It's not just tractors, it's all vehicles. Auto makers now claim that we don't actually own the cars we buy... we license them. This is a bit more disturbing than computer operating systems. Microsoft doesn't claim to own your Dell. But because the software is embedded and citing such concerns as safety (after all, think of the children), the automakers are claiming that nope... nobody gets access to the computer except licensed, authorized (aka paying) maintenance technicians.
Reacting to a desire for tinkering, Ford has developed what they hope to be a standard way of extending an automobile's capabilities with "vehicle-aware applications", the OpenXC open source platform:
While this is a step in the right direction, it is a simply method of loading more electronics onto your car without "bricking" your $20,000 automotive investment. It does not address the ECU (Engine Control Unit), which remains verboten. It does not allow true tinkering down to the metal. "No hot-rodding for you," snaps the Auto Nazi.
Sadly, we live in an environment where people see other people arbitrarily controlling the minutiae of strangers' lives, and they come away from that experience with both a desire to do it themselves, and the perverted expectation that this is normal behavior. This is perhaps to be expected in a world that confuses the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with a hunting license, but the analogy is disturbingly close. More, and more... and in more and more products... we see ourselves locked out of ownership of the things we bought due to increased reliance on computer code in embedded processors. This includes products for which there is no rational need for a processor (toasters come to mind). The fact of the matter is, I don't want a car that drives itself, that connects to the Internet, that is a wi-fi hub, that can be hacked using a discoverable code such as the VIN or license number, that can be bricked or even unlocked remotely. I don't want it whether it done maliciously, or accidentally, or deliberately by the police.
I don't want it. I don't want it so much that I went to great lengths to buy an older model of the car I like so as to avoid these unnecessary "features".
This isn't a matter of some desire to tinker together a new instrument panel. It's a basic measure of my Freedom that makes me insist on clear legal ownership of those things that I clearly own by right of purchase. If I cannot exercise that right due to encumbered components, then I should have the right to remove them so as not to infringe on the copyrights held so dear to those who hold them.
Bottom line for car manufacturers: I know you think your copyrighted material is terribly valuable, but I don't want it. It's worse than worthless to me... it prevents me from buying a car that is so encumbered at all.
In automobiles, the need for computerization is there and is rational, as computer-controlled fuel injection has long replaced carburetion. As that is the case, then the rational response of the citizenry, were they to have actual control over the laws enacted for the Public Good, should be to insist that the hardware of the car be legally divorced from the software. The ECU should be subject to competition, as should the maintenance of vehicles. I should be able to replace the encumbered operating system with one of my choice.
Recognizing the problem, there's an opportunity for a cottage industry of Open Source engine control units, and people who recognize it. Hackaday reported on such a project in 2014. The rusEFI Wiki is a source for current information on this project.
However, such projects still potentially run foul of copyright and patent claims of automakers who insist that you don't own what you own. What is needed is a revision of those laws that continue to separate us from our rights as individuals in areas never envisioned.
P.S. Thanks to Caleb for this related topic: