Jack Valenti, the 81-year-old president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America since 1966, in on a mission: to deny you have any fair use rights at all. He’s been pretty successful so far:
- Valenti is considered one of Washington’s top lobbyists to Capitol Hill on behalf of Hollywood’s seven major motion picture studios. During his tenure, Valenti has helped pioneer ratings systems for both film and television and has fought government censorship.
Valenti has also taken heat for his uncompromising positions and support for laws forcing consumer electronics vendors to implement antipiracy technology. Critics contend such provisions would hamper consumers who use the devices for legitimate purposes.
….PC World: What are the MPAA’s biggest challenges?
Valenti: I’m looking at how to protect valuable creative works in a new world called the digital world that is totally different from the analog world.
Next, we want to offer consumers thousands of titles of movies through their computer or television and pipe it to them over a network, using Wi-Fi–or however. Consumers don’t have that possibility now, but we are trying.
PCW: When did copyright protection first get on your radar screen?
Valenti: The copyright issues bubbled up first when the VCR came out. Now there have been a lot of canards about that. At the time we felt we ought to try to put a small levy on blank cassettes and then that would be put into an approved government agency and redistributed to copyright owners in this country.
We felt the best way to get a copyright royalty fee put on blank videocassette tapes was to have the courts declare that VCR machines were copyright infringing. Then you go to the Congress [to impose the levy]. Unhappily, by a five to four decision, the Supreme Court said no.
PCW: Why can’t people who legally purchase DVDs make one backup copy? How come the same fair use rights that let you make a backup copy of other media do not extend to DVDs?
Valenti: That question has nothing to do with fair use because a DVD is encrypted and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act says to circumvent an encryption violates that law.
Keep in mind how the DVD came into effect. The DVD was a result of voluntary agreements by the hardware people and by the copyright people. And everybody decided they were going to make machines that only took encrypted DVDs and then they would be decrypted in the machine–all done. And guess what? It’s proven to be a bonanza for the DVD machine manufacturers and for the copyright owners. That was done the right way.
Do you know anything else in the country that if something is abused for any reason they’ll give you a backup? If I go down to the hardware store and buy an electric lawn mower and I take it home, and three weeks later my wife runs over it in the driveway, I can’t take it back and get a new one. I can’t get a backup.
….PCW: What is the game plan right now for fighting piracy of Hollywood content?
Valenti: First, we can assert our rights just like any citizen can to protect what is ours. If somebody steals your car, you have got a right to protect yourself.
Number two, we hope that we can buy an association with the best brains in the high-tech business to find some technological protective clothing. We hope that will come about. And that’s probably the best way to do it. I don’t know that you can ever get rid of piracy entirely, but you can make it so difficult through technological means it’s not worth stealing. All these things would be done legally, all legitimate, all within the boundaries of the law.
And third, we’re still meeting with the [tech] and the [consumer electronics] people and perhaps together we could come to some agreeable conclusions that we’ll all agree is the best way to deal with this.
We are testing new kinds of protective devices and technology like encryption, and [digital rights management] tools from Real Networks and Microsoft. If both or one of those is workable, and if customers want to use either, we’ll try it right now. [PC World]