The American Techniban

Gordon Mohr
Tue, 26 Mar 2002 14:29:41 -0800

Great heated rhetoric. Forno not only introduces the "Techniban" moniker, 
but reminds us that Jack Valenti is "the founder of America's Techniban 
movement," suggests the new name for the CBDTPA came about because "it's 
difficult to argue against something neither you nor your audience can 
pronounce," and wonders, "[w]ill blank hard disks become a prohibited 
import item like Cuban cigars?"

Check it out.

- Gordon


Hollings, Valenti, and the American Techniban

Richard Forno
25 March 2002
(c) 2002 by Author. Permission is granted to quote, reprint or redistribute
provided the text is not altered, and appropriate credit is given.



Summary: 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

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

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?