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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Evidence Keeps Pouring In: Capitalism Just Isn't Working

For Economic Justice



Everything is a potential market to the capitalist, but it’s time to end the suffering of ordinary Americans, which is very good for the profit margins, and make human life a top concern.

Paul Buchheit, a college teacher, pretty much accurately identifies the failure of monopoly greed capitalism, which, for a long time, I have termed “Hoggism,” propelled by greed and the sheer love of power over others. “Hoggism” institutionalizes greed (creating concentrated capital ownership, monopolies, and special privileges). “Hoggism” is about the ability of greedy rich people to manipulate the lives of people who struggle with declining labor worker earnings and job opportunities, and then accumulate the bulk of the money through monopolized productive capital ownership. Our scientists, engineers, and executive managers who are not owners themselves, except for those in the highest employed positions, are encouraged to work to destroy employment by making the capital “worker” owner more productive. How much employment can be destroyed by substituting machines for people is a measure of their success––always focused on producing at the lowest cost. Only the people who already own productive capital are the beneficiaries of their work, as they systematically concentrate more and more capital ownership in their stationary 1 percent ranks. Yet the 1 percent are not the people who do the overwhelming consuming. The result is the consumer populous is not able to earn the money to buy the products and services produced as a result of substituting machines for people. And yet you can’t have mass production without mass human consumption made possible by “customers with money.” It is the exponential disassociation of production and consumption that is the problem in the United States economy, and the reason that ordinary citizens must gain access to productive capital ownership to improve their economic well-being.
But Buchheit offers no solutions to reform the system. If only Buchheit could grasp the economics of reality wherein fundamentally, economic value is created through human and non-human contributions. NOTE, real physical productive capital, which is what Buchheit implies as “money owned,” isn’t money; it is measured in money (financial capital), but it is really producing power and earning power through ownership of the non-human factor of production. Financial capital, such as stocks and bonds, is just an ownership claim on the productive power of real capital. In the law, property is the bundle of rights that determines one’s relationship to things. As binary economists Louis Kelso and Patricia Hetter put it, “Money is not a part of the visible sector of the economy; people do not consume money. Money is not a physical factor of production, but rather a yardstick for measuring economic input, economic outtake and the relative values of the real goods and services of the economic world. Money provides a method of measuring obligations, rights, powers and privileges. It provides a means whereby certain individuals can accumulate claims against others, or against the economy as a whole, or against many economies. It is a system of symbols that many economists substitute for the visible sector and its productive enterprises, goods and services, thereby losing sight of the fact that a monetary system is a part only of the invisible sector of the economy, and that its adequacy can only be measured by its effect upon the visible sector.”
Buchheit needs to expand his thinking to address concentrated capital asset ownership and how the pursuit of the lowest cost production of production of products and services has led to and will continue to lead to globalization of production and replacement of human labor with “machines” that will replace work. And without work, under the present capitalist system, there will be  hordes of citizens of zero economic value, unable to earn enough money to support themselves or their families and become “customers with money” to support the system. Thus, once the wealthy ownership class has completely acquired the OWNERSHIP of the non-human means of production there will be no “customers with money” to pursue as the vast majority of the worlds population will simply be economically enslaved, dependent on what welfare and charity the wealthy ownership class and their puppet politicians decide to extend.
Of course this does not have to be the case when ONLY measured by work, a majority of people will cease to provide a means to earn an income.  The economic and political alternative is to reform the system to empower EVERY citizen to acquire ownership in FUTURE wealth-creating, income-producing capital assets resulting from technological invention and innovation.
In the larger picture, globalization is enabling multi-national corporations (those that produce not only in the United States but in other countries as well to produce and sell products and services internationally using the cheapest labor rates, as well as non-human productive capital. In real growth measures, productive capital is increasingly the source of the world’s economic growth and will continue to be so at an exponential rate, resulting in far less need for people to work. Because globalization and tectonic shifts in the technologies of production will accelerate the end of work by destroying jobs and devaluing the worth of labor, it is imperative that productive capital assets become the source of added property ownership incomes for all. The reality is if both labor and capital are independent factors of production, and if capital’s proportionate contributions are increasing relative to that of labor, then equality of opportunity and economic justice demands that the right to property (and access to the means of acquiring and possessing property) must in justice be extended to all. 
The question that Buchheit should be raising that requires an answer is now timely before us. It was first posed by Kelso in the 1950s but has never been thoroughly discussed on the national stage. Nor has there been the proper education of our citizenry that addresses what economic justice is and what capital ownership is. Therefore, by ignoring such issues of economic justice and capital ownership, our leaders are ignoring the concentration of power through monopoly ownership of productive capital, with the result of denying the 99 percenters equal opportunity and access to become capital owners. The question, as posed by Kelso is: “how are all individuals to be adequately productive when a tiny minority (capital owners) produce a major share and the vast majority (labor workers), a minor share of total goods and services,” and thus, “how do we get from a world in which the most productive factor—physical capital—is owned by a handful of people, to a world where the same factor is owned by a majority—and ultimately 100 percent—of the consumers, while respecting all the constitutional rights of present capital owners?”
Those seriously interested in exploring non-conventional solutions need  to read the article A New Look at Prices and Money: The Kelsonian Model for Achieving Rapid Growth Without Inflation at http://www.cesj.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/pricesandmoney.pdf. In this paper, a case is made for a major transformation of any nation’s monetary system so that in the future new money would be created in ways that would unharness the full productive potential of society, while closing the growing wealth gap between the richest 10 percent and the rest of society — and to do so voluntarily without the need to redistribute existing wealth. Prices, wages and interest rates would be controlled under the proposed model of development completely by competitive market forces, not by the whim of central bankers, politicians or organized power blocs.
It is imperative that we address  the structural problems of the system and reform the system to result in forward-looking growth.
Each year our national public debt has become harder to service because pretend-and-extend policy making has created a depression in real, capital asset investment and consumption (not the gambling casino stock market trading second-hand [owned] stock, because the extent of all productive capital asset OWNERSHIP is concentrated.
In concentrated capital ownership terms, roughly 1 percent own 50 percent of the corporate wealth with 10 percent owning 90 percent. This leaves 90 percent of the people scrambling for the last 10 percent, with them dependent on their labor worker wages (saving from denial of consumption) to purchase capital assets. Thus, we have the great bulk of the people providing a mere 10 percent or less of the productive input. Contrast that to the less than 5 percent who own all the productive capital providing 90 percent or more of the productive input, and who initiate and oversee most of the technological advances that replace labor work by workers with capital work by the owners of productive capital assets. As a result, the trend has been to diminish the importance of employment with productive capital ownership concentrating faster than ever, while technological change makes physical capital ever more productive. Corporate decision makers know this, whether in the United States or China, or anywhere organized assemblies of people engage in production. Technology is an easier and faster way to get a job done. Because technology increases the profitability of companies throughout the world, technology always has the advantage over human labor when the costs of them are the same. But because this is not well understood, what we as a society have been doing is to continually shift the work burden from people labor to real physical capital while distributing the earning capacity of physical capital’s work (via capital ownership of stock in corporations) to non-owners through make-work job creation, minimum wage requirements, and welfare programs. Such policies do not function effectively.
Even with historically low interest rates when the federal government borrows, say to repair obvious deficiencies in roads, rails, water systems and more and to upgrade such or finances the military-industrial complex, which perpetuates continuous war, only the people who already own productive capital are the beneficiaries of debt through contract work sold in the name of job creation, but in reality systematically concentrates more and more capital ownership in their stationary 1 percent ranks. Yet the 1 percent are not the people who do the overwhelming consuming, and instead “re-invest” to further accumulate ever more capital wealth ownership. The result is the consumer populous is not able to earn the money to buy the products and services produced as a result of substituting machines for people. And yet you can’t have mass production without mass human consumption made possible by “customers with money.” It is the exponential disassociation of production and consumption that is the problem in the United States economy, and the reason that ordinary citizens must gain access to productive capital ownership to improve their economic well-being.
The ever-growing trillions of dollar debt liability will come due on the heirs of today’s Americans.
Nor is the suggested solution by Reich and others to spread wealth by extracting a more heavy tax on the growing share of wealth accumulated by the owners of wealth-creating, income-producing capital to redistribute as a “universal basic income” viable and sustainable. Those who are productive, either through their labor or through the application of the productive capital assets they own will object to taxing their productive input to subsidize the idleness of millions of “takers.”
Under this proposed scheme, there would still be OWNERS of private property, and the productive, wealth-creating, income-producing private property OWNERS would be taxed to support a substantial REDISTRIBUTION of wealth in order to provide a “basic income” to EVERY citizen. This is the very essence of socialism.
The outcome is that the wealthy ownership class will still be the OWNERS of America’s productive capital assets and essentially, as OWNERSHIP LORDS, dominate the vast majority of citizens, who through a powerfully political government elite will be their “slaves”––”slaves” as in welfare and charity slaves, which the advocates of this proposal refuse to acknowledge.
The ONLY way out of the deepening economic inequality and the national debt hole is not to pursue austerity and cut spending (consumption), especially since there is a level below which you cannot go, but to increase income (production).
This is “Say’s Law of Markets.” It is based on Adam Smith’s first principle of economics, articulated in The Wealth of Nations: “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production.” The obvious corollary, of course, is that you can’t consume what hasn’t been produced — which is exactly the United States’ problem as well as other debt-ridden countries.
In short, you can mint, print, or borrow all the money you want, but if you’re not producing a marketable good or service for consumption, even if you have a mountain of gold, silver, or government debt paper backing your currency, you are trying to get out of a hole by digging it deeper.
If something doesn’t exist, you can’t consume it. the only thing that’s going to get the United States and other debt-ridden countries out of the hole they are in is to increase production dramatically, not cut consumption and pursue austerity.
Rather than focus on Job Creation that holds back technological invention and innovation, our economic policies should focus on wealth-creating, income-producing capital Ownership Creation, whose result will be REAL job creation where necessary to support rapid technological and societal development as we build a future economy that can support general affluence for EVERY citizen and provide inclusive prosperity, inclusive opportunity, and inclusive economic justice.
Given that there is no question that robotic technology will continue to expand the productivity and in large measure destroy jobs and devalue the value of human labor, the question that SHOULD be urgently addressed is WHO SHOULD OWN THE FUTURE TECHNOLOGY ECONOMY? Will ownership continue to concentrate among the 10 percent wealthy ownership class who now OWNS America, or will we reform the system to provide equal opportunity for EVERY child, woman, and man to acquire personal ownership in FUTURE productive capital assets paid for with the FUTURE earnings of the investments in our technological future?
The article asks that you ask yourself: “How is anyone going to make any money when there is ever less opportunity to work?” This is manifested in the myth that labor work is the ONLY way to participate in production and earn income, and that individual talent and effort are what distinguish the wealthy from the non-wealthy.
A sounder solution is to empower EVERY child, woman, and man to acquire personal OWNERSHIP stakes in America’s future productive capital assets by providing equal opportunity for EVERY citizen to OWN and to have access to acquiring wealth-creating, income-producing capital wealth (the whys and hows of becoming rich). And to ensure at death, using a transfer tax, that concentrated wealth estates are dispersed so that no “family” stays permanently wealthy and politically powerful.
The financial mechanism required must provide EVERY citizen an equal annual amount of newly issued money to be specifically used to form new productive assets determined by feasibility analysis using the logic of corporate finance––that the investments will produce earnings out of which to pay for the initial investment and provide the asset value for the new money issued for the extension of capital credit. The actual capital credit loans also must by interest-free as there is no conventional borrowing involved from people who have denied themselves consumption and saved in order to invest. This is all new money essentially issued by the Federal Reserve. The capital credit also must be insurable using private capital credit insurance or a government reinsurance agency (ala the Federal Housing Administration concept). Thus, no citizen would ever be exposed to a reduction in their wages, if they are employed, or any other extraction of their personal equity wealth.
This solution, which upholds the principles of private property that our nation was founded upon and abates the further concentration of capital wealth ownership by providing equal opportunity to acquire and OWN future capital asset wealth, in which EVERY citizen becomes an OWNER and is thus a productive contributor to our societal development through “tools” they OWN, is the essence of the proposed Capital Homestead Act. See  http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-a-plan-for-getting-ownership-income-and-power-to-every-citizen/ and http://www.cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/capital-homestead-act-summary/. See http://cesj.org/learn/capital-homesteading/ and http://cesj.org/…/uploads/Free/capitalhomesteading-s.pdf.
The whole discussion on reforming the money and credit system leads to defined policy actions, as does tax reform. Let’s take taxes first.
Four principles must guide the tax reform. 1) Efficiency: the tax system raises enough money to run the government without giving too much disincentive to produce. 2) Understandability: people should be able to pay their taxes without having to become an expert. 3) Equitability: people must be taxed in accordance with their ability to pay. 4) Benefit: people who receive the benefit should pay for it.
Thus, the fairest tax given these principles is a single rate imposed equally on all income above an exemption sufficient to enable people to live in reasonable comfort. In addition, the tax laws must permit a tax deferral on income used to purchase capital assets, up to an amount sufficient to generate an adequate and secure income.
Thus, every citizen should have a Capital Homestead Account (CHA) or Economic Democracy Account in which he or she can accumulate a reasonable ownership stake of income-generating assets on a tax-deferred basis. A CHA (a super-IRA or asset tax-shelter for citizens) would be available at their local bank to purposely acquire a growing dividend-bearing stock portfolio to supplement their incomes from work and all other sources of income. Now — how do they buy the assets in the first place on which to defer the taxes?
That’s where the necessary money and credit reforms kick in. Obviously, if a rich person or a corporation can finance new capital without using past savings, so can everyone else — and it’s better for the economy. The fact is, the more people who are productive, the more income there is, and the more income there is, the more demand there is, and the more demand there is, the more people can produce and sell ad infinitum.
Thus, every child, woman, and man can open up a Capital Homestead Account or Economic Democracy Account in which every individual can accumulate up to, let’s say, $1 million on a tax-deferred basis.  And at a ROI (“Return On Investment”) of a conservative 20 percent (in direct new asset-based new stock issues), would generate taxable income of $200,000 every year.
Further, companies can be encouraged to pay out all earnings as dividends by making dividends tax-deductible by the corporation — and substantially raising the corporate tax rate to give more encouragement. That way a corporation has a choice: avoid all taxation of income by paying it out to the shareholders (who can pay taxes on their dividends the same as any other income), or pay even more taxes than they do now.
Besides, if they finance growth by selling new shares instead of retaining earnings, the new shareholders are going to need the full stream of profit attributable to their shares to pay for those shares. Issuing shares instead of retaining earnings to finance growth will create a lot of new shareholders, and create a lot of new demand to justify more growth and jobs.
Thus, if everybody has the right to borrow money to purchase new shares that pay for themselves out of future dividends — and all profits are paid out as dividends — ordinary people can become capital owners without risking anything they might have at present, which for most people in the United States is not a risk because they don’t have anything to lose at present as it is. If the money is created using interest-free capital credit, there will always be enough money for new capital formation — and for creating new owners without taking anything from anybody else.
What about security for the capital credit loans? What if the borrower defaults, i.e., doesn’t make the loan payments?
There’s an entire industry that already exists to help people handle risk. It’s called “insurance.” Using the risk premium on all loans as an actual insurance premium (ala the Federal Housing Administration concept), a borrower or lender can take out a capital credit insurance policy that pays off in the event of default.
Instead of tax, monetary and inheritance policies favoring the top 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent, these comprehensive policy and program reforms should become national policy as a necessary solution to correct the systemic injustices of monopoly capitalism. The current system perpetuates budget deficits and unsustainable government debt, underutilized workers, a lack of financing for financing advanced energy and green technologies, and outsourcing of U.S. industrial jobs to low-wage countries, trade deficits, shrinking consumption incomes among the poor and middle class, and conventional methods for financing productive growth that increase the ownership and power gaps between the top 1 percent and the 90 percent whose combined ownership accumulations are already less than the elite whose money power is widely known as the source of political corruption and the breakdown of political democracy.
The unworkability of the traditional market economy is evidenced by the diverse and growing deficits––federal budget deficit, trade deficit, city, county and state budget deficits––which are making it increasingly impossible for governments at every level to function. The increasing deficit burden is the result of the growing numbers of people who cannot earn, from legitimate participation in production, enough income to support themselves and their families. Thus government is obliged to “redistribute” to starve off economic collapse. The key means of redistribution is taxation––taking from the legitimate producers and giving to the non- or under-producers––to make up the economy’s ever wider income and purchasing power shortfalls.
The fact is that political democracy is impossible without economic democracy. Those who control money control the laws that foster wage slavery, welfare slavery, debt slavery and charity slavery. These laws can and should be changed by the 99 percent and those among the 1 percent who are committed to a just and economically classless market economy, true equality of opportunity, and a level playing field in the future for 100 percent of Americans. By adopting economic policies and programs that acknowledge every citizen’s right to contribute productively to the economy as a capital owner as well as a labor worker, the result will be an end to perpetual labor servitude and the liberation of people from progressive increments of subsistence toil and compulsive poverty as the 99 percent benefits from the rewards of productive capital-sourced income.


space for transparency


Earlier this year, we teamed up with the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Anti-Corruption Conference to launch “Capture Corruption”, a global photo competition for the most powerful images of corruption and its devastating impact on lives around the world.
Today, we’re revealing the winning selection. In first place in our 31+ category is Giles Clarke – selected from more than 1500 entries for his image of pollution and exploitation at a Haitian landfill. We asked Giles to tell us the story behind his winning image.
Copyright Giles Clarke / Getty Images Reportage
Capture Corruption global photo competition, first place winner, 31+. Copyright Giles Clarke / Getty Images Reportage
Congratulations on winning the photo competition. Your photo shows a vast waste dump just outside Haiti’s capital city, Port au Prince. Why does this image sum up corruption for you?
For me the image represents Haiti, and its desperate struggle to lift itself from the depths of misery and corruption that has plagued the country – by far the most corrupt in the Americas – for decades.
The vast landfill is owned by the government and situated directly above the Plain Cul-De-Sac aquifer – the same water that provides drinking water for the poorest neighbourhoods of Port-Au-Prince. For me, this neglect by the Haitian government motivated my need to tell this story.
There are around 2,000 people who make up this ‘dump community’. They don’t have medical help or clean water to wash in. There are mountains of dioxin-smoking waste that grow daily only yards from where families live in rough tin shacks.
Your photo focuses on three workers at the landfill. What did you find out about the men and their experiences?
They all have grave health issues – one look at their hands was enough to understand the problem. There is no running water and they live in dirt and smoke 24 hours a day. They all want the ability to work but without any programmes or jobs offered, this is their best option.
Copyright Giles Clarke / Getty Images Reportage
Copyright Giles Clarke / Getty Images Reportage
Despite these alarming growing health issues related to the toxins being carelessly dumped, none of the solid waste disposal companies contracted by the government provide their workers with anything more than plastic gloves.
“Corruption has left an indelible stain on humanity all over the world […] This is my motivation- to explore ways to expose these injustices and shed light on just a few of these deplorable situations.”
What do you think needs to change to deal with the problem?
Like many issues affecting developing countries, the key has to be educating the general public – in this case toward recycling education coupled with governmental funds diverted to recycling banks and equipment. Without those awareness programmes and the practical ability to recycle, supported by local government agencies, this issue will drag on for years.
What motivates you to capture the effects of corruption in Haiti and around the world?
My motivation is creating awareness to lessen the inequality gap and, ideally, help drive our political leaders toward creating a fairer and more sustainable future. Corruption is driven by greed – a terrible reality for many less fortunate people and a blight on our common humanity. Sometimes, unfortunately, I feel we almost need to publicly shame these people into action.
Follow Giles Clarke on Instagram: @clarkegiles

Friday, August 21, 2015

Debunking trickle down economics: The real reasons for the collapse of the Middle Class explained

The News Hub

Debunking trickle down economics

The real reasons for the collapse of the Middle Class explained

Ever since the 1980's the Republican party has incorporated the hypothesis of trickle down economics into the very heart of it's fiscal policy initiatives. It consists of the belief that cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy will allow them to invest more into the economy, create jobs and improve conditions for everyone.

But how does this belief measure up to economic trends? One quick way to measure this is to compare levels of income inequality with the corresponding top marginal tax rates. If tax cuts on the rich benefited all of society equally than we should be seeing a very small change in the level of inequality. Instead we see this:

Image provided courtesy of the film: Inequality for all

As the graph clearly shows decreases in the top marginal tax rate come with enormous increases in the percentage of American wealth owned by the top one percent. So what effect does this have on the remainder of Americans. Haven't their wages increased at all?

Actually, quite the opposite has occurred. The typical male worker in 1978 made 44,308 US Dollars (adjusting for inflation) per year. As of 2010 the income of the typical male worker has decreased to a meager
$ 33,751/yr, a shocking statistic when you consider that the average wage of a top one percent earner has increased to $ 1,101,089. This being the case, why hasn't any of that enormous wealth "trickled down" to the majority of Americans?

The answer to this dilemma lies in the rarely acknowledged fact that the true spenders and job creators of every economy are the members of the middle class. If this idea seems revolutionary to you consider the following. What are the similarities in financial habits between the ultra rich and the middle class? Do they not both have the same basic necessities; 3 meals a day, a car, a home... While it is true that the one percent may spend their money on more luxurious versions of the same products (Lamborghini vs Mazda) they are eventually left with large amounts of disposable income. In an increasingly globalized world in which it is much cheaper to purchase goods in foreign markets and then import them into the US, this income is unlikely to be invested directly into the American economy.

On the other hand when the marginal tax rate is increased, the government can afford to invest directly in it's population by funding social welfare programs and and providing financial aid to make college more affordable. This in turn creates a highly skilled workforce which can now afford to spend more of it's income in and way that directly benefits the American economy by eating out and buying more expensive amenities than they could previously afford. To meet this increased demand companies are forced to hire more employees in the service industry which in turn reduces unemployment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Concept Of Ownership Is About To Change Radically If John Deere Has Its Way

The Concept Of Ownership Is About To Change Radically If John Deere Has Its Way

The Concept Of Ownership Is About To Change Radically If John Deere Has Its Way
Credit: Peter Mooney
These are the sorts of intellectual property "rights" the TPP intends to codify in member nations. Now you can't "buy" things, you can only rent them. Via Wired:

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.
Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into theDigital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.

(This is an important issue for farmers: a neighbor, Kerry Adams, hasn’t been able to fix an expensive transplanter because hedoesn’t have access to the diagnostic software he needs. He’s not alone: many farmers are opting for older, computer-free equipment.)Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software underpinning the products they buy—things like smartphones, computers, coffeemakers, cars, and, yes, even tractors. So, Old MacDonald has a tractor, but he owns a massive barn ornament, because the manufacturer holds the rights to the programming that makes it run.

What does any of that have to do with copyright? Owners, tinkerers, and homebrew “hackers” must copy programming so they can modify it. Product makers don’t like people messing with their stuff, so some manufacturers place digital locks over software. Breaking the lock, making the copy, and changing something could be construed as a violation of copyright law.In recent years, some companies have even leveraged the DMCA tostop owners from modifying the programming on those products. This means you can’t strip DRM off smart kitty litter boxesinstall custom software on your iPad, or alter the calibration on a tractor’s engine. Not without potentially running afoul of the DMCA.
And that’s how manufacturers turn tinkerers into “pirates”—even if said “pirates” aren’t circulating illegal copies of anything. Makes sense, right? Yeah, not to me either.

It makes sense to John Deere: The company argues that allowing people to alter the software—even for the purpose of repair—would “make it possible for pirates, third-party developers, and less innovative competitors to free-ride off the creativity, unique expression and ingenuity of vehicle software.” The pièce de résistance in John Deere’s argument: permitting owners to root around in a tractor’s programming might lead to pirating music through a vehicle’s entertainment system. Because copyright-marauding farmers are very busy and need to multitask by simultaneously copying Taylor Swift’s 1989 and harvesting corn? (I’m guessing, because John Deere’s lawyers never explained why anyone would pirate music on a tractor, only that it could happen.)

John Deere is a company, by the way, that is seriously serious about preventing people from copying their stuff. So serious, in fact, that they even locked the PDF they sent to the Copyright Office. No modifying the document. And no copying passages. Really, John Deere? How am I supposed to highlight all that's wrong in this document now?

John Deere may be out of touch, but it’s not alone. Other corporations, including trade groups representing nearly every major automaker, made the same case to the Copyright Office again and again. It’s worth noting Tesla Motors didn’t join automakers in this argument, even though its cars rely heavily on proprietary software.
General Motors told the Copyright Office that proponents of copyright reform mistakenly “conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software in a vehicle.” But I’d bet most Americans make the same conflation—and Joe Sixpack might be surprised to learn GM owns a giant chunk of the Chevy sitting in his driveway.
Other automakers pointed out that owners who make unsanctioned modifications could alter their vehicles in bad ways. They could tweak them to go faster. Or change engine parameters to run afoul of emissions regulations.

GM went so far as to argue locking people out helps innovation. That’s like saying locking up books will inspire kids to be innovative writers, because they won’t be tempted to copy passages from a Hemingway novel. Meanwhile, outside of Bizarroland, actual technology experts—including the Electronic Frontier Foundation—have consistently labeled the DMCA an innovation killer. They insist that, rather than stopping content pirates, language in the DMCA has been used to stifle competition and expand corporate control over the life (and afterlife) of products.They’re right. Thatcould happen. But those activities are (1) already illegal, and (2) have nothing to do with copyright. If you’re going too fast, a cop should stop you—copyright law shouldn’t. If you’re dodging emissions regulations, you should pay EPA fines—not DMCA fines. And the specter of someone doing something illegal shouldn’t justify shutting down all the reasonable and legal modifications people can make to the things they paid for.
“The bad part is, my sense is, these companies are just locking up this technology, and increasing the sort of monopoly pricing structure that just doesn’t work for us,” Brian Talley, a farmer on California’s central coast, says of restrictions placed on his equipment. I toured his farm with a fellow from the Intellectual Property & Technology Law Clinic so we could tell the Copyright Office how manufacturers are hampering farmers. “We are used to operating independently, and that’s one of the great things about being a farmer. And in this particular space, they are really taking that away from us.”

Thankfully, we aren’t alone. There’s a backlash against the slow creep of corporate product control.The Electronic Frontier Foundation, theIntellectual Property & Technology Law Clinic, and the Digital Right to Repair Coalition(Disclaimer: I’m a founding member of the Coalition.) are fighting to preserve the notion of ownership. We’re trying to open the floodgates of information. To let owners investigate the code in their devices. To modify them for better functionality. To repair them, even without the blessing of manufacturer.
Earlier this year, consumers sent 40,000 comments to the Copyright Office—all of them urging the restoration of ownership rights. The year before, consumers and activistsforced a law through Congress that made it legal to unlock a cellphone and move it to a different carrier.
This week, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Jared Polis will introduce the “Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act of 2015, which would substantially improve the DMCA process. Lawmakers in Minnesota and New York have introduced “Fair Repair” legislation that assert an owner’s right to repair electronic equipment they’ve purchased. They want equal access to repair information, replacement parts, and security updates.
Of course, taking back the stuff that we own won’t be easy. Corporations have better lobbyists than the rest of us. And, somehow, the notion of actually owning the things you buy has become revolutionary.
It doesn’t have to be. Tell the Copyright Office to side with consumers when it decides which gadgets are legal to modify and repair. Urge lawmakers to support legislation like the Unlocking Technology Act and the Your Own Devices Act, because we deserve the keys to our own products. And support Fair Repair legislation.
If you bought it, you should own it—simple as that. It’s time corporate lawyers left the bullshit to the farmers, who actually need it.
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