Jack Valenti

American political advisor and lobbyist who served as a Special Assistant to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson; also President of the MPAA (1921-2007)

Jack Joseph Valenti (5 September 192126 April 2007) was an influential American lobbyist and a long-time president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In a political struggle, never get personal — else the dagger digs too deep.


  • I sleep each night a little better, a little more confidently, because Lyndon Johnson is my president. For I know he lives and thinks and works to make sure that for all America and indeed, the growing body of the free world, the morning shall always come.
    • Address before the Advertising Federation of America convention, Boston, Massachusetts (28 June 1965); published in the Congressional Record (7 July 1965) Vol. 111, Appendix, p. A3583
  • I think politicians and movie actors and movie executives are similar in more ways than they’re different. There is an egocentric quality about both; there is a very sensitive awareness of the public attitude, because you live or die on public favor or disfavor. There is the desire for publicity and for acclaim, because, again, that’s part of your life... And in a strange and bizarre way, when movie actors come to Washington, they’re absolutely fascinated by the politicians. And when the politicians go to Hollywood, they’re absolutely fascinated by the movie stars. It’s a kind of reciprocity of affection by people who both recognize in a sense they’re in the same racket.
    • Interview on National Public Radio (13 December 1974)
  • I don’t know any other business that tells you not to go in and buy their product.
    • On the film rating system, as quoted in The New York Times (5 May 1985)
  • I don’t care if you call it AO for Adults Only, or Chopped Liver or Father Goose. Your movie will still have the stigma of being in a category that’s going to be inhabited by the very worst of pictures.
    • On changing the un-trademarked "X" rating to an "A" for Adults; it was eventually changed to the trademarked "NC-17". The New York Times (5 March 1987)
  • On-line service providers and others have a key role to play in freeing cyberspace of the taint of copyright lawlessness. Accountability for copyright violations committed by users is as essential for advancing this indispensable goal.
    Who is responsible if a valuable copyrighted work is downloaded from a provider, and then copied on a digital video machine from which thousands of copies can be made, the last copy as pure and pristine as the first? And if no one can be held responsible, then who and what is to prevent the flood that will surely follow? This is a loophole larger than a parade of eight-wheelers through which a dam-busting avalanche of violations can rupture the purpose of your bill every day.
  • Technology moves with terrifying speed. If the traffic rules are explicit and understandable, and accompanied by common-sense protective designs, this technology will be an incalculable boon to America, a shot in the arm to our international competitiveness, and a stimulus to our creative industries. If not, then the information superhighway, cyberspace, the Internet, call it what you will, technology will collapse the great wonder of intellectual property. The country will be the loser. Big time.
    • Testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives on copyright immunities for ISPs. (7 February 1996)
  • I found the most convincing part to be the working stiffs, the guys who have a modest home and kids who go to public schools. They make $75,000 to $100,000 a year. That's not much to live on. I don't have to tell you that.
    • Discussing the plausibility of anti-piracy advertisements featuring wealthy Hollywood figures. Entertainment Weekly (18 April 2003)
  • No one today knows what is indecent.
    • As quoted in "US TV industry plans June ad campaign on decency" Reuters news agency (24 April 2006)

Testimony to the US House of Representatives (1982)

Testimony given as president of the MPAA. (12 April 1982)
  • We are facing a very new and a very troubling assault on our fiscal security, on our very economic life and we are facing it from a thing called the video cassette recorder and its necessary companion called the blank tape. And it is like a great tidal wave just off the shore. This video cassette recorder and the blank tape threaten profoundly the life-sustaining protection, I guess you would call it, on which copyright owners depend, on which film people depend, on which television people depend and it is called copyright.
  • Nothing of value is free. It is very easy, Mr. Chairman, to convince people that it is in their best interest to give away somebody else's property for nothing, but even the most guileless among us know that this is a cave of illusion where commonsense is lured and then quietly strangled.
  • I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court decision was lucid, unambiguous, and consistent. The logic was clear and it said when you use copyrighted material on a video cassette recorder, it is an infringement of copyright.
  • When my son is taping for his permanent collection, he sits there and pauses his machine and when he is finished with it, he has a marvelous Clint Eastwood movie and there is no sign of a commercial. It is a brand new movie and he can put three of those on one 6-hour tape.
  • My own home, we do it in our on home. I know about that. Anybody that has a VCR, talk to them, and I ask you to use your own commonsense... If you had the power to sit on a playback of a recording and you could wipe out the commercials or not wipe out the commercials, what would you do? ... We all do it.
    But when you do it, you strip away the reason for free television. ... As far as I am concerned, I am going to continue taping because the plaintiffs have said they aren't going to do anything to me. I am not committing any crime. They know that.

A Plea For Keeping Alive the U.S. Film Industry’s Competitive Energy (1995)

"A Plea For Keeping Alive the U.S. Film Industry’s Competitive Energy" (1995) to "urge the Congress to Extend the Copyright Term" as MPAA Chairman and CEO, before The Senate Judiciary Committee (20 September 1995) (PDF)
  • Copyright term extension has a simple but compelling enticement: it is very much in America's economic interests.
  • A public domain work is an orphan. No one is responsible for its life. But everyone exploits its use, until that time certain when it becomes soiled and haggard, barren of its previous virtues. How does the consumer benefit from the steady decline of a film's quality?

Interview in Harvard Political Review (2002)

Interview with Derek Slater of Harvard Political Review (November 2002) (more excerpts online at Slater's blog)
  • I wasn't opposed to the VCR. The MPAA tried to establish by law that the VCR was infringing on copyright. Then we would go to the Congress and get a copyright royalty fee put on all blank videocassettes and that would go back to the creators.
  • Fair use is not a law. There's nothing in law.
  • You've already got a DVD. It lasts forever. It never wears out. In the digital world, we don't need back-ups, because a digital copy never wears out. It is timeless.
    • Responding to a question on breaking encryption to make a back-up copy of a DVD.
  • I think lobbying is really an honest profession. Lobbying means trying to persuade Congress to accept your point of view. Sometimes you can give them a lot of facts they didn't have before.

Engadget interview (2004)

Interview with Peter Rojas of Engadget (30 August 2004)
  • I really do believe we can stuff enough algorithms in a movie that only the dedicated hackers can spend the time and effort to try to plumb through those 1,000 algorithms to try to find a way to beat it.
  • There is no fair use to take something that doesn't belong to you. That's not fair use.
    • In response to the question "Do consumers have a fair use right to remix a few seconds of a Hollywood movie into a home movie project?"
  • Fair use is not in the law.
  • I hope people will say I never had a hidden agenda, and I never played it cute around the turns, and that my integrity stayed intact.

The Voluntary Movie Rating System (2004)

Testimony at the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (28 September 2004)
  • By summer of 1966, the national scene was marked by insurrection on the campus, riots in the streets, rise in women's liberation, protest of the young, doubts about the institution of marriage, abandonment of old guiding slogans, and the crumbling of social traditions. It would have been foolish to believe that movies, that most creative of art forms, could have remained unaffected by the change and torment in our society.
    The result of all this was the emergence of a "new kind" of American movie — frank and open, and made by filmmakers subject to very few self-imposed restraints.
  • I knew that the mix of new social currents, the irresistible force of creators determined to make "their" films and the possible intrusion of government into the movie arena demanded my immediate action. ... My first move was to abolish the old and decaying Hays Production Code. I did that immediately. Then on November 1, 1968, we announced the birth of the new voluntary film rating system of the motion picture industry ... the emergence of the voluntary rating system filled the vacuum provided by my dismantling of the Hays Production Code. The movie industry would no longer "approve or disapprove" the content of a film, but we would now see our primary task as giving advance cautionary warnings to parents so that parents could make the decision about the movie-going of their young children.
  • The basic mission of the rating system is a simple one: to offer to parents some advance information about movies so that parents can decide what movies they want their children to see or not to see. The entire rostrum of the rating program rests on the assumption of responsibility by parents.
  • We count it crucial to make regular soundings to find out how the public perceives the rating program, and to measure the approval and disapproval of what we are doing... The rating system isn't perfect but, in an imperfect world, it seems each year to match the expectations of those whom it is designed to serve — parents of America.

Quotes about Valenti

  • I invite all of you to work with me to strengthen our copyright laws in all of the ways available to us. As you know, there is also Jack Valenti's proposal for term to last forever less one day. Perhaps the Committee may look at that next Congress.
  • Mostly, filmmakers complain that they must work against muddled or moving boundaries. And parents’ groups grouse about “ratings creep,” a perceived tendency for a category like PG-13 to permit ever more violence, sex and profanity over the years to reach impressionable youth. Yet it was Mr. Valenti’s genius to have devised an apparatus that is not bound by precedent, changes its definitions at will and, ultimately, serves the motion picture industry by becoming, at any given moment, as permissive or restrictive as the prevailing climate seems to demand... for nearly 40 years, Mr. Valenti’s raters have largely kept politicians and busybodies out of the film business, even if that meant playing somewhat unpredictable busybodies themselves. They haven’t always been fair, and not entirely pleasant to deal with. But in the end, theirs was no mean achievement.
  • I thought Jack Valenti was wrong about most of the tech-policy issues that he spoke about, but I'm going to miss that guy... One of the lingering regrets of my career is showing up a few minutes late to a Post boardroom luncheon with Valenti that had started with him denouncing a column I'd written about the MPAA's "technological totalitarianism." When I sat down, then-managing editor Steve Coll leaned over to summarize Valenti's opening statement as "he took your name in vain"; I felt like I'd missed the whole show.
  • Jack works across the aisle because he doesn't see an aisle. It is the root of his success and what others ought to emulate.
Wikipedia has an article about: