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Will the Porn Business Repeat the Music Industry's Mistakes?

Porn company Ventura Content, owner of popular production company Pink Visual, is suing several free YouTube-inspired sites for lifting and redistributing its content. According to the adult news website YNOT (link Not Safe For Work):

"Using the leverage of the internet, defendants and others like them appropriate the value of ... adult video content on a massive scale for their own benefit by operating websites known as 'tube sites' that allow users to view and download a vast library of infringing adult video content for free," the complaint states. "Like other notorious infringing services before them such as Napster, Grokster and Kazaa, the emergence of these tube sites operated by defendants and others threatens not just Ventura, but the entire adult entertainment industry."... The complaint alleges the defendants not only are aware that users upload infringing content to their sites, but also that the defendants "actively engage in, promote and induce this infringement." Ventura seeks statutory and actual damages, compensation for its costs in pursuing legal action and an injunction requiring the defendants to cease direct and vicarious infringement now and in the future.


It is a seemingly necessary move -- visuals, of course, are its livelihood -- but this isn't going to stop illegal copies of content from spreading across the web. Sound familiar? As the owner itself said, it draws parallels to stolen music and, more recently, digital books and even iPhone apps.

Even if Pink Visual "wins" the lawsuit, there are familiar reasons why it won't work:

  • There are too many sites: The handful of sites mentioned in the lawsuit is a small fraction of those available. YouTube-like porn sites began in earnest around 2007. Way too late now.
  • Setting an example won't help: The first lawsuit is understandable, but the industry shouldn't expect renegade websites to cower. Destroying Napster didn't curb music piracy.
  • It's too late for pay walls: As I discuss in my book Porn & Pong, porn has been available online for free since BBS boards in the seventies. The eighties and nineties brought our modern day Internet and more free pornography, but, with videotape and DVD sales still bringing in big profit, the porn industry remained relatively lax about the issue. However, as myself as well as my colleague Jim Edwards pointed out recently, even the porn industry is now suffering in the recession. Like the music industry a decade ago and the newspaper industry as of late, the porn industry has a reasonable plan rooted in financial desperation rather than intelligent timing.
What should the porn industry do now that the sexy genie is out of the bottle?
  • Use the renegade porn sites: The porn industry majors are similar to old-school Hollywood -- performers are put on contract, often with, ahem, upgrades, set salaries and exclusive rights. The actors and actresses are an investment. A popular three-minute clip on a renegade porn site could be given with a link to the actual product. These sites are essentially advertising their "product".
  • Give greater quality than the renegade porn sites: Ultra-high definition, 3D, virtual interactions and other high-end investments cannot be reproduced by a YouTube knockoff.
  • Create a beachhead on the next battlefield: One reason the porn industry is suffering right now is that it didn't nip free Internet content in the bud early on. This battle may be over. In my view, the next arena would be portable content on phones like the Androids and, more importantly, tablets like the iPad. Even the iPad itself is fair game, as Apple may continue to ban "sexy apps", but there are still backdoor ways to get the content on the machine.
This initial lawsuit against the renegade porn sites is acceptable on principle, but any lawsuits after this would be plain wasteful. Just ask the music industry.

Photo Courtesy of Tiago Ribiero / CC BY 2.0