Entertainment industry lapdog Senator Fritz Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) lashed out at Intel executive VP Leslie Vadasz who warned that the copy-protected PCs Hollings is obediantly promoting on behalf of his MPAA and RIAA handlers would stifle growth in the marketplace.
"We do not need to neuter the personal computer to be nothing more than a videocassette recorder," Vadasz said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Thursday.
An obedient Hollings tore into the witness, calling his testimony "nonsense".
"Now where do you get all this nonsense about how we're going to have irreparable damage?" Hollings demanded. "We don't want to legislate. We want to give you time to develop technology."
The "we" he mentions, it's quite obvious, refers to the entertainment industry flacks and lobbyists who wrote Hollings' pet bill, the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), which would require hard drives to fail to load 'insecure' applications, and perhaps even operating systems at some point in future. Tinkering with one's own personal property to defeat this Orwellian innovation would be criminally punishable.
This is of course the entertainment industry's dream, as it seeks to hobble all equipment so that it can determine when, where and how its content can be enjoyed by consumers. Copying any content from one medium to another could be blocked on the pretext of piracy prevention, so it's entirely possible that one would have to purchase two CDs with the same content -- one for the computer and one for the stereo, say. It's this sort of extortion the industry has relentlessly lobbied Congress to enshrine in law.
Defeating piracy is the pretext; but obliterating the consumer's right to fair use is the true goal. But because Congress can't quite bring itself to eliminate fair use directly and up-front, a series of laws like the DMCA and SSSCA have been devised to eliminate it practically, or 'incidentally'.
Naturally, the hardware industry is going to resist any law which forces it to break its products. It understands that consumers will be disappointed by equipment which fails to let them enjoy content which they've purchased. They see a slump in sales in the SSSCA. And they're probably right.
The hearing was a typical Congressional dog-and-pony show designed to stroke Hollywood fat cats like Michael Eisner and Jack Valenti pursuing the Holy Grail of pay-per-use technology. No critics were invited to speak, and no harsh criticism was expected.
So when Intel's Vadasz showed the spine to blast the entertainment industry's pet scheme, he had to be beaten down, and Hollings was of course eager to please his masters.
Eisner and Valenti also testified, exhibiting their profound ignorance of technology and their sneering contempt for the rights of consumers, under Hollings' admiring gaze. Hollings, apparently, is an 'honest politician' according to Brendan Behan's formula: when he's bought, he stays bought.
Hollings has also adopted the industry's basic stance, that copying is primarily about piracy and only rarely about honest fair use, at one point calling the Internet "a haven for thievery." But the best expression of this comes from Recording Industry Ass. of America President Hillary Rosen, who wrote yesterday that, "surely, no one can expect copyright owners to ignore what is happening in the marketplace and fail to protect their creative works because some people engage in copying just for their personal use."
The 'some people' says it all. Most people are criminals, and only a tiny minority are honest and decent, Rosen assumes. This is also the official perspective of Hollywood -- of Eisner, and Valenti, and Hollings. It is a perspective natural to a certain class of person. Consider that we all imagine others to be more or less like ourselves. Decent people expect others to be decent, just like themselves. Criminals expect others to be criminals, just like themselves. When Eisner and Rosen and Valenti and Hollings see a world populated by cheats and frauds and freeloading scum, what does that say about them? ®