Thursday, May 21, 2015

Have a GM Car? GM says you don't Own it, you just license it

It's all because of that computer stuff that your car needs to function.

If you have bought a  General Motors vehicle lately,  then check the fine print. The company says you may not own some parts of a vehicle that actually make it run.

In comments sure to rankle customers, a GM attorney said Tuesday the company believes the software that controls every vehicle function belongs to them. Even after customers pay tens of thousands of dollars for a car, the company says users are merely signing a licensing agreement to use it over its lifetime.

"It is our position the software in the vehicle is licensed by the owner of the vehicle," attorney Harry Lightsey said.

The comments came in Los Angeles during a hearing conducted by the US Copyright Office, which will soon decide whether to grant exemptions in copyright laws that would allow independent mechanics and gearheads to continue fix and repair cars.

A pivotal question the federal officials must answer in making that determination is whether car companies maintain proprietary rights to software that underpins vehicles or whether customers can modify their purchases as they see fit.

GM's stance is a sweeping one. Cars today are mobile computing networks. Critical functions like steering, acceleration and braking are all controlled by software. Each GM model contains an average of 30 electronic control units. Without legal access to these ECUs and the software that run them, mechanics and others who enjoy working on cars may need to cease repairs. [Source Auto Blog]

  • As Consumerist quips, GM wants you to know that the car in the driveway is "literally not your father's Oldsmobile."
    GM’s claim is all about copyright and software code, and it’s the same claim John Deere is making about their tractors. The TL;DR version of the argument goes something like this:
    * Cars work because software tells all the parts how to operate
    * The software that tells all the parts to operate is customized code
    * That code is subject to copyright
    * GM owns the copyright on that code and that software
    * A modern car cannot run without that software; it is integral to all systems
    * Therefore, the purchase or use of that car is a licensing agreement
    * And since it is subject to a licensing agreement, GM is the owner and can allow/disallow certain uses or access.