Hollings, Valenti, and the American Techniban (Operation ENDURING VALENTI)

Discussion of the latest (and controversial) piece of entertainment-industry legislation designed to screw the law-abiding citizens of the Net.

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 fanaticism has spread to
the United States and evidenced by the rise of the American Techniban.

The American Techniban are led by Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings
(D-SC) who serves as the duly-appointed Congressional mouthpiece and elected
puppet 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 America’s
Techniban movement.) Brainwashed by the Gospel of Valenti, the American
Techniban’s goal 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.

According to Techniban Leader Senator 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 a Techniban-compliant
one and pray your HMO will cover the costs as non-elective surgery.

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 hard drives and
MP3 players, where do you think US Customs will focus its efforts? Will
blank hard disks become a prohibited import item like Cuban cigars?

The most striking aspect of CBDTPA (and its cousin, the still-controversial
Digital
Millennium Copyright Act
of 1998) 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 belief. 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 – comprised
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 the American
Techniban – brainwashed by the Gospel of Valenti – run contrary to everything
the Internet stands for. CBDTPA and the American Techniban 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 save their crumbling Industrial Age business models.

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?


Further Reading:

 

 

Forno – National
Security and Digital Freedoms: How DMCA Threatens Both
(#2001-05 from
July 2001)

Anti-DMCA.Org

EFF: Congress
Calls For Public Participation on Digital Music Issues

MPAA
2001 US Economic Review
(Adobe PDF)
showing upward trends for revenue across the board

DigitalConsumer.Org Online Petition – Stop
CBDTPA

Author: Richard Forno

News Service: infowarrior.org

URL: http://www.infowarrior.org/articles/2002-03.html