Jack Valenti doesn’t get it — after all these years
I always thought the MPAA stance on IP protection was shortsighted, but even I assumed that at least they knew what the problems were. Here’s an excerpt from an astonishing interview between Keith Winstein of MIT and Jack Valenti which demonstrates the true state of affairs.
KW: But today, you still cannot on the market actually buy a licensed DVD player for Linux.
JV: I didn’t know that.
KW: So the question is, do you think people who go to Blockbuster, they rent a movie, they bring it home, and they play it on Linux by circumventing the access control, are those people committing a moral transgression?
JV: I do not believe that you have the right to override an encryption. Because if you have the right to do it, everybody can do it. For whatever benign reason you have, somebody else has got one even more benign. But once you let one person deal in a digital copy — and I don’t have to tell you; you know far better than I that, unlike in analog, the ten thousandth copy is as pure as the original — it is a big problem. So once you let the barriers down for your perfectly sensible reason, you gotta let it down for everybody.
I don’t want to get into the definition of morality. I never said anything was immoral in what I was saying. I said it is wrong to take something that belongs to somebody else.
KW: Indeed, but are you doing that when you rent a movie from Blockbuster and you watch it at home? … I run Linux on my computer. There’s no product I can buy that’s licensed to watch [DVDs]. If I go to Blockbuster and rent a movie and watch it, am I a bad person? Is that bad?
JV: No, you’re not a bad person. But you don’t have any right.
KW: But I rented the movie. Why should it be illegal?
JV: Well then, you have to get a machine that’s licensed to show it.
KW: Here’s one of these machines; it’s just not licensed.
[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]
KW: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.
JV: You designed this?
KW: So the question is, if I just want to watch a movie–I rent it from Blockbuster–is that bad?
JV: No, that’s not bad.
KW: Then why should it be illegal?
Afterwards, I wondered how old Jack Valenti is. A search of Google images brought up pics like this one from CNN…
… which suggests that, in addition to knowing nothing about Linux, he has terrible taste in shirts. His bio reveals that he was born in 1921, and worked for Lyndon Johnson until he became head of the MPAA in 1966. So he’s been a lobbyist for nearly 40 years. What a guy!