Feeds

MPAA's Valenti testifies in 2600 suit, claims to know nothing

No wonder they put him in charge

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Chairman Jack Valenti gave a deposition on Tuesday for the US District Court, in the MPAA lawsuit pending against 2600.com over linking to sites where the DeCSS utility, which cracks DVD encryption, can be found.

We were immediately impressed with Valenti's near-heroic ignorance of the issues surrounding the suit as 2600 lawyer Martin Garbus questioned him.

A crucial issue for Garbus was the inconsistency in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which makes it a crime to skirt access controls while at the same time purporting to preserve the Fair Use exception. When access controls are used to protect copyrights, as they are in DVD's, the result is a contradiction with Fair Use, which Valenti insists he cannot grasp.

"Did you testify before Congress that the Fair Use Exception was not cut out by the DMCA," Garbus asked.

"Yes," Valenti assured him. "The concept of Fair Use is intact in the DMCA."

"Tell me how that is," Garbus urged him.

"Well, I don't know except that the concept is intact."

An apparently incredulous Garbus pressed the matter: "Do you agree that a person teaching in a classroom can take three, four, five minutes of a DVD and play it to his class?"

"If you mean can he de-encrypt it the answer is no, but he can get a DVD and fast forward to the three or five minutes he wants to play," Valenti noted.

"So if a librarian, for example, wants to [snip] two to three minutes [from a DVD] for a lecture, is she required to get a license from the DVD CCA or the MPAA to use those two or three minutes?"

"I can't answer the question," Valenti said.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know what the answer is."

"Do you understand the question?"

"Huh?"

"Do you understand the question?"

"Not really."

A pretty good snow-job, we must admit, and pleasantly reminiscent of deposition grandmaster Bill Clinton's touching uncertainty over "what the meaning of 'is' is." Of course Valenti knew precisely what Garbus was playing at, trying to get him to admit that an access control effectively makes it a crime to exercise Fair Use, if Fair Use means whacking out a snippet from a DVD. One would, of course, have to decrypt it to do so.

"If you circumvent or de-encrypt to make Fair Use, is that MPA policy as being against the law," Garbus asked, still trying to trap him.

"I can't draw a legal conclusion," Valenti replied.

And there Garbus had got him. Valenti has drawn legal conclusions on that question: "Did you testify before Congress on the scope of Fair Use?"

"I may have; I don't recall," Valenti said. And so it went, for what seemed several hundred paragraphs.

Turning his attention briefly to MPAA claims that DeCSS causes real economic damage to the film industry, Garbus produced a document bearing Valenti's signature. "[In it] you say, 'Piracy is a $2 billion a year worldwide problem and growing.'"

"Uh-huh."

"Can you tell me if you have any information about whether one nickel of that piracy loss relates to DeCSS," Garbus inquired.

"I don't know," Valenti repeated again.

Valenti's full deposition, minus a few redacted secrets, is available on the 2600 Web site. It's a most entertaining read, at least for those who enjoy legal manoeuvring for its own sake, and can appreciate the delightfully lyrical effect achieved by a mesmerising repetition of the phrase, "I don't know." ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.