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April 28, 2007

The Passing of Jack Valenti

As much as I try to keep up on current events, I didn't see the news about the death of Jack Valenti until this weekend. Valenti had been on my radar recently because I finally finished Katharine Graham's memoir, Personal History, and she mentioned him among one of her personal friends. It was only from this book that I even realized some of Valenti's background, working as a close Lyndon Johnson aide in the White House and actually being on Air Force One when Johnson was sworn in as President soon after Kennedy's assassination.

So until recently, I only knew of Valenti's work as the public face of the Motion Picture Association of America and his long crusade related to protecting copyright in the digital age. As a recreational copyright wonk, Valenti is famous in the tech community and blogosphere for his protection of Hollywood and Micky Mouse.

When I heard that he died, there was only one person who's blog I wanted to read in response to this news: Lawrence Lessig. The Lessig vs. Valenti debates on copyright were always entertaining and intellectual at the same time.

And sure enough, Lessig's thoughtful post on Valenti's passing gives the former MPAA-head the credit that he deserves: even if we didn't agree with his positions, Valenti was a skilled politician/lobbyist,  witty, and sly as a fox. 


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