Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Valenti interview
There's a very illuminating interview with Jack Valenti at "The Tech" (an MIT student newspaper) discussing the broadcast flag and the DMCA (specifically the ability or not to play DVDs on Linux). What's illuminating, but not surprising, about what Valenti's responses demonstrate about the profound failure of communication between opposing camps on these issues.

Although I suppose it's not just a communication problem-- it goes to mindsets as well. The concept of non-corporate producers of either content or hardware just doesn't seem to exist in the worldview represented here; "regular people" are only figured as consumers-- and of course consumers who are supposed to act in a particular way. Other roles seem to not even make sense.

TT: I’ll tell you, because I’m an engineer, I’m an engineering student, and this year I built a high-definition television, from scratch. But because of the broadcast flag, if I wanted to do that again after July 2005, that would be illegal.

JV: How many people in the United States build their own sets?

TT: Well, I’m talking about engineers.

JV: Let’s say there are a thousand. But there are 284 million people in this country. You can’t have public policy that is aimed at 100,000 people when the other multi-multi-millions are also involved. You can’t do it that way.

TT: Okay, let’s take a different example. Four years ago, you said that people who use Linux, which is about a million to two million people, who want to play DVDs, should get licensed DVD players and that those would be on the market soon.

JV: And we have those now.

TT: But today, you still cannot on the market actually buy a licensed DVD player for Linux.

JV: I didn’t know that.

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.

Link: Real Dialogue: The Tech interviews Jack Valenti (via


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