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Operation Enduring Valenti

The battle for all your electronic gear

The United States is engaged in a war against oppressive regimes run by ignorant fanatics barely able to comprehend the intricacies of modern society. Through actions favoring the ruling class, secret midnight deals, and restricting public distribution of information, citizens in these societies are unable to evolve and live as productive members of the international community. In Afghanistan, this was evidenced by the philosophy and practices of the now-defunct Taliban. Unfortunately, this damn-the-consequences Fundamentalist mindset has spread to America in the entertainment industry's war on progress and human evolution.

In this case, the folks in question are led by Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) who serves as the duly-appointed Congressional mouthpiece (and wholly-owned subsidiary) of the entertainment industry cartels, having received nearly $300,000 in campaign funding from Hollywood since 1997. Known in some circles as the 'Senator From Disney,' Hollings also bears a striking resemblance to a younger Jack Valenti. (Valenti, for those unaware, is CEO of the movie industry's lobby group and the founder of the 'Church of Valenti' - a cash-rich for-profit religious cartel that opposes any paradigm- or time-shifting technologies.)

Brainwashed by the Gospel of Valenti, the goal of Hollings and his Senate supporters is simple. Under the guise of 'preserving America's intellectual capital' and supported by the funding of the entertainment industry cartels, they seek to sustain the entertainment industry's Industrial Age business model (and monopolies) in the modern Information Age - where such models are rendered obsolete by emerging technology. By doing so, these elected puppets of Hollywood will continue earning campaign contributions and ensure their job security.

Perhaps we should call this group of Emmy-Award winners the "American Techniban" movement, given their fanatical, Fundamentalist views on technology, evolution, and society.

According to Hollings, the lack of 'ubiquitous protections' has led to a 'lack of [high-quality] digital content on the Internet - apparently he doesn't believe that consumers are interested in any 'high-quality digital content' outside of what is produced by the major entertainment industries. Forget the garage band in Miami or the two teenagers producing an hour-long movie describing adolescent depression shot with Dad's camcorder during Spring Break, or WashingtonPost.Com. Hollings' interpretation of the Gospel of Valenti is that if a digital content didn't come from an entity supporting the entertainment industry cartels it must not be a worthwhile product. Unfortunately, many folks are of the belief that since we don't require such 'security' measures for handguns (something that can kill people) so why have such measures on electronic media which educates and entertains them?

Last week, despite significant protest from the Internet populations and on-the-record promises to delay any formal Senate action on the matter, Hollings introduced the controversial and draconian legislative proposal entitled the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). This proposal is essentially a renamed version of Hollings' original Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA) from early 2001 (bill summary and full text). It should also be noted that with the exception of one executive from Intel, every person invited to testify on the proposed CBDTPA was from the entertainment industry....there were no artists, musicians, producers, or consumers invited. So much for this being a 'consumer-friendly' bill.

Conspiracy theorists argue that the 'short name' for the bill was done to confuse the public and other legislators...after all, it's difficult to argue against something neither you nor your audience can pronounce. Political analysts believe Hollings' introduction of CBDTPA was done in a grumpy response to his counterparts in the US House recently passing the Tauzin-Dingel bill on telecommunications industry reform, several portions of which Hollings vehemently disagrees with.

Simply put, CBDTPA outlaws the sale or distribution of nearly any electronic device and computer operating system unless it includes government-mandated copy-prevention restrictions. Think of it as the federal government mandating how, where, when, and for how long you can own or read a book at the time you purchase it at Barnes and Noble or check it out of your local library.

This is the latest episode in a two decade-old argument made by the entertainment industry. From the early days of the VCR, to cassette tape recorders, floppy disks, computers, and now the Internet, the Hollywood moguls continually belief that emerging technology spells doom for their profits and ability to deliver 'quality content' to the American public. According to some reports, in 2001, videocassette rental and sales totaled about $11 billion and exceeded box office receipts by over $2 billion. Ironically, the VCR is the same device once referred to by Jack Valenti as the 'Boston Strangler' that would decimate the film industry. Funny that both he and the American film industry are still around and profiting beyond the Dreams of Avarice.

Under the unpronounceable CBDTPA, anything that can record or store digital information must be equipped with copy-prevention technology. Thus, under CBDTPA, nearly all existing electronic devices such as personal computers, mainframes, camcorders, servers, MP3 players, home stereos, VCRs, car stereos, pocket calculators, wristwatches, cellular phones, microwave ovens, CB radios, cameras, electronic thermostats, CD recorders, photocopiers, fax machines, televisions, and rectal thermometers - would become illegal.

Got a computerized pacemaker? Better have it switched out for one that's consecrated by the Church of Valenti and pray your HMO will cover the costs as non-elective surgery (or at least a religious donation).

One can only drool at the prospects of dealing with the black market in such uncontrolled technologies...if it's a question of looking out for terrorists and drug dealers or smugglers of unrestricted blank hard drives and MP3 players, where do you think US Customs will focus its efforts? Will blank hard disks become a prohibited-yet-desired import item like Cuban cigars?

The most striking aspect of CBDTPA and its cousin, the still-controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) is that both automatically outlaw what might be done by someone, and not what actually is done. Both initiatives presume the citizen guilty until proven guiltier, not in the eyes of the court, but by the pre-emptive whims and desires of corporations seeking to maintain control over consumers and their crumbling Industrial Age business models. In essence, they pre-emptively criminalize what MIGHT happen, as opposed to what DOES happen (e.g., knowing how to kill someone is not by itself illegal; but committing murder is, and being proven to have done so carries harsh penalties).

Such a concept is not hard to believe. Reportedly, Microsoft is working with Intel and AMD to create a new feature for future processors that will work with Microsoft operating systems to enforce corporate copyright interests, something partially-completed in Windows XP's Media Player. Should this be completed, Microsoft would be in a position of considerable power - more than today - over the majority of electronic content processed by electronic devices and computers. It should be noted that Microsoft already holds a patent on a computer operating system that incorporates the copy-prevention technologies that the entertainment industry so desparately wants to inflict on Information Age citizen-consumers. Securing their software? Looks like the only thing Microsoft wants to secure are its corporate profits by aligning with Hollywood.

According to some reports, America's domestic spending on computing technology is over $600 billion a year, while Hollywood generates a measly $35 billion to the national economy. CBDTPA would effectively compell a huge, dynamic industry - composed of large and small companies, individuals, and academic researchers - to redefine itself simply to preserve the obsolete business models of the American entertainment industry.

Unfortunately for Americans and the people of the world embracing the digital environment for any and all lawful purposes, the goals of Hollings and his supporters - brainwashed by the Church of Valenti - run contrary to everything the Internet stands for. CBDTPA and the Church of Valenti represent a fundamental threat to the future of modern information society; their goals are to effect electronic martial law on all information resources and implement draconian measures on today's information society for no other reason than to satisfy the profiteering desires of the entertainment moguls desperately trying to keep their crumbling Industrial Age business models from evolving into the Information Age.

It's high time that the entertainment companies learn that if they treat their customers as criminals, they'll not only have fewer customers, but many more criminals to contend with. How's that for economic growth?

© 2002, all rights reserved.

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National Security and Digital Freedoms: How DMCA Threatens Both
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