Censorship on the Autodesk discussion groups

The Autodesk discussion groups have quite a few problems at the moment, which I will discuss at length in future. One unnecessary problem that has been added to the mix is censorship. Having praised Autodesk in the past for allowing discussion to go unhindered, it’s only fair to slam heavy-handed moderation when I see it.

Before I get started, let me just say that Autodesk is entitled to moderate its discussion groups as it sees fit. The forum belongs to Autodesk and it can do what it likes with it. But just because Autodesk can censor its forums, that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to do so. Neither does that it mean that Autodesk is immune to public criticism of that censorship. There is no First Amendment obligation on Autodesk, but there are many other places that censored viewpoints can be repeated. Here, for example.

In this particular case, a section was deleted from a reply I made in a thread about the educational plot stamp. In that section, I mentioned that the educational plot stamp is very easy to remove with an everyday AutoCAD command. I didn’t name that command or give any details of how to use it to remove the stamp.

Now I understand that Autodesk gets the twitches when people discuss circumvention of its educational stamp “virus”, but I didn’t mention anything that isn’t already public knowledge. I discussed this issue at length in Cadalyst some five years ago, again without giving away the details. If you really want to know the details, please don’t ask me because I won’t reply. Google it, it’s out there. You probably don’t even need to do that. It’s a pretty obvious thing to attempt. It was, in fact, the very first thing I tried when I first saw an example of an infected file. It worked perfectly.

Back to the censorship. My post was edited, and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t contacted about it, so it was not possible to have a reasoned discussion about it with the moderator (as I have done in the past on the AUGI forums and elsewhere). Annoyed, I made a further post, this one objecting to the censorship. In that post, among other things, I pointed out that the Autodesk position on the plot stamp was fictional. Here is what the Autodesk knowledge base item TS63668 (which I can no longer find) had to say on the subject:

Issue
When you plot a drawing that was created in or that contains drawing data that was created in the Educational (Student and Faculty) version of AutoCAD® or AutoCAD-based software, the following plot stamp or watermark appears in the plot:

For Educational Use Only

Solution

There is no way to circumvent the plot stamp. This is as designed to discourage the commercial use of an educational version of an AutoCAD product. Autodesk sells educational versions of software on the premise that the software will be used for educational purposes only.

The statement above in italics is a blatant lie. Hopefully, the knowledge base item is now missing because somebody sensible at Autodesk decided that it’s not a good look to have such fraudulent nonsense on its site, dishonestly masquerading as technical support. Or maybe it’s not missing but I can’t find it because the search engine is bad. After all, Autodesk really, really sucks at search. Perhaps it should buy a search engine company?

I digress; back to the censorship issue again. My post objecting to the first censorship was deleted. I was not contacted to discuss this deletion. I made another post objecting to the second censorship of my objection to the first censorship. This post made no reference whatsoever to the plot stamp issue itself. This post was deleted, too. In a surprise development, I was not contacted to discuss this deletion. Three levels of censorship to cover up an Autodesk lie. I can’t see a problem with that, can you? Except for this:

The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. — John Gilmore

Discussion_Admin, you were entirely within your rights to perform this censorship. Your moderation guidelines may even require it. But as a result, my statement about the plot stamp being easily removed has been read by a much larger number of people. So it really wasn’t such a good idea to censor it, was it?

Readers, if you have your own Autodesk censorship tales to tell, feel free to tell them here. It should be a fun read.

9 comments to Censorship on the Autodesk discussion groups

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Where would you like me to start ;-)

  • Matt Stachoni

    Ha! Yeah, I’ve been the author to many an “edited by discussion admin” posts. MOST of the time, I thought it was OK, usually when I got particularly snarky or just needed to vent a little.

    Lately, however – particularly in the Revit newsgroup, which seems to attract no end of nutjobs – my posts were getting skewered for no rational reason whatsoever, while some people (who shall go unnamed) seemed to have tacit immunity from the newsgroup nunnery.

    While I really hate censorship myself, I cannot say I completely blame Autodesk with regards to your post on getting rid of the educational virus (I believe the commands are “DXFOUT” and “DXFIN,” by the way). It’s their sandbox, so posting a workaround for a mechanism that is supposed to keep people honest is, in my opinion, fair game on a corporate forum.

    I’m not sure they “lied” about there being no workaround – I doubt the person who wrote that has much to do with the program or even considered how simple it actually is to circumvent.

  • I’d just like to reiterate that I did not post a workaround.

  • Dave Ault

    For all the talk of how progressive and connected most cad companies are and how current with with communication skills they say they are they just don’t seem to get it. You are right on the money when you say that now the problem will get much more exposure and that is what they just don’t seem to understand. The web is a great leveler and no one is proof against irate users here. Especially when there is truth they wish hidden and fail to realise they control a very tiny area only. Wellcome to the real world Autodesk, hope you enjoy it.
    Great article and I look forward to the replies.

  • James Maeding

    But dxfin and out will not handle custom objects, right?
    I don’t think its that simple. Anyone tried it on a fully delveloped set of plans with xrefs and the whole gamut of complex things?

  • James, I’m not going to censor your discussion of a possible workaround to the stamp, because that would be just way too ironic! However, I’m not going to comment on it myself.

  • Hamsandwichez

    I am an out of work civil engineer…I am just hanging on by a thread. I would REALLY like to know how to “REMOVE” the watermark from the student edition of autocad 2011 for mac. PLEASE help me, I can not afford 4,000 for simple autocad. Or send me to someone that does now. I am not trying to steal from autocad, I do intend to purchase the full version, just when I get back on my feet.

    Please Help.

  • Sorry, you’re out of luck. I don’t think you can use the educational version to remove the watermark in the usual way, and I don’t consider it ethical to do so or assist others to do so.

    The full version is available for download for use on a trial basis. Is 30 days enough time to get you back on your feet?

  • Speedy002

    If you are looking for an alternative solution that is free and quite robust to use, I have found that DraftSight will do just anything that I have tried to do in AutoCAD and it’s free. No watermarks to worry about and there is a mac version.

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