There is perhaps no major figure in the copy-protection dispute more hyperinflated with irrelevant gaseous Sophistry and bizarre intellectual pretensions than MPAA President Jack Valenti.
"The copyright industries....represent America's greatest economic asset. And, I might add, its premier export trade prize," Valenti trumpeted during hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
"We are creating new jobs at three times the rate of the remainder of the economy; we bring in more international revenue than agriculture and aircraft -- than the automobile industry and auto parts."
Which is another way of warning Congress that if it mucks about with this golden goose, it risks bringing the already shaky US economy to a standstill.
The industry is "an economic engine of growth that is the envy of the known world." Its "creative material is "joyously received" and "hospitably patronized on every continent," he crooned.
And this is why, unique among all American enterprises, the entertainment industry alone must be made exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act, must be allowed to control not only the means of production but the means of distribution as well -- must be permitted to operate as a monopoly.
And copyright, which Valenti likens to a national sacrament embodying America's very "core values", is the bedrock upon which this uniquely beneficial monopoly is founded.
Indeed, Valenti feels that there are already too many loopholes in the copyright laws for the Collective's own good. "If we need more protection, some of which will require Congressional legislation, we'll be back to ask for your help in protecting America's most precious creative prize."
And then, aping the language of the presidential oath of office, Valenti called upon Congress "to stand guard" and "to preserve, protect and defend copyrights."
We nearly vomited.
All Netizens are criminals
The principal reason why the movie industry has been unable to make its glorious works available via the Internet has nothing to do with the outrageous bandwidth requirements for downloads, or the immense footprint a digital movie leaves on a hard disk.
No sir, it's because the Net is populated exclusively by thieves, pirates, organized criminals and punk kids with no respect for decent standards of civil behavior, Valenti argued.
It's the Internet's very culture that's at fault here. Not only is it an irredeemably corrupt environment, it immediately and permanently corrupts any person who ventures onto it, in spite of any real-world decency they may have achieved in life.
"Otherwise rational people, who wouldn't dream of stealing a video cassette off the shelf of a Blockbuster store, blithely download movies casually, which seems to be for many an accepted normality of Internet behavior," Valenti declared.
And he backed it up with statistics, too. "Right now, consultants tell us that at least 350,000 movies are being illegally downloaded every day -- right now, with estimates of up to one million downloads illegally within the year."
He called on Congress to "make sure that copyright is not allowed to decay, for if that happens this nation will see the slow undoing of an enormous creative and economic asset, and we will be squandering part of our economic future."
"Who will invest the huge amounts of private capital in the production of films if this creative property cannot be protected from theft?" he asked rhetorically.
And then Valenti decided to dazzle the Committee with a little live demonstration of on-line film piracy.
"Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take 32 seconds, and I mean 32 seconds, to show you on this screen an actual takedown, an illegal takedown, that we did in our office of the picture that won the Academy Award for best picture while it was still playing in the theatres -- I want you to see this takedown."
As he rose excided from his chair, we thought perhaps he meant that downloading a movie could take 32 seconds, and desperately wished to see him perform this technological miracle. But the '32 seconds' bit was just more of his rhetorical gas repeated several times to suggest blithe ease, compounded with the repeated word 'takedown' which of course implies major international drug busts by the FBI.
After all that, he simply showed a little 32-second clip from Gladiator, with no mention of how long the download would, in real life, have taken.
It was another meaningless gesture to whip up fear and garner support for a new DMCA, which, as we imagine it, would probably make it a crime to possess a personal computer not licensed by the MPAA.
After failing conspicuously to impress the Committee with his 'takedown' demonstration, Valenti shrugged and got back in his seat. "I'm technologically illiterate," he said in closing.
Well, at least he wasn't lying about that. ®