John Deere Thinks People Will Pirate Music With In-Car Computers

Illustration for article titled John Deere Thinks People Will Pirate Music With In-Car Computers

Did you know that it’s illegal to tinker with the code in your in-car computer? Thanks to the nuances of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), you’re not even supposed to inspect the inner workings of your vehicle’s circuitry. This is absurd, which is why the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is fighting for a better policy.

The EFF is currently entrenched in a legal battle to challenge DMCA overreach. In a new blog post—colorfully titled “Automakers Say You Don’t Really Own Your Car”—the digital rights advocates share some of the absurdity that many vehicle manufacturers are slinging to justify the DMCA’s applications to in-car computers. This is the best:

John Deere even argued that letting people modify car computer systems will result in them pirating music through the on-board entertainment system, which would be one of the more convoluted ways to copy media (and the exemption process doesn’t authorize copyright infringement, anyway).


Yes, that John Deere. How about this: If you manage to pirate music in a tractor, you deserve a much better prize than a DMCA letter. You deserve to own the tractor you paid for. Repair it when it breaks down, even! And yes, you should be able to do whatever you want with your car’s computer—within reason. [EFF]

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Can you elaborate on what you mean by “tinker”? I’m a Mustang owner and the entire Mustang community has tons of tuners, tinkerers, etc. and there are both private parties and larger companies that specialize in adjusting levels of the computer to eek out more performance gains. Companies like SCT sell tuner modules that will reprogram the ECU by plugging into the OBDII port. I’m failing to see how it’s illegal or is it one of those things where it’s technically illegal, but not enforced?