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Jack Valenti: Wish He'd Been on Our Side

The news of Jack Valenti’s death reminds me of a column I wrote about him a few years ago. I wished, I said, that he’d been on our side in the copyright wars — that is, the side of those who wanted a fairer balance of interests. Valenti worked for the Hollywood cartel, however, and a balanced position was not in the cards.

But he was, plain and simple, a gentleman of the old school. He and I had some powerful disagreements, but he was always generous in his time and manner.

Once, after a pair of columns in which I first laid out — as faithfully as I could — what he’d told me in a long interview, followed by a piece in which I explained why I differed, he sent me a handwritten note of thanks. He wasn’t thanking me for my views, with which he took strong issue, but for fairly reflecting his.

He offered civility in an uncivil world. I will miss him.

3 Comments on “Jack Valenti: Wish He'd Been on Our Side”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Apr 28th, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Dan, I’m not sure he *could* have been on your side: he may have worked for Hollywood but I’m afraid he *believed* what he was saying (I think that’s why he was so good at it). I think the Berkman Center, for instance, was just as biased on copyright issues as the Hollywood cartel — just in the other direction (I think that’s a shame — no academic group should a priori advocate one way or the other; that’s NOT academia, that’s lobbying…) D.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Apr 30th, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I don’t consider it a shame that an academic-based organization should take a principled stand on a matter that has everything to do with the future of fair use — a concept that is at the heart of scholarship.

  3. #3 Delia
    on Apr 30th, 2007 at 6:23 pm


    The way I see it, the idea that in the long run “extreme fair use, “ala Lessig for instance, helps scholarship is shaky at best (it’s NOT a balanced academic position but something interested private parties, especially attorneys such as Lessig, are fee to advocate *outside* of academic settings…).

    But even if this wasn’t an issue, your argument seems to amount to claiming that whatever would help scholarship would be a “principled stand” for an “academic-based organization”… (the way I see it, there wouldn’t be anything “principled” about it — just self -serving…)

    I think that, on the contrary, a valid principled academic stand on the issue would mean doing a *neutral* evaluation of the situation and… arriving at… wherever that would lead! That’s why I don’t think you CAN have an “academic based” advocacy organization (such as the Berkman Center) — I believe it is a perversion of academia and a perversion of true scholarship… (Harvard should have told the Berkmans to take their money to Washington if they wanted to fund advocacy…)