Not all that surprising really: you don’t own the products you buy that contain “proprietary” software.

Over at is the story about John Deer, GM and others (but not Tesla) submitting notes to the Copyright Office that they (not their customers) own the software the runs the products they sell.  They argue that customers who “own” their products are not allowed to tinker or make changes to anything involving the software (which in reality is just about everything).

But this is just an extension of the reality we live in with our phones.  Jailbreaking an iPhone may still be technically illegal (it’s changed over time but I can’t keep track).  Software in general has become licensed and not owned.  You can’t “buy” Photoshop and then figure out yourself how to combine it with AutoCAD to make your very own personal superprogram.  It would be wicked cool and probably the greatest thing ever, but it simply is illegal.

Take the license concept and now apply it to that $15k, $35k or more expensive care you just bought.  Want to change the engine out?  Not without getting manufacturer approval – the computers just don’t want to work that way.  Want to change your own oil?  How long until they add a “feature” to the software that requires a mechanic to “check in” to the software before the oil can be drained – suddenly even an oil change violates copyright law.

This can apply to buildings as well in the CRE space.  As smart sensors become more common, there’s a chance that it turns out you don’t own them.  Want your BMS to track additional data points?  Be careful to read all the fine print if you are bringing in consultants to help.

Software copyrights and patents are just bad for business.  This is yet another example and I wish I could say I was surprised by it.


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