Valenti Logic

By | August 31, 2004

Do you think you have mastered all forms of logical thinking? Well, prepare to enter the Jack Valenti Logic Zone – The Engadget Interview: Jack Valenti. A place where hyperbolic bluster, falsehoods, and ignorance rule the day.

Jack Valenti is the departing head of the MPAA. Valenti, you might remember, is most notorious for his 1982 statement that:

“I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”

In the interview with J. D. Lasica, Valenti continues to make outrageous statements that are so provably false that I find it hard to understand what point he is trying to make. He’s not as bad as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but they’re entertainment tools working gimmicks to sell ads and books. While the MPAA effectively represents entertainers, Valenti’s not one himself. At least I assume he’s not trying to be funny.

“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.”

Okay, so no one expects Valenti to have a deep understanding of technology. Fair enough. But, doesn’t it seem like he would have at least a very superficial understanding of the technology that his industry depends on?

“We know that with DVDs and VHS, we lost $3.5 billion a year worldwide due to analog or hard-goods piracy.”

Valenti shares this approach with the RIAA and the BSA, that is, first produce an estimate of how many movies, music recordings, or commercial software products were illegally copied. While they are likely to overestimate the total, it’s reasonable to try to estimate (with an emphasis on estimate) the total. But, then they multiply that number by the full price of those items to get a grand total of lost revenue. While I can’t say just how many people who made illegal copies of movies, music, or software would have paid full price if making copies had been impossible, I assure you that the number is not 100%. Not even close.

“Now, fair use is not in the law.”

As Ernest Svenson and Ed Felten (see below) posted, Valenti needs to get acquainted with US Law, specifically 17 U.S.C. 107. He can plug his fingers in his ears and shout “I don’t hear the monsters” all he wants, but that law won’t be going away anytime soon.

“Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever. “

Guess what, Jack. Fox Home Entertainment, a division of MPAA member Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, is so convinced that DVDs don’t last forever that they offer an official DVD replacement program. From their website – “This DVD replacement program allows customers to replace damaged DVDs for $6.99. If you have a Fox Home Entertainment DVD damaged by scratching, sun exposure or other means, you may be eligible for this low cost replacement program.” Of course, not all companies make this offer. Also, not everyone is willing to pay $6.99 and “allow 4-6 weeks for delivery” to get a replacement, especially when technology is available to make the back up yourself.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Valenti is a complete raving lunatic. He provides some perfectly reasonable answers in the interview. It’s just his occasional ventures far from reality that make you wonder how much he is taking up extreme positions in hope for a compromise versus how much he really believes what he says.”

Thanks to Ernest Svenson and Ed Felten for posting excellent commentary on their blogs about this Valenti interview.

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