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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline


« The Boston Globe Editorial Board ! = Copyfighters | Main | Copyright and Cultural Damage, Part II »

August 31, 2004

The Willful Blindness of Jack Valenti

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Engadget has launched a weekly new feature: interviews with those who shape the world of gadgets conducted by journalist JD Lasica. The first interview is with the MPAA's retiring president Jack Valenti (The Engadget Interview: Jack Valenti).

What is really scary about this interview is the profound ignorance, or is it, perhaps, "willful blindness" Valenti demonstrates.

Unclear on How Cryptography Works

I have said, technology is what causes the problem, and technology will be the salvation of the problem. I really do believe we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it. In time, we’ll be able to do this, because I have great faith in the technological genius that’s out there.
Has Never Heard of 17 USC 107
There is no fair use to take something that doesn’t belong to you. That’s not fair use. If you’re a professor in a classroom, you show ‘Singing in the Rain’ to your class. You can fast forward it, and there’s no performance fee for that. That’s fair use. Now, fair use is not in the law. People are taking fair use and changing it to unfair use and claiming that it’s fair use.
Doesn't Realize that the MPAA Opposed TiVo to Go
So there are no restrictions that Hollywood wants to place on what people can do with media on their computers?

Well, I can’t tell you that. We have to see what the technology can provide.

Thinks Digital Things Last Forever
When you go to your department store and you buy 10 Cognac glasses and two weeks later you break two of them, the store doesn’t give you two backup copies. Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever.
Read the whole interview.

There are some interesting comments on the Engadget site and Slashdot hosts a vigorous discussion (Jack Valenti: The Exit Interview). Techdirt wishes Lasica was a little harder on Valenti (Jack Valenti... Misunderstanding The Digital World Right Up Until The End).

UPDATED 0655PT, 0745PT (The Jack Valenti Syndrome):

I think what we are seeing here is an industry full of fear at facing the changing times. And the fear is either so intense or it has gone on so long, or both, that it has been internalized. That's how you get interviews like the one Valenti gave. The disruptive technologies that are coming out have forcibly ripped control away from the established gatekeepers and has left them without a response. Or at least a response that is effective.
Tech Law Advisor points to some other Valenti interviews (Valenti's Notable Quotables).


Freedom to Tinker (Valenti's Greatest Hits):

Even ignoring the technical non sequiturs ("stuff ... algorithms into a movie"; "infect a movie with ... circuitry"), this is wildly implausible. Nothing has happened to make the technical prospects for DRM (anti-copying) technology any less bleak.

We can only hope Valenti's successor stops believing in "technological magic" and instead teaches the industry to accept technical reality. File sharing cannot be wished away. The industry needs to figure out how to deal with it.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People


1. Branko Collin on August 31, 2004 1:02 PM writes...

Whether digital lasts forever or not is really beside the point. I paid a fee for a license that lasts forever, and consumer law gives me the right of use of that license (usufruct? IANAL). Sure, I'll pay the cost of the replacement disk (say, a euro for the disk and another for shipping and handling). Copyright does not trump contract law in this respect.

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2. Firas on August 31, 2004 2:02 PM writes...

He says MovieLink and CinemaNow are good examples of semi video on demand, and video on demand shall be here shortly.

MovieLink and CinemaNow only work on DRMed Windows Media (designed to stop playing after a while unless you pay more), are ridiculously low quality, and MovieLink's website don't work on any browser but IE.

Bittorrent'ed DivX's are higher quality, and free, and work on Macs, Windows and Linux.

God, what morons.

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3. Alexander Wehr on August 31, 2004 2:32 PM writes...

this is entertaining, but scary.

The fluidity with which the lies and fallacies fall from the tongues of lobbyists often requires multiple examinations of their statements to find every instance of obfuscation.

These quotes, however, are indeed funny.

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