is a broad-based anti-DRM campaign that is targeting Big Media, unhelpful manufacturers and DRM distributors. The campaign aims to make all manufacturers wary about bringing their DRM-enabled products to market. DRM products have features built-in that restrict what jobs they can do. These products have been intentionally crippled from the users’ perspective, and are therefore “defective by design”. This campaign will identify these “defective” products, and target them for elimination. We aim to make DRM an anti-social technology. We aim for the abolition of DRM as a social practice.


I like this idea of identifying attempts to technologically corral new forms of property ‘defective by design.’ It’s both rhetorically savvy and true. It’s not just music where this ought to apply, though, it’s also knowledge of all kinds.

There’s a fight brewing over creative writing students who do not want their work available online. “I don’t necessarily want people to go back and read my thesis,” says Jeanne M. Leiby, an associate professor of English at Louisiana State University, in a Chronicle of Higher Education story.

Others report that the problem is just the opposite, that a freely available thesis cannot be published. Something tells me that the implicit end of that sentence is “for profit.” I sympathize with the embarrassment, though; with a little work you can read my thesis on Paul de Man from 20 years ago.

I think some of this pressure is coming from ill-paid professors hoping to make it big with their novel or screenplay. It’s a sign of the times, though, that the public missions of universities is ignored in favor of a so-called ‘right’ to self-aggrandizement. There’s more than a little vanity in that notion, too.

I have to agree with West Virginia’s electronic thesis director, quoted in the same story: “All theses and dissertations should become open access,” says Mr. Hagen. “It’s important in terms of being able to trace the cultural and historical aspects of academia.” He won’t say it but I will: it’s public property.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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