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Protecting Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

Protecting Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

December 9, 2009
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" digital technology has made it much easier to steal intellectual property "

Protecting intellectual property against piracy and theft is a battle that both adult and mainstream businesses were fighting long before the advent of the Internet. Back in the 1970s, for example, pirated LPs were a consistent source of frustration for the music industry. But in the Internet age, piracy is a much bigger and more pervasive problem because digital technology has made it much easier to steal intellectual property. Adult webmasters are well aware of the fact that stealing online adult content is becoming increasingly common — and because they are fighting a digital battle, webmasters are looking to digital solutions.

David C. Eisenbacher, CEO and co-founder of EZDRM, said that there is both good news and bad news for adult webmasters who are fighting to protect their intellectual property. The bad news, according to Eisenbacher: in 2009, the online theft of adult content is much worse than it was five or six years ago. The good news, according to Eisenbacher: DRM (digital rights management) has grown much more sophisticated than it was five or six years ago.

"DRM has evolved a lot over the years," Eisenbacher explained. "For the longest time, companies have been trying to use Windows Media DRM. There were a lot of limitations in the past; it really only worked on PC, and it didn't actually block a screen capture. Now, Microsoft has server-like DRM, which encrypts the whole screen as well — so you can actually block a screen capture."

Eisenbacher added that DRM technology in general now has a lot more cross-platform appeal than it did in the past, which is an important development for adult Internet companies because so many of them are Mac OSX-based rather than Windows-based.

"A lot of companies have been doing all of their video editing and all of their post-production on Mac for years," Eisenbacher said. "So if they could produce their content on Macs but couldn't protect their content on Macs, that was an immediate downfall in their eyes."

Jeff Booth, president of the Los Angeles-based EroticUniversity.com, has seen the problem of digital theft of adult content go from bad to worse. Asked how severe the problem is in 2009 compared to 2003 or 2004, Booth replied: "On a scale of one to ten, maybe ten. There are massive amounts of stolen adult content available on the Internet."

Some stolen adult content ends up on adult tube sites. Eisenbacher observed. "With tube sites happening more and more, digital theft has been growing at an exponential rate," Eisenbacher said. "In the past, it was growing at a linear rate. But now, it's growing exponentially."

Booth noted that small adult tube sites simply don't have the manpower to police user submissions for possible intellectual property violations the way a mainstream powerhouse like YouTube polices user submissions.

"Policing for stolen content is tough enough for YouTube, and they have billions," Booth asserted. "So I don't see how small adult tube sites can be aggressive about avoiding stolen content as long as they allow anyone to post things. If posting on adult tube sites were restricted to companies, that you could police. But once you open up a tube site to the general public and anyone can post content, forget policing. There is no way a small adult tube site can research every little clip and know where it originally came from."

Booth added that combating the theft of digital adult content is an uphill battle for webmasters because they are up against a mentality that is quite prevalent in the Generation Y/Echo Boomer demographic: a belief that entertainment, whether it is mainstream or adult, should always be free.

People who steal and illegally distribute digital adult content, Booth noted, aren't necessarily planning to sell it — some of them, he said, have the misguided, wrong-headed notion that stealing adult content from a membership pay site and posting it on a free site is an act of generosity.

Eisenbacher said that the international nature of the Internet makes it a major challenge for adult webmasters to take legal action against digital thieves.

"Unless you're one of the really large adult companies," Eisenbacher offered, "you don't have the resources to go after piracy in other countries. At the end of the day, what are you actually going to get back? The content is already out there. The content is already stolen. And even if some damages were rewarded, it probably wouldn't be anywhere near a true settlement considering how much you've lost."

Booth said that because taking legal action against digital theft on a global scale is unrealistic for most adult webmasters, they need to think in terms of technological solutions rather than legal solutions. Unfortunately for adult webmasters, Booth said, no DRM program is truly 100 percent impenetrable, but he quickly added that the stronger a webmaster's DRM solutions are, the less vulnerable he or she will be to digital theft. And according to Booth, webmasters have a lot of options when it comes to DRM protection.

One option, according to Booth, is not having any downloadable content — none of EroticUniversity.com's material is downloadable, for example.

Another option for webmasters is coming up with proprietary DRM solutions.

"I like proprietary solutions because they generally aren't as easy to crack," Booth said. "There are fewer people hacking away at them. If you have the in-house ability to develop your own DRM system, you are going to be better off because there aren't going to be enough people out there working on trying to crack it."

The use of Flash DRM and Flash galleries has also been growing in popularity among adult webmasters.

"Flash DRM is a do-it-yourself process," Booth noted. "The advantage is that there are fewer ways to work around it."

Another DRM measure webmasters can take is to create software programs that are specifically designed for viewing the company's content.

"With that type of solution, you can only view the content using the company's software," Booth explained. "The customer uses the software to gain access to the content the webmaster wants to stream to them. The content is encrypted, and the software handles the decryption. There are a lot of clever things you can do when you have software handle your website rather than just working in an HTML environment."

The bottom line for adult webmasters, Booth said, is that digital thieves can be considered a high-tech equivalent of bike thieves — and while digital theft of adult content will never be eliminated, it can certainly be discouraged.

"If a bike with a cheap lock is next to a bike with a much stronger lock, which one is more likely to get stolen?" Booth asked. "The tools for cracking DRM are readily available, but the average person walking down the street probably isn't going to know how to crack DRM. You can't stop people who are really determined to steal content, but if your DRM solutions are creative, you can make it annoying enough for them to decide that instead of stealing your content, they'd rather steal someone else's."


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