August 2, 2004  ·  Tim Wu

Jack Valenti says goodbye in the LA Times today, rating his career “AE–always exciting.” A few better and less-well known Valentisms from the King-Kong of lobbyists:

On the nascent cable industry, in 1974
“[Cable will become] a huge parasite in the marketplace, feeding and fattening itself off of local television stations and copyright owners of copyrighted material. We do not like it because we think it wrong and unfair.”

On the dangers on media concentration, 1984 Op-Ed
“Will a democratic society allow just three corporate entities to wield unprecedented dominion over television, the most decisive voice in the land? There are now only three national networks …. There will never be more than three national networks.”

On the public domain, 1995
“A public domain work is an orphan. No one is responsible for its life. But everyone exploits its use, until that time certain when it becomes soiled and haggard, barren of its previous virtues. How does the consumer benefit from the steady decline of a film’s quality?”

On the meaning of Copyright, 1983
“[We face a threat to] the life-sustaining protection, I guess you would call it, on which copyright owners depend, on which film people depend, on which television people depend and it is called copyright.”

On Foreign Policy, 1984
“We hit Jamaica over the head with a two-by-four.” [After successful efforts to restrict U.S. foreign aid unless Jamaican studios began paying royalties].

On the VCR, 1983
“We are facing a very new and a very troubling assault … and we are facing it from a thing called the video cassette recorder and its necessary companion called the blank tape.
We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry … whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine [the VCR].”
“[Some say] that the VCR is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had. I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.”

On the meaning of value, 1983
“Nothing of value is free. It is very easy … to convince people that it is in their best interest to give away somebody else’s property for nothing, but even the most guileless among us know that this is a cave of illusion where commonsense is lured and then quietly strangled.”

On the Internet versus Intellectual Property, 1996
“[If Congress fails to act,] the information superhighway … will collapse the great wonder of intellectual property. The country will be the loser. Big time.”

On potential copyright immunities for ISPs, 1996
“This is a loophole larger than a parade of eight-wheelers through which a dam-busting avalanche of violations can rupture the purpose of your bill every day.”

On lobbying
“I like to pour all the blood, muscle and sinew I can into a fight… downplay your own self-interest and make a senator look like a hero for voting with you.”

And the Valenti slogan
“If you cannot protect what you own, you don�t own anything.”

  • twila

    filmmaker magazine has a nice (in my view) write up on valenti and the mpaa in this month’s issue – – on how they have wrought havoc on copyright law.

  • Matthew Rimmer

    Dear Tim Wu,
    One of the lasting legacies of Jack Valenti will of course be his push to internationalise the copyright term extension and digital copyright protections.

    The Australian Parliament today is on the verge of passing the United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement. A key feature of the Agreement is a copyright term extension – pushed by the Motion Picture Association of America.

    The Senate Select Committee has released its report on the free trade agreement:

    The Senate Committee has supported the agreement – albeit with reservations about some of the sections, including the IP chapter.

    The IP Chapter is here:

    The changes include:

    * a 20-year prospective extension to the copyright term
    * US style protection of technological protection measures and electronic management information
    * US style regime for the regulation of internet service providers
    * protection of temporary copies
    * economic and moral rights for performers in respect of sound recordings
    * greater civil and criminal remedies for copyright owners

    Matthew Rimmer

  • Dave Ethington

    And in the face of this onslaught of copyright extreme-ism, we try to make change based on moderation and balance. No wonder we’re losing this war. Personally, I think the only strategy left is revolution. Completely throw out copyright laws and thoroughly ignore them. Then let the content owners come back to the bargaining table to renegotiate.

  • Karl

    To me Jack Valenti will always be the guy who made no freakin sense what so ever. He is extremely inconsistent. If you read more of his comments on the VCR, he blasted it for having a recording feature, a fast forward feature, and a rewind feature. After all that, he slipped up and said he and his family use the VCR all the time, and wasn’t afraid that the MPAA could go after him. But everyone else shouldn’t be doing what Jack is doing.

  • Rico Suave

    Ah, whining – what liberals do best. I’m sure you’d be less vocal if your side won once in a while. It’s ok. I understand. I care. I bet it’s nice up there in the clouds.

  • Pobre Slobe

    Ah, stereotyping – what conservatives do best. I’m sure you’d be less vocal if your side employed rational argument once in a while. It’s okay. I understand. I think. I bet it’s nice down there with your blissful ignorance.

  • Tim Wu

    This is hardly a liberal / conservative matter: Valenti is a democrat, and was an aide to Lyndon Johnson. As he said of those days, “when you’ve sat at the feet of the Sun King, very few things impress you.”

    He also said in 1964: “I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently, because Lyndon Johnson is my president.”

    I admire Valenti’s knack for memorable phrases — but as for complaining, he certainly spent alot of his career complaining about dire threats to the film industry.

    Tim Wu

  • Dave Ethington

    Ah, whining – what liberals do best.

    I hope you didn’t just call me a liberal. For one, I’m not. For another, it just isn’t a partisan debate. That’s the problem. Practically everyone on both the right and the left seem to be completely and utterly in thrall to the entertainment industry. And here we are, World Citizens, acting like frogs in a pot of water. The changes were gradual enough that the water will start to boil and we’ll just sit there and let it happen.

    Me? I’m hopping out. You sit there and cook, Mr. Frog.

  • steve sherman

    It is more interesting to see how Jack Valenti’s replacement Dan Glickman views new technology. I know his focus will be to make it harder for me to get $1 DVDs when i’m visiting Shanghai. Glickman seems to have worked both sides of washingtion… Lets see if he thinks TIVO technology will be the downfall of mankind….

  • Alphtoo

    It’s a bit hard to really blame Valenti for becoming rich and famous preying upon the ignorance and greed of politicians. And it’s hard to fault the MPAA and the RIAA for buying laws they believe will further enrich themselves. Heck, if I had their money I’d buy a few legislators and judges myself. They can really come in handy when you need them.

  • Adam Felson

    20-20 hindsight is so wonderfull. Valenti sure made a lot of predictions and none have proved correct and some have been spectacularly wrong.

    The VCR hasn’t killed the movie industry.
    There’s more than 3 networks.