Jack Valenti R.I.P.

April 27, 2007 at 7:00 am | Posted in digital rights, linux | 9 Comments

Jack Valenti . MPAA ( 3 ) Wikipedia. Linux MIT he Tech . Linux.

TT: Okay, lets 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 didnt 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 dont 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 dont 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. Theres no product I can buy thats 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, youre not a bad person. But you dont have any right.

TT: But I rented the movie. Why should it be illegal?

JV: Well then, you have to get a machine thats licensed to show it.

TT: Heres one of these machines; its just not licensed.

[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]

TT: If you type that in, itll let you watch movies.

JV: You designed this?

TT: Yes.

JV: Un-fucking-believable.

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

JV: No, thats not bad.

TT: Then why should it be illegal?

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

JV: Theres lots of machines you can play it on.

TT: None under Linux. Theres no licensed player under Linux.

JV: But youre 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. Theyre still not available — its been four years.

JV: Well why arent they available? I dont know, because I dont make Linux machines.

Let me put it in my simple terms. If you take something that doesnt belong to you, thats wrong. Number two, if you design your own machine, you cant fuss at people, because youre one of just a few. How many Linux users are there?

TT: About two million.

JV: Well, I cant believe theres not any — there must be a reason for… Let me find out about that. You bring up an interesting question — I dont know the answer to that… Well, youre telling me a lot of things I dont know.

TT: Okay. Well, how can we have this dialogue?

JV: Well, were having it right now. I want to try to find out the point you make on why are there no Linux licensed players. There must be a reason — there has to be a reason. I dont know.

[Rich Taylor, a spokesman for the MPAA, later pointed to one company, Intervideo, that has a license to sell GNU/Linux DVD software, although the company does not actually sell a product that Linux users can purchase. Linux users who want to watch DVDs should “perhaps buy a DVD player instead,” Taylor said, or “write to Intervideo and others, encourage them that theyre the market,” he said. Will Linux users ever be able to view DVDs on their computers without breaking the law? “Im sure that day is not far away,” Taylor said.

A spokesman for Intervideo, Andy Marken, said the companys product is only for embedded systems and that Intervideo has no plans to release a software player for end users.]



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