Jack Valenti is an influential American lobbyist and a long-time president of the Motion Picture Association of America. During his 38 year tenure in the MPAA, he was generally regarded as one of the most influential pro-copyright lobbyists in the world.
In 1952, Valenti co-founded “Weekley & Valenti,” an advertising and political consulting agency. The agency was in charge of the press during the November 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson to Dallas, Texas. Following the assassination of President Kennedy, Valenti was present in the famous photograph of Lyndon Johnson’s swearing in aboard Air Force One, and rode with the new president to Washington. Valenti then became the first “special assistant” to Johnson’s White House. He lived in the White House for the first two months of Johnson’s presidency.
In 1966, Valenti resigned his White House commission and became the president of the Motion Picture Association of America. In 1968, Valenti created the MPAA film rating system. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Valenti became notorious for his colorful attacks on the Sony Betamax VCR, which the MPAA feared would devastate the movie industry. Despite Valenti’s prediction, the home video market created by the VCR ultimately came to be the mainstay of movie studio revenues throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, until the DVD displaced the VCR in the American living room. In 1998 Valenti lobbied for the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguing that copyright infringement via the Internet would severely damage the record and movie industries. In 2003, he found himself at the center of the so-called screener debate, as the MPAA barred studios and many independent producers from sending screener copies of their films to critics and voters in various awards shows. Under mounting industry pressure and a court injunction, Valenti consented to the injunction in 2004, narrowly avoiding a massive and embarrassing antitrust lawsuit against the MPAA. In August 2004, Valenti, then 82 years old, retired and was replaced by Dan Glickman. The current head of the ratings system, Joan Graves, was appointed by Valenti. In retirement Valenti has become involved in technology-related venture capital activities, most recently joining the Advisory Board of Legend Ventures. At Legend Ventures, Valenti advises on media investment opportunities.