come fix them in the field for you!". (Or, with more consumer-type goods like cars, "our cars are specifically designed so you can't even change your own oil, and it has to be done at the dealership at inflated prices!")

        There should

        • by Sebby ( 238625 )

          There should be a law that this stuff should be made clear to the potential customer, so that they can compare brands based on these factors.

          Exactly; if I end up forfeiting the right to repair stuff I paid for and that I own, then that should be clearly stated with a huge label covering the product before sale.

      • by KalvinB ( 205500 )

        That works out great unless the all the companies that supply the product are conspiring together as is the case with farm equipment.

        A big part of the issue is that farm equipment has become so expensive and so complicated that to make it affordable they prevent users from servicing the equipment to recoup costs in repairs. It's the printer and ink way of doing business. Farmers don't really own the equipment. They're leasing it. And while you can do your own repairs on a leased vehicle, it's generally

      • And you have the right, but unfortunately not the obligation, to not be (or behave like) an idiot.

    • Maybe the legislators need to take a difference approach. States like Texas should place the manufactures with DRM under the inventory tax. Business in Texas has to pay tax on the stupidest stuff. Restaurants have to pay for the salt-pepper shakers, chairs, forks, knives every year as an inventory tax. Most restaurants don’t sell this stuff, but it is part of there inventory. If the manufactures say they own the product, then they should pay the taxes (think of all the money the state could collect,
      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Did Porsche throw the manuals in or did you have to pay? I've always had to pay for factory manuals for my cars. Usually the price has been reasonable. I did buy an expensive lawnmower the other year, made by Honda, USA, and the only way I can buy the service manual here in Canada is by importing it from another market. It would have helped me diagnose the ignition unit that died a couple of months after the warranty ran out.

        • Came from the Porsche factory in english along with the birth certificate for the car, but had to pay the UPS shipping.
  • and how much ?

  • It's not (Score:4, Informative)

    by desdinova 216 ( 2000908 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:38PM (#54000645)
    Apple or the tech companies that are the targets it's the farm equipment manufacturers and auto manufacturers who want to lock down diagnostic and repair.
    • John Deere doesn't want to give its customers the ability to change the software that is controlling their farm equipment - for fear that will somehow allow the customer to "make their own" farm equipment. This is funny to me, because, humans have been farming without software for centuries!
      • Re:It's not (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:13PM (#54000963)

        John Deere wants dealer only service and no 3rd party parts.

      • John Deere has a lot of proprietary software that they do have a legitimate reason to protect. Their self-driving tractors that can compute the optimum path to cover a field, their ability to track how much is harvested per acre, which get's uploaded to their central servers so they can crunch it and sell it back to the farmers.

        Unfortunately, the laws (pushed by John Deere, and I think Case as well) do not distinguish between software and hardware.
        I remember watching my Uncle pulling a starter out of a Chev

  • Movement ever so gently. Soon you will lose your last 4 or 5 freedoms you still have. He who has the money makes the rules. Bring on the robots and dump us in the sea.

  • I used to like John Deere until this shit happened. Now they're right up there with Apple and Disney on my Fuck You list.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The lobyists, that is.
    It's high time bribery was punished like the crime of government corruption it's supposed to be.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:45PM (#54000713)
    Red states' wet dreams involve small independent farming families sustaining themselves by the sweat of their brow independently.

    If it helps pass good laws, sure. But it's worth pointing out that such people are myths now if they weren't always. There are two million farms in the us, and they're mostly mega corporation farms now. [washingtonpost.com] In a nation of 300 million people, that's really an insignificant part of the US.

    I would guess that there are orders of magnitude more people who would be interesting in being able to fix their iphone screen than there are small farmers who are just trying to replace the parts on pa's old tractor with money and parts from under the old feather mattress.

    Pass a bill saying "except for farm equipment." John Deere lobbyists will back off, the vast majority of Minnesotans will be able to fix their electronics, everyone wins except for some mega farm corporations who can afford it anyway and big tech. Not the most satisfying outcome, but seriously, give it up with the small farmer bit. They're not worth worrying about even though the right wing acts like they're the only true Americans.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And what about all of the people who aren't 'farmers', but still do have farm equipment that they use to maintain their own property and their own personal gardens? I live in a rural area with a few farms around, but almost every one of my non-farmer neighbors own an old tractor. In fact, I also bought a small used tractor to tend to my own property. Are you saying that it isn't worth fighting for my right to repair my own equipment for my personal use?

    • but exempting the farm equipment defeats the real purpose of this
  • exercise it, before this one goes too.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:52PM (#54000775) Journal

    Blame the politicians who took their money to kill the bill, and ultimately blame the people who reelect them. There is no hope unless they are voted out.

    • by PoopJuggler ( 688445 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @01:56PM (#54000799)
      Why can't we blame all of the above?
    • by alexo ( 9335 )

      Just goes to prove yet again that America has the finest democracy money can buy.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @05:23PM (#54002369) Homepage Journal

      A couple of years ago I undertook to read the complete output of the science fiction writer H. Beam Piper, who died in 1964. For most of his career he was a bottom-of-the-pack pro-writer, managing to get published regularly but never quite making enough to quit his job as a laborer in the Altoona PA railroad yards.

      That's because for the most of his career he was a technically mediocre writer. His stories, taken on their own, were adequate for the most part. But if you look at his stories as a body, they're quite spectacular, envisioning a consistent history stretching thirty thousand years into the future (and some direction laterally if you count his "paratime" stories).

      We take this kind of "world building" for granted in the post-LotR era; many aspiring writers start by creating elaborate historical backstories. What set Piper apart from these naval-gazing wannabes is that his future history is built around a single, central idea: nothing ever works for long. Sooner or later some people stop doing the things that system needs to be done because they've forgot why it should be done; or other people figure out ways to game the system; or both.

      His stories always end on a happy, hopeful note, but if you fit it into the timeline with the next story it turns out that everything must have gone to hell in the end.

      In many ways what we are seeing looks like the Piperian historical senescence of American small-r republicanism. Some people have stopped doing some of the things the system needs (informing themselves and dealing with opposing viewpoints). Others have figured out how to game the system (buying politicians without legally appearing to do so; flooding the mediasphere with bullshit).

  • This is a good example of our corrupt political and economic system.
    We have corporations who find it profitable to restrict customer access to the products they make.
    Customers want to be able to fix the stuff they've bought so they try to get the politicians to pass a law.
    Corporations don't want this law so they pay off the politicians who promptly forget about their constituents and pocket the money.
    Corporations and politicians working together to increase profits... screw the citizens.

  • by transami ( 202700 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:04PM (#54000879) Homepage

    Appliance makers are transitioning to 3-year built-in obsolescence designs. That means you will have to repair or replace 50% of your appliances every three years! And of course it will almost always be cheaper to replace. In fact, that is their excuse for why this is better -- initial prices will be lower. See how clever they are?

  • by Scarred Intellect ( 1648867 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2017 @02:11PM (#54000941) Homepage Journal

    Though I HATE Wired, they have this to say:

    Last Friday [Oct 28, 2016], a new exemption to the decades-old law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act quietly kicked in, carving out protections for Americans to hack their own devices without fear that the DMCA’s ban on circumventing protections on copyrighted systems would allow manufacturers to sue them. One exemption, crucially, will allow new forms of security research on those consumer devices. Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles.

    TFA [wired.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles."

      This is one prime example of the need for these laws.
      More and more, automakers are encrypting the computer communication in a vehicle, making it almost impossible to diagnose and fix issues yourself. We're not even talking trying to mod your vehicle, just being able to determine the fault your dashboard lights up for is actually a simple gas-cap issue could end up costing you hundreds of dollars in "diagnostic fees" when you are required to go to the deal

  • Call it what it actually is with these ridiculous anti-consumer rules. If I can't do what I please with hardware I *bought*, I didn't really buy it, did I?
    • rental so the landlord needs to pay for repairs and maintenance

  • Looks like more and more issues (Medical insurance, Right to repair, ) should be brought forward in the form of constitutional amendments. Power to the people!
    • You don't need constitutional amendments for each and every issue. To need a single constitutional amendment to limit influence of the massive amount of lobbyist and donor cash that has flowed into government since 1980.

      The amount influence corporate cash has on the system is the problem that is behind every major problem we have, whether it is health care, right to repair, or massive amount of money we are spending on national defence. The situation looks a whole hell of a lot like we have no representat

  • The GOP now claims to be the party that represents rural America. In MN they have the majority of both the state house and state senate. If the state senate committee was divided up to match the division of the chamber itself, then the GOP only needed to convince one or two democrats to approve the bill past committee in order to get it up to a vote in the chamber.

    If they couldn't bring themselves to work with the democrats enough to get just one or two senators to approve the bill to go past committee,
  • Dear fellow citizen:

    Don't you think it is time that governments actually SERVE THE PUBLIC?!

    Then why the fuck are you voting these assholes into office?!
    And, if an election was stolen, then why aren't you participating in the revolt about it?!

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