News.com is running an interview with Jack Valenti where they actually ask him the question that many interviewers have skipped over, about his famous "Boston strangler" quote about how the VCR will kill the movie industry. Valenti, in his usual manner, tries to rewrite history by making two claims. First, he says he was never actually against the VCR, but was just worried about the piracy aspect. Second, he says he's been vindicated in those views because of all the VCR related piracy that's out there. He's wrong on both points, but the News.com interviewer doesn't challenge him. First, it's pretty clear that if you say that the VCR is the Boston Strangler to the film producer, that you expect it to kill off the film industry. Instead, the VCR completely revived and revitalized the industry. Second, his claim on vindication is because of incredibly misleading stats that he throws out (twice!) claiming that the industry is "losing" $3.5 billion a year to piracy -- not considering the fact that the vast majority of people who end up with pirated films were unlikely to buy the full cost version. Compare this to another interview today by the Harvard professor who did that study a few months ago suggesting that file sharing does not damage sales. In that interview, the professor admits what the entertainment industry refuses to believe: there are multiple factors related to file sharing that impact entertainment sales. Some of it is as a substitution (people will download instead of buy) and some of it is as a promotion (people will use the free downloadable content to make a decision on what to buy). These two factors can compete. The professor wants to find out what the actual impact of these competing factors will be, while the industry refuses to believe that anyone could possibly use these tools for promotional value. It's a dangerous blindness to reality that doesn't bode well for them.
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