Are Contracts Fair, or Feudal?

According to Law Professor Josh Fairfield of Washington and Lee University, corporate oligarchs—such as Apple, John Deere, and CISCO—have taken back enough property rights of ownership to qualify as Feudal Lords. Peasants (meaning, all of us) no longer own equipment in the traditional sense. We merely rent it from the Lord. Fairfield's analogy, discussed in Owned Property, Privacy and the New Digital Serfdom, is perfect. 

Modern corporate Lords are fabulously wealthy and powerful. They write their own private laws and enforce them selectively. Politicians bend to their will. Governments beg for the opportunity to host their offices. Media idolizes them. Believing themselves invincible, corporations craft weaponized contracts that have the appearance of honest dealings. In reality, those contracts only enhance the wealth and power of the people who wrote them.    

For example, Apple brags about being a hero of environmentalism, when they work to prevent repairs that would keep billions of devices from being thrown away. John Deere sells machines that cost as much as most houses—but has rigged their End User License Agreement to prevent repair and limit resale. Both proclaim they need to control use on behalf of the serf, but the contract's benefit is to the Feudal Lord.

This is the real battle behind Right to Repair. Repair is the contractual “canary in the coal-mine” showing if the contract is fair or feudal. In a fair contract, the buyer knows what is purchased and what is separately licensed. In a fair contract, the agreement is complete and easily understood. If products are only rented or borrowed, a fair contract would be a rental agreement. 

Fortunately, State Legislators have legislative control over contracts. Right to Repair Bills are presented in states only to demand fair and reasonable contracts. The type of technology involved is irrelevant. It is the unfair and deceptive contract that allows Feudalism to flourish. 

The alternative to Right to Repair is Digital Serfdom. 

Image cred: By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons