On October 6, 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an enforcement letter to SkyPan International, Inc. assessing a $1.9 million dollar civil penalty for flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) without permission. The FAA has fined drone operators for unlawful flights in the past, but this is by far the largest civil penalty to date. This should be a reminder to unauthorized drone pilots that flying commercial UAVs is still illegal and carries great risk in the United States.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
The recent Precision Ag Data Platforms conference was one of the most interesting events I've attended this past year. Ag data management platforms are part of a young industry by agricultural standards, but these offerings are growing and diverse. Like any new technology, growth comes with a lot of growing pains. Here are four reoccurring themes I heard throughout the day.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015
The prevalence of "I accept” check boxes on online contracts may have some people wondering whether one click of the mouse is as effective as signing your John Hancock? The answer, for the most part, is yes. “E-signatures” can be just as binding as real signatures. But like all legal matters, the validity of e-signatures is not always black and white.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
A recent NPR story exclaims that “copyright law makes it illegal to repair [farm] machinery run by software.” (DIY Tractor Repair Runs Afoul Of Copyright Law). WIRED essentially ran this same article a few months ago (We Can't Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership). Both authors make some good points, but both also overstate the facts to make their case. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does grant John Deere (and other ag equipment manufacturers) the ability to prevent tampering with their proprietary software--such as the engine ECU--but contrary to the NPR article’s premise, normal maintenance and repairs do not run afoul of the law.
Monday, August 10, 2015
I've been writing about the legal issues surrounding farm data for a few years now. Quite simply, farm data is the most exciting subject I've encountered in more than a dozen years practicing law. A farmer's ability to collect, share, and analyze data has tremendous potential to improve farming in next decade. As a farm kid turned-lawyer, I see my role in agriculture's big data revolution to push farmers to think about legal issues they may not have considered, and to push ag technology providers to rethink traditional legal frameworks that apply to data in other industries. Farming is different. That's why I keep writing.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
When my dad retired from farming, one of the first things he purchased was a nice late-model John Deere 4020. He still owns some land and uses this tractor for dirt work and land maintenance. With the baby-boomer generation of farmers retiring, I assumed that values on older tractors would probably start to rise as these retired farmers purchase their childhood dream machines. But a recent post by Greg “Machinery Pete” Peterson got me thinking that increasing values on used tractors might be reflecting a different trend—is it possible the rise in used machinery prices is a sign of farmer backlash against new technology?
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Please join me for the Big Data and Technology in Agriculture seminar on August 14, 2015 at Indiana Farm Bureau. The day promises to have a number of engaging speakers who will cover different aspects of farm data technology, privacy and security. I'll be speaking about the legal aspects of managing farm data as well as efforts to ensure transparency with ag technology providers. More information can be found by clicking "Continue Reading" below or going to www.InAgLaw.org/bigdata.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
Although Google’s autonomous car appears to be getting most of the press, the auto-guidance system on tractors, combines, sprayers and other farm equipment has been around for years. Farmers still “pilot” their equipment today—sometimes pushing the “autopilot” button—but it does not take a crystal ball to predict that someday farm machinery will pilot itself around fields while farmers monitor such equipment remotely from a control room at the farm. Are we ready for the liability issues that may bring?
Monday, June 29, 2015
Farmers had a great saying growing up, which goes like this: “If you put rotten feed in a silo, you get rotten feed out of a silo.” The same is applicable to farm data. Seems like every week a new product emerges that is designed to collect, analyze, and benchmark farmers’ data in hopes of improving productivity. In the race to collect farm data, I think the data collectors are often forgetting this old farm expression. There is no point in collecting and aggregating “junk” data.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Every agricultural technology provider likes to say that “the farmer owns the data,” but is that really true? This statement hinges on the answer to a central question: is farm data a form of intellectual property that the law protects? Farm data doesn’t neatly fit into the legal box designed to hold patents, copyrights, or trademarks. That leaves the law of trade secrets. If farm data is a protected form of intellectual property, it must be a form of trade secret.
Friday, May 29, 2015
The rapid spread of the avian flu across the Unites States has been cause for concern for a lot of farmers and consumers. I can’t help but wonder whether wide-spread adoption of data collection and sharing by poultry farmers could have helped stop the spread of the avian flu. Most of the focus on farm data the past few months has been on the impact on corn, soybean, wheat, canola, and cotton farmers. I keep wondering when the big data solutions for livestock farmers will appear.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015
It may not be enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but the Right to Tinker with farm machinery is well embedded in America’s rural culture. I grew up a first-hand witness to farm tinkering. I still remember when my dad and Uncle Herman thought it would be a good idea to “marry” a header from a John Deere chopper onto a Farmhand silage cutter. Farmhand made a good harvester, but a lousy header. With some farm-engineering and a lot of welding, a new Farmhand/Deere silage cutter was created. The machine wasn't perfect, but it cut a lot of silage. It was the epitome of tinkering.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
WIRED magazine’s recent headline: “We can’t let John Deere destroy the very idea of ownership,” really got my attention. The article’s premise is based upon John Deere’s recent comment to the US Copyright Office that farmers who buy a new John Deere tractor are granted an implied license to operate a tractor for the duration of its life. Or as WIRED puts it: “It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.” I decided to dig a little deeper.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Recently I was asked this question: When a farm cooperative (a “co-op”) does work for a farmer and in the process generates agronomic data, does the co-op own that data or does the farmer? Many in the ag industry like to say “the farmer owns the data,” but the co-op’s generation of farm data presents a more complicated problem. Of course, if the co-op has a written contract that addresses ownership, this is a non-issue. (See my previous post for more on this: Co-Ops and Custom Applicators: Are You Addressing Farm Data?). But who owns the data if there is no written contract?
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
On April 15, 2015 I'll be on a panel discussing hot topics in the law at The Racing Attorneys Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I'll be talking about the legalities of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or "drones" in the motor racing industry. I've posted a link to my presentation here if you are unable to attend:
Drones at the Speedway: TRAC Conference Presentation
Drones at the Speedway: TRAC Conference Presentation
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Farmers will call up their local co-ops this year to help them fertilize and spray their fields. These sprayers-for-hire will be recording what they do, but what happens to that data after that point? Does the co-op have an obligation to provide that data to the farmer? Does the co-op own the data generated on a farmer’s field? These questions need to be answered when farmers engage third parties to perform precision ag activities on their fields.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Many articles have been written about the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) proposed rules for "small" unmanned aircraft systems ("small UAS" or "small UAVs"). But most authors have overlooked that the FAA is also considering special, less stringent rules for "micro" UAVs. Micro UAVs weigh less than 4.4 lbs (small drones are less than 55 lbs.) and travel less than 35 mph (small drones are restricted to 100 mph). This article takes a closer look at the FAA's proposal for micro-UAVs and its promise for agriculture.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has released proposed rules that would govern the integration of “small” unmanned aircraft systems (“small UAS”) into the National Airspace System. The proposed rules specifically state that they would allow crop monitoring and inspection, aerial photography, and research and development—meaning commercial agricultural uses fall squarely within the new rule. Here is my summary of the proposed rule, followed by some suggestions to current and future drone operators.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
I was recently lucky enough to be interviewed by Gerry Dick for his television show Inside Indiana Business. I was joined by Beck's Hybrid's Jim Shertzer who leads FARMserver, a web-based farm data storage and analysis tool. These are exciting times for agriculture! You can watch the video by following this link: Drones, Big Data, and Technology on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick.
Thanks Gerry for the opportunity to be on your show!
Thanks Gerry for the opportunity to be on your show!
Thursday, February 12, 2015
big data concerns in farm leases asked why I used the term "big data" instead of just "data." This got me thinking about the definition of "big data" and what the term really means with respect to agriculture.
Friday, February 6, 2015
In my last two posts, I discussed what provisions one might add to a farm lease when either the landlord or the tenant wants ownership of farm data generated during the lease. Another scenario arises when the landlord and tenant both want equal access to the farm data. In this situation, the lease should establish co-ownership rights. As a side note, I should mention that data analytic tools on the market at this time, like FARMserver, make this sharing of data between landlords and tenants extremely easy.
Monday, February 2, 2015
In my previous post, I discussed some ideas for drafting a lease to make sure that the tenant owns the farm data created during the lease. Another scenario arises when the landlord wants control of the farm data generated by the tenant. This might be the case where the landlord makes land management decisions, such as what to plant, how much fertilizer to apply, when to spray pesticides, etc. In this type of situation, different provisions need to be included in the lease than suggested in my previous post.