I've been holding back publishing the interviews I conducted with key figures in the copyright wars until now for a number of reasons, but chiefly because it presents a much clearer prism to see the arguments on each side lined up against each other contemporaneously.
Today, as a very small gift to Copyfight, I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, a full text interview with the legend himself: Jack Valenti.
Now, our friend Jack stepped down as head of the MPAA last September, but his influence lives on and, more importantly, the way he framed the public debate on these issues remains intact. His successor, Dan Glickman, is now finding his voice, but he has yet to engage the public's imagination as fully as Valenti did.
In short, Valenti's views still matter.
You've read accounts of Valenti's Congressional testimony over the years, and his one-on-one with Derek Slater for the Harvard Political Review in 2002 (tho I can't find the link!). Copyfighters like Derek and Ernie Miller (who earlier deconstructed an abbreviated version of my interview with ol' Jack) have pointed out the inconsistencies between Valenti's arguments and the realities of the digital world.
It's a world view that needs to be challenged at every opportunity, because the underlying assumptions have been internalized by the powers that be on Capitol Hill. Valenti paints this as a battle between those who believe in copyright and those who believe in thievery, when of course that's not the case at all. He argues that the problem can be solved through technological innovation, when what the MPAA is really after is a form of trusted computing that rewires the next generation of personal computers to enshrine a form of copy protection into the machines so that they obey Hollywood, not the computer's owner. His view of fair use -- that it doesn't exist except as a legal defense -- is perhaps the most dangerous, for it threatens to cramp our visual culture and stifle an entire generation of grassroots media.
The deeper we understand what animates the entertainment powers, the more effectively we can form an uplifting counter-view of the new digital landscape.