Porn studios borrowing from RIAA playbook with P2P lawsuits

Porn studios borrowing from RIAA playbook with P2P lawsuitsThe porn industry, long plagued by piracy, has apparently had enough and is beginning to band together to target infringers. Like a move straight out of the RIAA playbook, some companies are beginning to file lawsuits en masse against anonymous P2P users, and have also begun to formulate ways to target sites like YouPorn and PornTube, where users often upload copyrighted clips of their favorite porn movies.

The industry has known for years that studios are on what appears to be the losing side of a fight against pirates. Historically, though, they have been split on whether to put their efforts towards stronger DRM or offering content at such an attractive price (and format) that users won't be tempted to pirate. Now, it looks like they're beginning to involve the legal system, though such a strategy won't do much to help attract customers and motivate fans to pay up.

As noted by the AFP, Larry Flynt Publications filed a lawsuit against 635 "John Does" last week in an attempt to curb the sharing of the company's adult movies on P2P networks like BitTorrent. Flynt's company isn't the only one, either—the Media Copyright Group and Copyright Enforcement Services is helping porn studios formulate a plan to go after suspected infringers, even if they don't know who they are (yet). In addition, gay porn producer Lucas Entertainment recently sued 53 people it believes were illegally downloading one of its titles, Kings of New York.

It seems Flynt and companies like his are mimicking the strategy of the now-infamous Far Cry lawsuits, which targeted as many as 5,000 anonymous defendants for allegedly downloading Hurt Locker and Far Cry through P2P services. Indeed, the goal of the Media Copyright Group is very similar to that of the US Copyright Group (which aided the Hurt Locker/Far Cry lawsuits), though Flynt may run into trouble trying to unmask all of his defendants if he doesn't cross every "t" and dot every "i."

These companies aren't just trying to put the hurt on P2P users, either. Allison Vivas, president of an adult company called Pink Visual, told the AFP that the studios were hoping to embarrass users who are into, er, less conventional types of entertainment.

"It seems like it will be quite embarrassing for whichever user ends up in a lawsuit about using a popular shemale title," Vivas said. "When it comes to private sexual fantasies and fetishes, going public is probably not worth the risk that these torrent and peer-to-peer users are taking."

Suing suspected infringers is only one part of the porn industry's strategy. The other side is to go after streaming sites for allowing users to upload copyrighted content. These adult-themed YouTube clones tend to follow the same policies as YouTube does—copyright owners can submit DMCA takedown notices when they see their content on the site, but that's apparently not enough. The porn studios plan to discuss at an upcoming Content Protection Retreat whether they can lobby for changes in current copyright law that would allow them to more aggressively pursue sites that illegally host their content.

The other option is to harass the sites in question into implementing a digital fingerprinting system that would allow them to identify copyrighted content before it goes public. The studios could then opt to have it removed or put advertising on it, just like content owners do on YouTube through ContentID.

Of course, there's a downside there too: such a system can backfire on users uploading clips for legitimate reasons (we'd be interested in hearing the argument for using a porn clip for a fair use such as educational purposes). But if the studios figure out a way to monetize that content instead of removing it, it could be the beginning of a new revenue model for porn that doesn't just sit and wait for customers to open their wallets out of the goodness of their hearts.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Internet, pornography

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