“The Tech” interviews a clueless Jack Valenti.

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.

Real Dialogue: The Tech interviews Jack Valenti

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?

TT: Yes.

JV: Un-fucking-believable.

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 /.

7 thoughts on ““The Tech” interviews a clueless Jack Valenti.

  1. That’s ALL we need: a forced monopoly on computer hardware.  How come Bill Gates wasn’t allowed to run his OWN COMPANY by his rules, and they can force that kind of product monopoly on their customers by using LAW?

    Un-fucking-believable.

  2. This is a perfect example of a large problem that we will see continue for the forseeable future.

    The people currently enpowered to write legislation regarding technology have a minimal understanding of the technology.

    I watched a portion of the internet tax moratorium debates on the house floor this week and have heard more intelligent technical discussions on the floor of my local Circuit City.

  3. What’s scary is that you can be fined and penalized a lot more for posessing computer hardware and or software than you could be for possessing a lethal homemade bomb.

    -by the way, Bastard, I was clicking through your site and see you have pics of a good friend, an ex-girlfriend of mine - Lanelle Markgraf who voiced Urd on “Oh My Goddess!”
    Small, small world.

  4. Indeed I do. I know most of the people behind the English voices of the primary characters in the OMG anime including Scott Simpson, Juliet Cesario, Lanelle Markgraf, Pamela Weidner, and David Underwood. I used to run a couple anime related websites and attended many conventions as a member of the “press.” It also helped that I was the first person to ever write fanmail to Scott and Juliet and they wrote me back and invited me to catch up with them at a convention. It was only a matter of time before I got to meet Lanelle. Even got to take her out to dinner once. She had great fun walking up behind me in the dealer’s room and speaking into my ear using Urd’s voice. As a total fanboy it was a dream come true.

    Last I heard she was moving out to California to try and get her acting career to take off. I haven’t heard from her in a long time so I’m hoping she’s doing OK.

  5. I think in this case Valenti is confusing the potential ability to violate copyright law with the actual deed.  The MPAA is trying to prevent unauthorized copying by using encryption; they’re not able or willing to see the difference if someone circumvents the encryption for perfectly legal purposes (such as home viewing of a properly rented DVD).  They don’t want to spent time splitting hairs; they just want their preventive measures to remain intact.

    They can either put their money into prevention or into detection, or both.  As they are finding out, prevention isn’t working too well.  They may have to rely on detection measures to identify people who are making illegal use of the copyrighted material.  I don’t know whether that will be technically any more feasible than prevention, but they’ve got to keep trying if they want to protect their investment.

  6. As a techie, you’ll be happy to know Lanelle is currently working at Level 3 communications as a project manager here in L.A.  I’m bummed she’s not going 100% as an actress, but its a hard path, even with someone as talented as Lanelle.

  7. I’m very happy to hear she’s doing OK and my offer to be an overpaid flunky or member of her entourage if she ever strikes it big is still on the table. I’m great at scaring away autograph seekers (just look at my pic) and you should see me tongue-wash windows!

    If you happen to chat with her sometime soon pass along my website and email addresses to her, eh?

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