Friday, April 27, 2007

Jack Valenti

I feel obliged to note the death of the famous pro-copyright lobbyist Jack Valenti. He famously told a congressional panel in 1982, "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." (Today more than 50% of the film industry's profits come from video and DVD sales and rentals.)

We had a guest speaker in my final Copyright class who happened to mention that Jack Valenti attended the oral argument of a famous Supreme Court case. (Valenti tried to stroll past the metal detectors; the guards hauled him back, saying, "Yeah, we know who you are. You still gotta go through security.") For the sake of the guest speaker's privacy I won't mention the case. The guest was a fabulous story teller. I'll try to do justice to a few of his tales about his visit to the Supreme Court.

He said that as he looked up at the bench, one chair appeared empty. It was Justice Thomas, who had cranked his chair all the way down so that he could tilt his chair backwards. He sat there, almost horizontal, with his eyes closed, never asking a single question.

At the time, Chief Justice Rehnquist had just gotten out of the hospital for surgery and had an open chest wound. Whenever the court became silent, he said you could hear this sucking sound. It was Rehnquist, literally breathing out of a tube protruding from the hole in his chest. Our guest added:

"Every once in a while you'd hear someone cough, but no one seemed to be coughing. And then you'd see Rehnquist dab at his chest with a handkerchief."

1 comment:

Lawyerlike said...

And yet, that sort of mild gore would still only earn a PG rating from Valenti.