Jack Valenti recently spoke at the MIT Communications Forum and afterwards gave a short 10 minute interview with MIT’s newspaper The Tech. Senior Editor Keith J. Winstein took the time to ask Valenti why it should be illegal for people to watch DVDs on their Linux based computers, which it currently is due to the DMCA and the lack of any licensed players available for Linux. Valenti not only reveals he has no understanding of what the word “immoral” means, but uses some impressive language when Keith shows him a bit of code he designed himself that can circumvent the encryption on a DVD allowing it to be viewed on a Linux PC; all of six lines of code total.
TT: 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.
TT: 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.
TT: 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.
TT: Here’s one of these machines; it’s just not licensed.
[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]
TT: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.
JV: You designed this?
It’s clear from the whole interview that Valenti’s grasp of technology and those of us for whom it’s a lifestyle is shaky at best. Keith points out the fact that he’s an engineer and has built his own digital television set, but with the upcoming mandatory broadcast flag rules in July 2005 it will suddenly become illegal for him to build his own TV sets. Valenti relies on the argument that not many people build their own TV sets so it’s OK to make it illegal for the few that can. In fact, pretty much the entire argument presented by Valenti and MPAA public affairs representative Rich Taylor is of the “just buy a device that’s licensed and you won’t have a problem” sort.
In other words: “We don’t give a fuck how you want to use the products we sell you, you should just shut the fuck up and buy devices we’ve approved that allow us to decide for you how you can use the products we sell you.”
Link found via /.