Why the lack of mainstream media attention? TheSpoof.com has a good point, especially considering the difference between Valenti's enormous and persistent influence on the video-renting and cinema-going public versus the shallow and transient influence of Smith. Indeed sexy celebs behave like the fabled Hydra; cut off one big boobed blonde, and two others will rise up in her place.
The media should be all over this, but I can see why they aren't. The death of Jack Valenti is missing two ingredients critical to prime time gossip: 1) Public outrage. 2) Network profitability.
The public can't be outraged about this since, hey, the guy was gettin' on a bit and you can't blithely sell your soul to Satan and expect to live forever. The only thing outrageous about it is that it didn't happen in 1963. (If only Lee Harvey Oswald had valued cheap movie downloads more than the future of the free world.) Plus the public should be overjoyed about his death, it being a glimmer of hope in a media capitalist underworld. Which leads nicely to the second reason. The networks can't profit from this event because joy and hope don't get ratings. It could even be that without Valenti to grease the wheels of the DRM oligarchy, there is a slight chance that in the future less content will be locked into Big Media's pipeline, so it's potentially a downer for network sales.
The journo stalwarts will bollock on about Valenti's film ratings system, but most people browsing the web (myself included) will be too young to remember a time when such a system didn't exist. Instead we know Valenti only for his evil roles in more recent events. Originally he opposed the introduction of video tape recorders in the early 1980s in the mistaken belief that technology with such obvious piracy capabilities would surely be the death knell of the film and television industry. Heh. And prerecorded video sales soared, later accounting for nearly 40% of movie revenues.
In an almost identical situation 20 years later, he spearheaded the attack by the movie business on the historic fair-use rights of the public to transcribe movies they legally purchased, notably in the DeCSS case. Although of little consequence (yet) in Australia, he also supported the broadcast flag for digital television which had basically the same goal.
But the greatest evil he wrought was the DMCA - a desperate legal attempt to force people to pay money to an industry facing death by a thousand downloads. The steady increase in domestic Internet speed and availability ensured that music was offended by piracy first during the last days of the analog modem era in the mid 1990s, with DVD movie files emerging around 6 years later. The MPAA saw what happened to the RIAA and now by some accounts wants to be on the front foot with Internet downloads.
They bleat about piracy, but we know it's not the main reason for all the CSS/ACCS/HDCP DRM that's been descending onto consumers from a great height lately. It's all about maladaptivity, corporate profitability, and most of all about the movie studio dependency on their traditional retailers and distribution channels. As Standard & Poor's analysis tacitly admits, the goal of the MPAA now is to prevent the emergence of a free market in movies, such that the movie producers are able to continue to exercise as much control over movie retail prices as they've become accustomed to in the pre-Internet era. They are dinosaurs living in the shadow of the asteroid, and Valenti was their T-Rex.
Painting a picture of Valenti as the Dark Lord of the Sith is also not too difficult.
The warhead of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act was the new cluster of penalties that could be dropped on a content agnostic neutral service provider or carrier if they didn't become a cop for the studios and show enough diligence in architecting products for protecting movies or policing their customer's use of services. You and I know the fact that bits are bits and software is not a moral agent, but for the MPAA reality is not enough.
Existing copyright law adequately described what was in and what was out when things get copied. The entertainment industry wanted more technical protections, but for ulterior motives. The DMCA was unnecessary, disruptive for many reasons, completely failed in its objective, and Microsoft pointed out why it was never going to work anyway. (Of course the M$ solution was to buy a big slice of the HDCP pie, with equally dismal results.)
The DMCA began as a law only in the USA, but it soon spread around the world via the magic of free trade agreements. Yes, Aussies, there's a little bit of Jack in all of us now. Gimme a bucket. Kaaaarrk. Puh.
Throughout his long MPAA career, Valenti's campaigns consisted mostly of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, all tied together with faulty syllogisms. Valenti stood up and talked panicked nonsense to his government, paying lip service to the obvious superiority of the Internet as a movie distribution mechanism, whilst saying in adjacent breaths: "standards would allow for the protective garments of content encryption, watermarking and other necessities for guarding the life of movies. All this to the ultimate benefit of American consumers, 99.9 percent of whom are not hackers, who have moral standards which inhabit their daily conduct." The movie industry being held to ransom by 0.1% of the population? Clear as mud. The only two things the MPAA was in charge of was Jack and Shit, and Jack just left town.
He was acutely aware of the sourness of his own infamy, saying in a video message to the Creative Commons launch party "I hope, Larry, the fact that I'm supporting you on this doesn't ruin your reputation." He was all smiles about a scheme that licensed works he couldn't exploit for cash anyway, but history has shown he was never a champion for Free Culture and fair use when he had his chance. He had an industry to run.
The only sad aspect of Jack Valenti's death is that it is unlikely that the desperately backwards monopolistic DRM ideas that he engendered have died with him.
They live on.
This began as a Diary entry.
It now incorporates some suggestions by superdiva and b1t r0t.
One link contribution by nostalgiphile.