September 2023



Question: Is It Legal to Repair a John Deere Tractor?

Written by , Posted in Copyright Law

Answer: Yes, it is legal to repair your own John Deere tractor or take it to an independent repair shop. This hasn’t always been the case and we’ve been asked this question many times over the years.

In 2021, President Biden signed an executive order calling for a countrywide policy allowing customers to repair their products, especially in the agriculture sector. Very important. While John Deere has historically restricted independent repairs through their software policies and warranty language, they recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2023 that allows for wider access to tools and information while protecting intellectual property rights and ensuring equipment safety.

In simple words, if you fix your John Deere tractor by replacing a broken module, then telling the tractor’s ECU that this part is now fixed is ok and legal. On the otherhand, programing the ECU to run without the broken module may run afoul of laws. It’s not something most farmers or ranchers need to be worried about, but large aftermarket tractor repair shops should be careful as they don’t want to be sued!

Why it became legal to repair a John Deere Tractor based on our legal understanding:

  • As of 2023, many equipment owners have gained the right to repair their machines due to agreements like the one between the American Farm Bureau Federation and John Deere.
  • The “Right to Repair Act” enacted in some US states, like New York and Massachusetts, has paved the way for equipment owners to choose independent repair services over authorized service facilities.
  • An executive order signed by President Biden in 2021 emphasizes countrywide policy allowing customers to repair their own products in sectors including agriculture, further legitimizing the rights of farmers to repair equipment like John Deere tractors.
  • In 2023, John Deere signed an agreement with the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) that acknowledges farmers’ rights to repair their own machinery and grants them access to essential tools, software, and documentation. This partnership is a significant transition in John Deere’s relationship with farmers, allowing for more autonomy in repairing their equipment while also protecting John Deere’s intellectual property rights. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) addresses concerns on both sides and supports farmers during crucial farming seasons where delayed repairs could result in substantial financial losses.

Note: John Deere tractors are generally reliable and don’t need to be repaired too frequently. However there are common problems with their lawn tractors that need some consideration as an owner.

What are the potential consequences of illegally modifying the electronics of a John Deere tractor?

The potential consequences of illegally repairing the electronics of a John Deere tractor can include legal action and financial penalties. John Deere, like many other manufacturers, employs software locks and end-user license agreements to control who can access and repair their equipment. Violating these restrictions could result in copyright infringement claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In recent years, there have been instances where farmers faced lawsuits and fines for modifying or repairing their own tractors, highlighting the legal risks involved.

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