Over at Engadget, JD Lasica interviews outgoing MPAA head Jack Valenti. In the interview, Valenti repeats several of his classic arguments.
For example, here’s Valenti, in this week’s interview, on fair use:
Now, fair use is not in the law.
We heard this before, in Derek Slater’s 2003 interview with Valenti:
What is fair use? Fair use is not a law. There’s nothing in law.
(Somebody should send him a copy of 17 U.S.C. 107.)
Here’s Valenti, this week, on the subject of backups:
Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever.
Here he is in the 2003 interview:
[A DVD] lasts forever. It never wears out. In the digital world, we don’t need back-ups, because a digital copy never wears out. It is timeless.
(Backing up digital data is, of course, a necessary ritual of modern life. Who hasn’t lost digital data at some point?)
Interestingly, in the recent interview, unlike the 2003 one, Valenti shows a blind faith in DRM technology:
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. In time, we’ll be able to do this, because I have great faith in the technological genius that’s out there.
We’re trying to put in place technological magic that can combat the technological magic that allows thievery. I hope that within a year the finest brains in the IT community will come up with this stuff. A lot of people are working on it—IBM, Microsoft and maybe 10 other companies, plus the universities of Caltech and MIT, to try to find the kind of security clothing that we need to put around our movies.
It may be possible to so infect a movie with some kind of circuitry that allows people to copy to their heart’s content, but the copied result would come out with decayed fidelity with respect to sound and color. Another would be to have some kind of design in a movie that would say, ‘copy never,’ ‘copy once.’
Even ignoring the technical non sequiturs (“stuff … algorithms into a movie”; “infect a movie with … circuitry”), this is wildly implausible. Nothing has happened to make the technical prospects for DRM (anti-copying) technology any less bleak.
We can only hope Valenti’s successor stops believing in “technological magic” and instead teaches the industry to accept technical reality. File sharing cannot be wished away. The industry needs to figure out how to deal with it.