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MIT Student Grills Valenti on Fair Use 1162

kcsduke writes "Following a recent speech at MIT on Movies in the Digital Age (streaming audio available), MPAA front man Jack Valenti sat down for a revealing interview with The Tech, MIT's student newspaper. In this entertaining read, Keith J. Winstein grills Valenti on fair use and the right to play DVDs under GNU/Linux. My favorite part is when Winstein shows a dumbfounded Valenti a six-line DVD descrambler he's designed, to which Valenti responds with language inappropriate for the Slashdot homepage. Throughout the interview, Valenti demonstrates his ignorance and misunderstanding of fair use."
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MIT Student Grills Valenti on Fair Use

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  • by Sanity ( 1431 ) * on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:40PM (#8998230) Homepage Journal
    Throughout the interview, Valenti demonstrates his ignorance and misunderstanding of fair use.
    You can be sure that Valenti understands fair use at least as well as most of the slashdot crowd - the point is that his job is not to explain the truth to people, it is to explain the MPAA's truth to them, and this definitely does not involve explaining to people what their fair use rights are.

    People like Valenti are paid to have certain beliefs, and they have no incentive to change those beliefs just because they happen to be wrong, moreover, expect Valenti to use every rhetorical technique in the book to obfuscate the real issues.

    The value of this type of debate is to point out the inconsistencies in the MPAA position, but you can argue until hell freezes over, Valenti will never (publicly) agree with our position on fair use.

  • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:41PM (#8998236) Journal
    I'm not sure what to make of Valenti's response; what does he mean by that? UFB that someone would write a decryptor, UFB that the author wrote the code himself, or UFB that six little lines of the code bypasses CSS?
  • My favorite exchange (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amichalo ( 132545 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:41PM (#8998237)

    JV: There's lots of machines you can play it on.

    TT: None under Linux. There's no licensed player under Linux.

    JV: But you're trying to set your own standards.

    TT: No, you said four years ago that people under Linux should use one of these licensed players that would be available soon. They're still not available -- it's been four years.

    JV: Well why aren't they available? I don't know, because I don't make Linux machines.

    Let me put it in my simple terms. If you take something that doesn't belong to you, that's wrong. Number two, if you design your own machine, you can't fuss at people, because you're one of just a few. How many Linux users are there?

    TT: About two million.

    JV: Well, I can't believe there's not any -- there must be a reason for... Let me find out about that. You bring up an interesting question -- I don't know the answer to that... Well, you're telling me a lot of things I don't know.
  • by basil montreal ( 714771 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:42PM (#8998262) Homepage
    Oh, I disagree. This is at least as funny:

    "JV: Well, I can't believe there's not any -- there must be a reason for... Let me find out about that. You bring up an interesting question -- I don't know the answer to that... Well, you're telling me a lot of things I don't know
  • Re:Whatever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rabel ( 531545 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:48PM (#8998338)
    I think the point is that I have a "free" DVD player on my Windows box. Came with my DVD drive. It's fully licensed and legal. How come there isn't a Linux player available?
  • Re:Ambush Journalism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:48PM (#8998348) Journal
    Especially when the "journalist" (really just a university linux zealot, no more a "journalist" than slashdots own michael) has the facts wrong.

    About six articles ago they announced Turbolinux shipping with Cyberlink PowerDVD. Ooops..

    Here's more fun. Cyberlink posting to debians forums, [] wanting to get PowerDVD into the distro. Of course, it goes ignored.

    The "its legal for me to crack this to play dvds on my linux box" rant is just too good to be destroyed by reality.
  • Broadcast Flag (Score:5, Interesting)

    by -tji ( 139690 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:55PM (#8998442) Journal
    Valenti's comments on the Broadcast Flag are a bit misleading:

    The broadcast flag -- if you are in your home, then you can copy anything that's on over-the-air television to your heart's content. The only time that you will know there's a broadcast flag is if you try to take one of those copies and redistribute it on the Internet. Then, the flag says, 'No, you can't redistribute it.' But you can do everything you're doing right now -- you'll never know there's a broadcast flag. Well, why would people object to it?

    The unspoken assumption here is that you have scrapped all of your existing hardware, and bought new hardware that has support for all of the DRM copy protection. So, the chipset will honor the flags, all the hardware will support the encryption, and the signal will never be available on the system while decrypted.

    My current system does a fine job of HDTV recording and playback. So, it's not just a cpu power upgrade requirement. It's a purely manufactured requirement that I need to use their encryption, and have a computer that obeys their commands, not mine.

    Also, the interviewer does not do a good job of making the point. He brings up some bullshit point about making his own HDTV, which Valenti easily skewers as being irrelevant to 99.999% of people. He should have made the much more valid point of the millions of TV tuner cards out there today will not be available in the digital TV world without people buying MPAA approved hardware.

    (As an aside, WTF was the kid yalking about reqarding his HDTV? I'm pretty sure he didn't create his own CRT or other display device, and all supporting electronics.. that's very difficult from a manufacturing perspective. I would guess that he "made" a HDTV decoder system by plugging in a PCI card from
  • Re:Many and Few? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Changer2002 ( 577488 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:58PM (#8998496)
    This country was founded on the idea that people have certain inalienable rights, but they have been pretty much enumerated by the Constitution and cases that interpret it. There's no inalienable right to building your own TV in there, the fundamental rights involve things like representation in government, and more recently privacy regarding reproductive issues. And yes those rights are protected for the minority against the majority, but I'm not quite sure how that applies here.
  • Re:Annoying attitude (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RetroGeek ( 206522 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @01:58PM (#8998511) Homepage
    This is a disturbing quote, why should you restrict the life of hundred of thousands of people? Because multi-multi-millions are involved, I think not.

    But that is the society we live in.

    Several hundred (thousnad?) people have an accident, some die, while talking on cell phones and driving. Great uproar, laws are passed banning cell phone use while driving. Millions affected.

    Some people die while driving too fast for the conditions (traffic, road, weather, vehicle condition, personal ability, personal state of mind/health/impairment). Speed laws passed, millions affected.

    There are other examples. We live in a society where the majority are affected by the actions of a few. We try desperately to protect 100.000% of the people from themselves.

    So we curtail the rights of the many to protect the idiot few. This is just an extension of that concept.
  • Valenti's argument (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _typo ( 122952 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:01PM (#8998543) Homepage

    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.

    The problem witht this argument is that it says that what should be illegal is breaking the encryption and not actually doing something with the decrypted data. I agree that taking a DVD, transcoding it to divx and posting it on the web should be illegal, but the illegal part shouldn't be decryption of the data but the actual copying and posting on the web. This actually solves the problems of both sides, it lets me see my DVD's and lets the copyright holders have their rights. Why doesn't the MPAA want this?
  • Wait a Moment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by webusr2 ( 774977 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:02PM (#8998554) Journal
    did anybody else notice the sudden 'jump-in' of Rich Taylor when stuff started getting legal?

    I'm seeing "Public Affairs" as the interviewee with J.V. sitting in front on a little leash...

    TT: So the question is, if I just want to watch a movie--I rent it from Blockbuster--is that bad?

    JV: No, that's not bad.

    TT: Then why should it be illegal?

    Rich Taylor, MPAA public affairs: It's not. ... You could put it in a DVD player, you could play it on any computer licensed for it.

  • ..that intervideo cannot release an end user player for Linux because they would end up running afoul of the GPL inorder to do it. They would need to link with Libs that are GPL, and in so doing would be obligated to expose things that the DVD licenses will not allow them to expose.
  • by Kurt Gray ( 935 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:08PM (#8998648) Homepage Journal

    TT: None under Linux. There's no licensed player under Linux.

    JV: But you're trying to set your own standards.

    I am dissappointed to learn that we are no longer allowed to set our own standards. All this time we have been foolishly publishing RFCs and agreeing on ways to communicate data between different devices, not knowing that all this standardizing is not MPAA-approved. What were we thinking?! Well that's it, we'll just we'll have to turn off the Internet, no more SMTP, no more TCP, no more UDP, no more HTTP, no more HTML... turn it off... no wait! Wait until the MPAA gang gets its head out of its collective ass and finds huge profits in Internet media delivery, then we sadly inform them that Internet is one big open standard and therefore must be turned off, sorry guys, your rules.
  • by skiflyer ( 716312 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:09PM (#8998653)
    Bad comparison with the car... you need to have it licensed to drive on the street.

    You can feel free to drive that home built car all over your private property as much as you like.
  • Missing a fact (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tube013 ( 309846 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:10PM (#8998683) Journal
    Every Computer I have bought with a dvd drive, and every dvd drive I have bought for myself to put in a computer includes software to play back encrypted dvds (windvd etc). Point is if you buy the drive and it has the software, then you should have the right to use the drive to play dvds. Just because you aren't using the software, doesn't mean that the oem didn't have to give their $.10 to the MPAA to bundle it with the drive/computer. This is a fact that is ignored way too much.
  • Re:Many and Few? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Angwe ( 18648 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:12PM (#8998715)
    Sadly, there is the idea of a "tyranny of majority" which one of the founding fathers was wary of. Lani Guinier wrote a book with just that title The Tyranny of Majority. People have certain inalienable rights, but what, exactly, those rights are, and what people are considered "real people" is entirely up to the majority. There is a reason gays, who comprise 10% of the population, are denied rights - it is because a certain vocal majority does not consider them to be actual people. The same can be said for any other oppressed group. I just happen to only have memorized the statistic on the gay population percentage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:13PM (#8998727)

    So apprently, we can't get into the definition of morality, but nonetheless we're going to legislate it?

    Is that so hard to understand? Copyright law isn't about morality, it's about money. Morality only comes into it when you're arguing whether the law should be about money or morality or if the law being about money is the most moral thing you can do. Western societies are built on the concept of ownership. It is widely accepted that without property there can not be a flourishing economy (or the equivalent in other ideologyies' terms).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:15PM (#8998747)
    It's not about the numbers of people that don't have access, it's the fact that they DON'T have access - see the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). All public places must be wheel-chair accessible... maybe we're going about it wrong... maybe us Linux users are 'disabled', and should sue for access to the content - after all, the content is publicly available... BlockBuster has to rent to anyone that wants the content, not just people that have approved hardware/software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:17PM (#8998780)
    That's what Valenti said when the interviewer asked him why he can't (legally) play back a DVD on a computer running Linux. I think that captures the issue very well.

    This does seem to be the core of the issue, and the two sides, including yourself, are not speaking the same language in describing it.

    From the business side, the movie industry gets revenue from theater ticket sales, DVD rental royalties and sales, and from CSS decoding royalties/licensing fees. If one wants the right to use the decoding algorithm, he has to pay the license fee, same as JPEG. They're under no compulsion to see that a DVD decoder is available for linux, solaris, Plan9, or PalmOS

    From the consumer side, the decoding algorithm is straightforward and relatively easy to reverse engineer. It really is convenient to be able to watch your DVD anywhere you want, to store a whole library of DVDs on your TB disk array, etc, etc. To do so, though infringes on the CSS patent.

    MPAA has to defend their patent. Sony, and the other licensees, won't pay to renew their own licenses if they can just implement their own decoder. This is a bad situation for dedicated linux users: one imagines that any company considering paying the license fee to distribute a linux CSS decoder would have to consider whether the "average linux user, a raving GNU fanatic living in his parent's basement" would be willing to pay $40 for a licensed decoder if he can easily get an unlicensed decoder for free.

  • by mgpeter ( 132079 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:18PM (#8998795) Homepage
    Why did the interviewer stop and only harp on the one question of viewing movies under Linux ?

    What about:

    What is the use of the Region Codes, especially on old DVDs, (and how can the MPAA create their own copyright laws like this - totally bypassing the current laws) ?

    How did the movie industry become what it is today, especially knowing it was founded by people frustrated by the control of Thomas Edison and decided to create an organization to fight that control ?

    How exactly does the MPAA view copyright, is your definition include total control of anything you create, not just redistribution ? What about fair use ? Or better yet what about unregulated uses, such as me watching a DVD I bought on a toaster if I wanted to ?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:19PM (#8998796)
    Another technique is to have a Big Question that can be asked as a series of small questions and a series of medium questions. Ideally the smaller questions will be of a Yes/No variety to avoid vague answers.

    Once you have all the "right" answers to the small questions, you can start asking the big question again as medium-sized questions and when they answer "wrong", ask them which is right, this answer or their answer to the two smaller questions.

    If you're lucky, they'll give the "right" answers to the medium questions -- then you can drop the bomb on them with the "Big Question". When they give their canned answer, you can use their other answers against them.

    They'll either have to give in or you get to depict them as lying scumbags. It's less effective in print than on TV, though, since you can see the sweat.

    60 Minutes made this an art form in the 1970s, including the sweaty denial footage.
  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:22PM (#8998839) Homepage Journal
    Well see its NOT your property.

    I have a stack of DVDs that are my property. The movies on them are someone else's IP, but the discs themselves are mine.

    Just try walking out of a Suncoast with a few DVDs in your pocket without paying for them and you'll find out quite quickly that someone in fact DOES own them.

  • by jorlando ( 145683 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:23PM (#8998840)
    "Valenti and those sharing his views on copyright believe that we (the consumers) should only be able to view works on devices that they approve, at a time and place allowed by them, and how ever many times they want us to."

    as a consumer you don't have the same rights as a citizen. the "consumer" is an ideallized entity, that has cash in his pockets and will spend that money in funny gimmicks... the gimmick can be a movie, a cd or a service.

    since the "consumer" is ideallized as a thief, it has to be restrained so he can't destroy one or more industries that need him to survive. so laws are passed to curfew some possibilities that the consumer may have to a)don't pay or b)pay less for a gimmick

    Valenti is right reasoning that a law can't be made for a few. the legislation is a consensus of the majority. An extreme example: some serial killers think that they are right when they kill someone. we don't have laws to protect their (the serial killers) freedom of expression, religious view, divine obedience or artistic expression. what they do is wrong and we restrain them.

    but, every law as a consensus of the majority looks for a balance: the common good of the majority, so the peaceful persons can be protected from the serial killers.

    the IP laws are atacked because they are made backwards: a choosen group (usually with deep pockets, to hold lots of money and a few politicians) has all the rights of protection, the vast majority can only abide to the law or face fines, prison and other punishments. So you have some pearls of common sense, that can put you more time in jail for downloading a music file than robbing a bank. A rapist can spend less time in prison than Joe Bloe downloader.

    I do hope that more and more laws like that be passed and more and more IP restrainment be embedded in the devices until someday the vast majority will get a clue: "FUCK! I paid for that shit and somebody says that I can't use it!", until then... just wait... things will get even funnier than today.

    As mr. Valenti view the things, I can't watch a DVD movie from other region than the one I'm entitled by the industry. I'm commiting a wrongdoing when I by-pass the region control in my (MY as in "my, I paid for it") DVD player to watch a movie that I bought (bought as in "I paid money for it") that happens to be from other region.
  • My situation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jackjumper ( 307961 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:23PM (#8998849)
    Here's my situation, and I think it's illegal, but I'll be damned if I don't. I'm sure Jack would think it's illegal:

    My son is in Kindergarden. His class is putting on a play based on the book 'Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type' (it's a good book - check it out if you have small kids). Last year the school did 'The very quiet cricket'.

    I'm assuming that the school purchased a license or has some sort of comprehensive license to put on plays based on copywritten material.

    So the question is: Can I videotape my son's perfomance?

    I asked my Senator (Patrick Leahy) this, since he's a big DMCA booster (but is good in most other ways).

    What do you think?
  • Valenti's point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cranx ( 456394 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:24PM (#8998866)
    First of all, grilling Valenti on why there are no licensed DVD players capable of running under Linux is disingenuous. That's something that's driven by the market, not politics. Linux is not inherently more capable than Windows of pirating a movie. In fact, I find converting a DVD to a DIVX file much easier to do in Windows. Valenti wouldn't have the answer to "why there are no licensed players for Linux." Sony, Pioneer, JVD, etc. would have the answer to that. If they wanted to support a DVD player on Linux, they're not barred from doing that.

    Too many of you are so fanatically blinded by your ambitions that you don't see some fundamental points Valenti made. If a distributor wants to release content in a restricted manner, tough shit for you; it's their content, deal. It's wrong to try and end-run someone's encryption, no matter how easy it is to do. Ease does not make it right. It's easy to pick fruit from a neighbors tree if their yard has no fence; that doesn't make the fruit yours. If you spend money on content, know what you're getting. You don't get to dictate what the rules are to content owners; you have to play by them.

    Stop trying to drive this're going to lose and cry yourself dry wondering why the world doesn't work the way you want it to.

    Shut the fuck up and spend your money on content that ISN'T restricted. Dry up the RIAA's money. Convince your friends and neighbors to purchase only content that doesn't put money in the coffers of those distributors whose methods you don't approve.
  • In addition to the Linux DVD player problem. I would like to see someone ask Valenti about the morality of circumventing region codes to watch legally purchased DVDs from other countries.

    For example, I researched and purchased an off-brand DVD player for my father that could play Italian (region 2) DVDs in the US. When he travels to Italy he likes to bring back some DVDs so he can watch them in his native language. Subtitles don't cut it for him. Technically speaking he is breaking the law when he watches one of these movies.

    I want to hear it from Valenti's mouth whether or not this type of thing should be allowed.
  • by drakaan ( 688386 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:26PM (#8998890) Homepage Journal
    First of all (coward) he's obviously a geek, not a nerd. Engineers from MIT are usually geeks, anyway. Sure, maybe he's not hand-soldering transistors together to build an mpeg decoder, but I'd bet that he hand-assembled a bunch of relatively general-purpose components to build his own HDTV, just as he said he did. The regular folks SHOULD be's not a simple task. Hell, a lot of those folks still have no idea *why* they should be wowed by it.
  • by Cranx ( 456394 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:29PM (#8998937)
    It's ironic that a theater full of college students would laugh at someone defending their livelihood.

    I wonder how hard they'll laugh a year after graduation, when they're living at their parents, unemployed and wondering where all the work went.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:29PM (#8998938)
    There is no agreement when purchasing or renting dvds. You own the DVD, you can do whatever you want with it, within the copyright laws.

    But that is irrelevant.

    The GP post was asking about why the anti-circumvention clause of the DCMA is ethical. Jack was unable to answer this (although it wasn't clearly asked, either).
  • by Xaymot ( 754751 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:29PM (#8998939)
    Did you see that disturbing MPAA commercial with the stunt man who hugs his kids before he risks his life? That one was messed up.

    "Hey kids, one last hug? That flipped SUV may decapitate your old man."

    And then he turns to the camera like we are the sick bastards underappreciating his dumb ass risk taking. Bastard, you're in a union. You already got payed, shut the hell up.
  • Re:Valenti's point (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dowobeha ( 581813 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:48PM (#8999173)
    Stop trying to drive this're going to lose and cry yourself dry wondering why the world doesn't work the way you want it to.

    Ah, but the writers of the U.S. Constitution beg to differ....

    Copyright is granted by Congress. Congress has the authority to grant copyright from the Constitution. The Constitution makes clear that the purpose of copyright is to promote the arts and sciences.

    • Article 1, Clause 8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    Copyright statutes, as well as common law, have established that persons other than copyright holders do have rights to copyrighted material. Copyright is, after all, the exclusive right to copy a work.

    You, sir, are a troll. Copyright discussions are political by their very nature. The view that copyright owners have exclusive control over all uses of copyrighted content is absurd, and backed by neither the Constitution nor by copyright law. I have a right to use material that I legally obtain from a copyright holder. They have no more right to prevent or regulate my private use of that material than I have to make and distribute further copies of the copyrighted material.

  • Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hanna's Goblin Toys ( 635700 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:54PM (#8999256) Homepage Journal
    Owning, posessing, transmitting or thinking about those 6 lines of code is punishable by ten years in prison, by a law Jack wrote himself. He's saying "un-fucking-believable" because he realizes the kid he is talking to is a living circumvention device, and the only successful solution is to legalize killing such people.

    FYI, this is the man that wrote the law that Apple is using to persecute PlayFair to the cheers of everyone at Slashdot. So stop making fun of him.
  • Re:Well spoken. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by t1nman33 ( 248342 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @02:59PM (#8999347) Homepage
    Exactly the problem. The MPAA is treating it like a license, and everybody else sees it as physical property. In fact, as a poster above said, that's how it's marketed..."Own [dvd] today!" not "License [dvd] today!"

    The problem is in reconciling these two worldviews. At present, the MPAA is treating the DVD as a license to view content when it comes to copyright protection, but they are treating the DVD as a physical item when it comes to replacement or exchange. You can't have it both ways.
  • Re:Well spoken. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by resinman ( 199081 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:06PM (#8999431) Homepage
    red_floyd makes an exceptionally good point...

    Somehow I think "[INSERT MOVIE NAME HERE]: License it today!!!" wouldn't sell so well...

    The MPAA cannot have it both ways. Are they selling movies or licensing them?

    • SALE [], contracts. An agreement by which one of the contracting parties, called the seller, gives a thing and passes the title to it, in exchange for a certain price in current money, to the other party, who is called the buyer or purchaser, who, on his part, agrees to pay such price. Pard. Dr. Com. n. 6; Noy's Max. ch. 42; Shep. Touch. 244; 2 Kent, Com. 363; Poth. Vente, n. 1; 1 Duverg. Dr. Civ. Fr. n. 7.

      LICENSE [], contracts. A right given by some competent authority to do an act, which without such authority would be illegal. The instrument or writing which secures this right, is also called a license. Vide Ayl. Parerg, 353; 15 Vin. Ab. 92; Ang. Wat. Co. 61, 85.

    I certainly did not intend to license my copy of "Lord of The Rings - Fellowship of The Ring". I intended to purchase it and in so doing, should be able to throw it into my fireplace and burn it if I wish. If I do have that right, then why wouldn't I have the right to play it on whatever device I want, anytime I want?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:12PM (#8999506)
    You are clearly mischaracterizing both Mr. Valenti and his interviewer. That, or you read a different article.

    The interviewer gave three clear counter-examples to the current policies and practices which Valenti supports, examples that Valenti responded to by saying "too few people to matter", "I didn't know we don't serve that market: I thought we did", and "I didn't know you could break the encryption that easily".

    This exposed, clearly, the beliefs, policies and in some ways perhaps helped cure the ignorance of one of Hollywood's most successful lobbyists. That was frankly a fabulous interview: The Tech has a reputation for doing this, and it's part of why they've wound up banned from White House press meetings at various times.
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:16PM (#8999565)
    In the beginning of motion picture history, a single person, Thomas Edison, owned the patents for producing a motion picture. Nevertheless, many filmmakers produced their own pictures, often clandestinely. Meanwhile, Edison sent out, essentially, thugs to do harm to anyone who made a motion picture.

    I don't know all the details, but clearly in the end the filmmakers won the right to produce their movies. They have always portrayed Edison's defence of his patents in a negative light.

    Now the roles are flipped. The motion picture industry has taken the part of Edison, attempting to pick and choose who can watch their movies, and by what method; sending out thugs (lawyers) to beat up on anyone violating their rules.

    I know it's not a perfect analogy, but it does seem pretty ironic.

  • by swerk ( 675797 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:35PM (#8999822) Journal
    ...and the answers were still indicitive of a dangerous attitude. "You're one of very few, so you can't complain" ...That's ridiculous!

    This guy has won over the minds of Congress to shape this society into one where the most intelligent and potential-filled sliver of the population are made criminals if they pursue certain (harmless, theft-less, victimless!) technical things that interest them.

    Certainly different or more general questions could have been asked in the short time the interview had. And you're right, there's no reason for this old guy to be an expert in this stuff, but that's kind of the point. Those influencing these liberty-squashing rights into legislation don't actually understand the far-reaching consequences of their actions. Had he been asked about business and licensing details and the effects these provisions and laws have on big companies' bottom lines, sure he would have been able to speak more intelligently.

    He himself said that if his ideas have no bottom they don't deserve to be heard. Their bottom is the ever-thickening lining of pockets, the pockets of big media, the pockets of corporate-funded politicians. That might be the harsh reality of what makes the world go 'round in this day and age, but that doesn't make it right.
  • by Ageless ( 10680 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:54PM (#9000065) Homepage
    I think it's wonderful that the interviewer chose to take Valenti onto unfamiliar ground, to show the Jackass how much he truly doesn't know about his job.

    It's not Jack Valenti's job to make sure there are legal DVD players for Linux. It's his job to make sure that there are NOT illegal DVD players for Linux. His point is perfectly valid. It's possible today for someone to license the technology needed to make a legal DVD player for Linux, but everyone in the position to do so knows that the Linux users will just use the illegal players for free rather than pay for the legal ones.

    Linux users do not have a God or country given right to watch American Wedding on their Linux box. Just like when DVDs started to get popular people had to replace their VCRs with DVD players, Linux users need to give up their technology that doesn't work correctly and use that which does.

    P.S. I define "correctly" in this context as what is legal. So settle down cowboy.
  • by zarr ( 724629 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @03:57PM (#9000098)
    I totally agree.

    Of cource, the "I-wanna-play-my-DVD-in-Linux!!!" argument is important. What is much more worrying is the logical inconsistency of it all, and that a lot of people seem unable to see how little sense a law like the DMCA makes.

    Consider this:

    It is, and has been for many years (at least technically) trivial to make copies of movies. It's illegal to distribute those copies whitout premission, but lots of people are doing it anyway. What is the best way to fix this situation? To outlaw something else that is equally trivial and equally common (decoding css), or to actually start enforcing the laws you already have?

    The DMCA is obviusly an implementation of the first solution, which also introduces effects that can be nothing but damaging to the American society. I'm sure everyone reading this post are perfectly aware of what these effects are already...

    Another thing to consider is that if the wast majority of the population are breaking, or wouldn't think twice about breaking, some law, then there is probably something wrong with that law. This hints at a third solution to the situation outlined above. :)

  • Re:My situation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:01PM (#9000149)

    "I'm assuming that the school purchased a license or has some sort of comprehensive license to put on plays based on copywritten material."

    There are compulsory licensing systems in the US for music (which allows, say, bars the right to have a jukebox or host bands that play cover tunes) but there is no equivalent that I know of for dramatic works.

    Typically, to do a public performance of a play, one must get permission from the publisher. Samuel French [] is one of the biggies. You a fee based on whether you're a community theatre, a school, a professional theatre, and so on.

    Your kid's school was likely required to get permission from the publisher -- if they adapted the play from the book themselves, then from the book publisher; if there's already an adaptation, then from the publisher of the script.

    "So the question is: Can I videotape my son's perfomance?"

    Ultimately up to the publisher to decide. In the professional theatres it's strictly not allowed. When I directed a Neil Simon play at a community theatre the rule was that I was allowed to videotape it and give copies to the cast members, but I was not allowed to sell it.

    "I asked my Senator (Patrick Leahy) this, since he's a big DMCA booster (but is good in most other ways)."

    You've actually shone light on a fundamental misunderstanding that lots of Slashdotters have: this isn't up to Senator Leahy or even copyright law to tell you, but the copyright holder. You see, when you own the copyright on something, you typically have the right to say how people use it. If you write a book, you can freely authorize people to perform it publicly. You can authorize it to be performed only for groups up of up to fifty people, or only more than 50,000 people. You can require that it be performed only in that African language with the clicking sound, or only if the readers stand on their heads -- whatever you like. Copyright law generally doesn't go into this detail -- they keep it simple by generally letting the rightsholder choose how others may use their copyrighted work.

  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:02PM (#9000155)
    I think it's even a little more clear than the parent post states since this is a rights issue. The United States is a democratic republic whose objective is to rule by the majority while protecting the rights of minorities. Political Science 101.

    I'll have to disagree. The United States is a representative republic whose function is to represent vocal majorities, rich minorities and sympathetic, guilt-inspiring minorities, while completely ignoring non-vocal and non-rich minorities and even majorities. Poltical Science 102.

  • by Reorax ( 629666 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:16PM (#9000289)
    No, there's quite a difference between this and the American Disbailities Act. An engineer building his own HDTV isn't taking resources away from anyone else. When a school is forced to use taxpayer money for one person in a wheelchair, some people are actually lose out. No one does in this case. Everyone should be able to see that the broadcast flag is *much* worse than repealing the ADA.
  • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <> on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @04:56PM (#9000842) Homepage
    When Valenti's "anti-piracy" tour came by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (as part of Roger Ebert's Overlooked Movie Festival), I too spoke out against Valenti. I was the first person at the mic and after I spoke a number of people came up to me on their own to tell me that what I said was interesting, and that they were glad I spoke out. I don't remember everything I said, but I did touch on the shortcomings of the copyright term extension for preserving commercially unsuccessful works and how the market doesn't seem to be interested in doing this when it costs so much to obtain permission from the copyright holder. I also told Roger Ebert that I hoped he would have a response to Valenti's talk; Lawrence Lessig would make a fine choice. Only one person in the aisle told me he thought I was wrong but unfortunately he didn't elaborate past that, so I don't know what exactly struck him as incorrect (or even if he knows any of the history of what Valenti repeatedly referred to as "piracy").

    I had heard Valenti's talk before, so after a while (during the last two questioners) I stepped outside to the hallway. As people left the talk they approached me and asked me questions about the discussion, so I further explained my position on the matter and they told me they appreciated my response. It was one of the most productive set of conversations I had had that week. I made it clear that Valenti was either outright lying (like when he said the EFF wants to destroy copyright but failed to tell the crowd that the EFF has made a copyright license which they encourage others use) or only telling half the story (he talks a lot about "piracy" but he never mentions that William Fox who founded what became 20th Century Fox fled west with illegally obtained and operated equipment--a kind of "piracy" by Valenti's use of the term--thus helping to start the industry that Valenti now lobbies for).

    One of the questioners at UIUC also took Valenti to task about fair use, and part of Valenti's lacking response included a dismissal of the public domain (saying that it had no value for him, his clients, or the public). If I could have had another turn at the mic I would have reminded him that one of his organization's most lucrative members, Disney, made a lot of money by building on what's in the public domain and their one-sided support of the public domain makes them appear hypocritical because Disney doesn't want to allow others to build on its work the way it built on the works of so many others. Another questioner asked about a previous Ebertfest moviemaker who had to "pirate" a copy of his own movie in order to get it distributed for home video (DVD, these days) because the studio was unwilling to do this. He took the reels his movie was on after it was shown last year.

    The local corporate-friendly newspaper, the News-Gazette, ran a front-page article with a large close-up of Valenti's face. They didn't give any reasonable indication that they understood what many in the crowd were talking about when they raised a number of objections to Valenti. Also, I don't think they ran my letter to the editor which briefly gave the history on which Valenti didn't give the full story.
  • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:03PM (#9000922) Homepage
    1. Yes, it sucks that to play DVDs, you have to buy a license.

    If it's only a licence, I've got that. I actually have a few spares. Every DVD drive I've bought was bundled with Windows DVD playing software. A few system boards too.

    I'd like to see this legal proceeding;

    1. Judge: So, why didn't you use a licenced player?
    2. Defendant: I had one, but it didn't run under Linux.

      Judge: But you could have used that player.

      Defendant: It would be unreasonable your honor.

      Judge: Is that a fact?

      Defendant: Using the same machine, I would have to purchase an operating system from a third party ... install it ... and use the software for DVD playing, right?

      Judge: Continue.

      Defendant: The licence has been paid once, why burden myself and others to go out of our way to pay it yet a second time or to go through special steps that bear an additional cost. The proscution has already recieved payment. Forcing the use of a third party product would benifit no one represented in this case. The prosecution is not under any obligation to provide software. They in fact don't provide any software at all, only the licence. They are obligated to live up to the already paid for licence, though. Does the The prosecution does not refute that the licence has been paid for in full already.

      Judge: Isn't the licence tied to the software, and the software does not run under Linux?

      Defendant: The software was sold as a bundle with my DVD drive. As such, it is already tied to the same hardware -- if Linux is running or some other operating system. That said, if it were purchased without hardware, it would still be one licence paid for the device in question.

      Judge: It actually is not, because you aren't using the licenced software under Linux.

      Defendant: If two different licenced software players for two different DVD drives were used as the manufacturer recommends...but the two players were switched on each machine...would there be a violation? They are not using the right operating system or hardware, Linux or not, yet the licence has been paid in both cases.

      Judge: Yet, you can't use Linux and this licenced software.

      Defendant: True, your honor, and for that we do not ask for a remedy from the prosecution. It is a technical issue; the licence has been undisputedly paid. It was tied to the hardware, so any method to make use of the paid for licence would be reasonable and have no impact on both the licensee and the licensor.

      Judge: Hmmm....

  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by forand ( 530402 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:23PM (#9001185) Homepage
    FYI, this is the man that wrote the law that Apple is using to persecute PlayFair to the cheers of everyone at Slashdot. So stop making fun of him.
    Why should this mean that he isn't still a "Bad" person? I mean if I go and feed people at a soup kitchen does that mean I can then go beat up kids for thier lunch money? The idea that just because he wrote a law that some people like doesn't mean he is beyond ridicule.
  • I disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @05:30PM (#9001270)
    I also spoke with Mr. Valenti while he was up in Cambridge a few weeks ago; My thoughts were sindicated into my most recent column for the Harvard Crimson (article at ).

    The sense I got in my discussion with him was twofold: First of all, he's not "categorically wrong" and he *is* interested in discourse, which is more than can be said about many other industry lobbyists. Some of his arguments weren't particularly compelling (for example, his claim that gaffers and coffee boys are going to suffer if the movie industry loses lots of money - I tend to think they're already making minimum wage, and any revaluation of the industry is going to come from the top). Still, he was interested in the legislative process and in discussion, and he was ready and willing to hear both what I and what Keith had to say (incidentally, I thought the MIT interview was quite good...)

    Second, while he didn't seem terribly aware of the facts surrounding the technical side of copyright law and the opinions of engineers and developers, I don't know that I feel that's necessarily "his fault." He's a lobbyist, not a congressman. It's his job to represent the MPAA and its constituent interests, and I think he wants to do that fairly and completely. That congress is unaware of "our side," if you'll permit such a term, suggests some problem in the way congress is gathering their information - or perhaps in the way we're trying to deliver it to them.

    It's neither fair to the music industry (or Mr. Valenti himself), nor constructive as a whole, to use the outgoing director of the MPAA as a scapegoat and deal upon him the burden of our disagreements, particularly because I think that while I don't think he's taking the correct stance on the issue, I do think he's trying to take a logically consistent one.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jhylkema ( 545853 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @06:05PM (#9001660)
    I actually would have modded you Insightful.

    Be that as it may, under the "Living Constitution" theory of constitutional interpretation, it's okay to make laws that violate the Constitution. "What? It says you can have guns? Well . . . times have changed." Good - amend the Constitution then! Until then, STFU.
  • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2004 @08:05PM (#9002819)
    A purchaser of a DVD should be able to do whatever they like with the DVD and it's content provided they don't break any copyright laws.
    No they shouldn't...
    You are talking about the law as it is. I am talking about the law as it was, and as it should be (thus "should" rather than "has a right to"). Explain to me what it is about DVDs and movies that makes them require stronger protection in the law than other copyrighted works.
    If you want decryption and sharing to both be legal, then you become just as bad as the MPAA because you want the laws to be determined by what is best for you financially.
    Note that I never said anything about sharing. I specifically talked about the rights users of copyrighted material have to use the material privately. Sharing was already illegal before the DMCA, which is exactly why the DMCA is a bad law: it creates a new group of criminals (people who break the encryption) in the attempt to stop sharing when sharing was already illegal. And don't even get me started on the provisions which have allowed the DMCA to be used by corporations to stifle free speach on the Net.
  • Here we go again... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chrisfnet ( 773477 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @12:07AM (#9004184) Homepage
    This is an issue, like a lot of things - where we seem to be going backwards. We're peddling backwards.

    The greed of major companies, and civil litigations have caused technology and communications to become relatively stagnant. It's nearly becoming a crime to invent and expand.

    I'm still pondering whether or not it's illegal to actually watch movies, or listen to music. I find myself quoting movies, replaying scenes in my mind... and whistling songs I've heard previously in the day. Is that wrong? Am I violating any kind of copyright law by closing my eyes, and visualizing a scene of a movie? Sure seems like I would be...

    We're being systematically stripped of all our rights as citizens and consumers. A product you purchase, is really no longer your product. You're just using it. As the rate of artificial inflation grows (the inflation growth also applies to movies, music, other), it makes the luxury portion of budgets much smaller. As the prices of these items go up (big surprise), and the ability to buy them goes down.. what's going to happen? It's definitely not right to steal, but it's an interesting situation.

    I'm just waiting for the day when you have to register your DVD on your DVD player.. and they use a DRM-like system to track it.

    "I'm sorry, you've already watched this movie today."

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger