Last week, the tech press made a big deal out of a ruling by the Librarian of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office to allow consumers to break vendors\u2019 digital rights management (DRM) schemes in order to fix their own smartphones and digital voice assistants. According to The Washington Post, for example, the ruling \u2014 which goes into effect Oct. 28 \u2014 was a big win for consumer right-to-repair advocates.\u00a0\nBig news for vehicles\nThat promises to save millions of consumers some coin, but it may have a far bigger impact on a much smaller cohort: farmers, construction companies, fleet managers and other companies that now have legal permission to fix their motorized land vehicles (cars, tractors, and so on \u2014 owners of boats and airplanes are still out of luck).\nAs I noted in a Network World post earlier this year, many farmers have been struggling to get full benefits of the IoT technology built into their tractors because of restrictions written into their end-user license agreements (EULA). That can limit their use of the information generated about their own farming practices and also keep them from repairing their own equipment without calling in the vendor, as noted by Motherboard. The most publicized issue comes from John Deere, which argued that letting farmers fix their own equipment could lead to music piracy (no, not a joke).\nAlso on Network World: Big trouble down on the IoT farm\nThe new ruling may not give farmers ownership of their farming data, but at least they now have the right to ignore the DRMs and fix their own machines \u2014 or to hire independent repair services to do the job \u2014 instead of paying \u201cdealer prices\u201d to the vendors\u2019 own repair crews.\nPer Motherboard, the new ruling \u201callows breaking digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software locks for \u2018the maintenance of a device or system \u2026 in order to make it work in accordance with its original specifications\u2019 or for \u2018the repair of a device or system \u2026 to a state of working in accordance with its original specifications.\u2019\u201d\nOnly a partial victory in the war on DRM\nFrom my perspective, this is indeed a win, but far from a complete victory. Farmers still aren\u2019t allowed to hack into their own tractors to turn them into drag racers (that might be fun to watch!), but at least they can do whatever they need to do in order to make sure the machines aren\u2019t falling down on the job.\nThat\u2019s a good start, but it still doesn\u2019t make sense to restrict legitimate device and equipment owners from making full use of the products they\u2019ve paid for. As software and IoT capabilities worm their way into just about everything, antiquated rules like this \u2014 based on the widely reviled Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) \u2014 reduce the value and utility of the products they encumber, sow (often justified) distrust of the vendors, and threaten to hobble the growth of the IoT market, all in service of maximizing short-term service revenue for a handful of vendors. DRM advocates \u2014 yes, they exist \u2014 claim that it helps stop IP theft and avoid compromising the equipment. But given silly arguments like John Deere\u2019s music-piracy shenanigans, that logic can strain credulity.\nLegal, but not necessarily possible\nPerhaps even more important in the real world, this ruling doesn\u2019t necessarily make getting around DRM restrictions easy, or even possible. Many vendors work very hard to make it as difficult as possible for anyone but authorized repair services to work on their products. The ruling just makes it legal to try to hack through DRMs in order to conduct repairs \u2014 it doesn\u2019t guarantee that effort will be successful.\nThis approach is dangerously shortsighted. Here\u2019s hoping that this Copyright Office ruling sparks a major rethink of the rights and obligations of equipment buyers and sellers and results in a legal framework that promotes innovation and industriousness, not restrictions and control. But I\u2019m not holding my breath.