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Porn Piracy: Is Smut Just Too Expensive?


By Janko Roettgers, GigaOM

Porn producers have filed tens of thousands of lawsuits against file sharers in recent months, going after BitTorrent users who have downloaded titles like Batman XXX and Black Big Booty Queens. But the industry seems increasingly divided about this approach after some of the most prolific lawsuits were curtailed by the courts. Some studios and producers vow to fight on, while others wonder whether it’s time to embrace new business models instead.

On one side of the debate are people like Alex Braun, the mastermind behind Batman XXX: A Porn Parody. Braun had targeted some 7,000 people for downloading the movie with a single lawsuit, but a U.S. District Court ruled in late December that the cases had been improperly joined. In other words, Braun would have to file a separate lawsuit against each and every single file sharer.

That decision followed a similar order earlier in December related to thousands of further porn piracy lawsuits, as well as a decision that limits lawsuits to those users that actually reside within the jurisdiction of a court. Still, Braun seems determined to carry on. “I can assure you that I am not quitting,” he told the adult industry news site XBIZ last week, adding the threat: “Heads will roll.”

On the other side are people like Allison Vivas, president of the Southern California-based porn studio Pink Visual (site not safe for work). Vivas told me during a phone conversation this week that her company has been approached by law offices specializing in P2P lawsuits as well, but decided against taking part in it. “It wasn’t as straightforward as advertised,” she said about the lawsuits.

Vivas anticipated early on that groups like the EFF would get involved, and that the courts would question some of the legal tactics used to bring forward mass lawsuits against file sharers. The recent court defeats only validated her concerns, leading Vivas to rule out lawsuits against consumers in the future as well. “I don’t think we will engage in it,” she told me.

That doesn’t mean Pink Visual is turning a blind eye to piracy. The company is educating customers about the rights and wrongs of file sharing, and it’s going after some of the bigger X-rated YouTube clone sites that offer free streaming of unlicensed porn movies. However, Vivas also believes that the porn industry needs to adapt. “We still see a consumer willing to purchase — just not the same way they used to,” she told me.

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