If you do not own the software on your device, then you do not own your device.

Consider this situation:

  • A physical device which is dependent on software for its operation is located in the residence of Alice. Alice is the sole user and beneficiary of this device’s purported primary purpose (e.g. cooking food).
  • Bob owns all relevant intellectual property of the software on the device (e.g. patents and copyrights).

Without Alice’s knowledge or consent (because the purchase and use was the “consent”, even if there were no alternatives on the market which did not also demand this consent), Bob can:

  • change the operating parameters of the device — how the device works and is allowed to work
  • temporarily or permanently prevent the software from operating, which prevents the device from operating
  • collect data from any sensors on the device, and resell that data along with customer information about Alice to a third party
  • delete any data stored in the device (e.g. past settings, saved sensor data, device history)

*Without* Bob’s written consent, Alice *may not*:

  • examine the software on the device
  • alter the software on the device
  • replace the software on the device

So, I ask you, “Who owns the device?”.

IMHO, it certainly isn’t Alice. She is at best a renter subject to the whims of Bob.

This is the situation today, and ever more gadgets are getting software embedded into them. We are progressing towards a future where only corporations are permitted to own property in any real/traditional sense of the word “own”.


RE: New High-Tech Farm Equipment Is a Nightmare for Farmers by Kyle Wiens on Wired.com, 2015/02/05

Dave paid for the tractor; he owns what’s tangible: the wheels, the metal chassis, the gears and pistons in the engine. But John Deere owns everything else: the programming that propels the tractor, the software that calibrates the engine, the information necessary to fix it. So, who really owns that tractor?