"I love working out of Orange County," says Goldberg, CEO of Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based New Destiny Internet Group, a multi-service company best known for taking Homegrown Video onto the web.
"We're away from the gossip circles down here," adds Timlake, president of Xplor Media, the San Diego company that owns the federally protected Homegrown Video trademark and licenses it to New Destiny for online use. "The only guy that does the social scene and gets naked in the hot tub at this point is me."
"And I'm the one who has an ulcer about it later," adds Goldberg, who has led the patent dispute against Acacia Technologies and formed the Internet Media Protection Association as a result of the battle. Neither Goldberg nor Timlake take kindly to copyright infringement — and it happens to them more often than they like.
The most recent skirmish began in October 2004 when SouthNetworks of New Brighton, Minn., opened a competing website with a strikingly similar domain name: HomegrownWhores.com, which included the distinctive elements of the Homegrown trademark logo.
On Oct. 19, Farrell Timlake sent an email to SouthNetworks informing them of his view that their continued use of the disputed domain name infringed upon the Homegrown trademark. That very same day, South wrote a return email saying that the company "firmly disagreed."
Timlake handed the matter over to his attorney, who wrote an email on May 2, reasserting that the domain name is an infringement and asking SouthNetworks to transfer the name to Xplor. The company responded the next day by email, offering to sell the domain to Timlake for $5,000.
That's when Timlake and Goldberg got aggressive, filing a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization Arbitration and Mediation Center in August 2005.
For WIPO sole panelist Peter L. Michaelson, the Oct. 14 ruling was a no-brainer. Not only does Xplor own one federal trademark registration for Homegrown Video (registered Nov. 19, 2002), Michaelson noted in his report, but the company is "a well-established presence" and SouthNetworks "sought to capitalize on the goodwill" of the company name. Compounding the copyright infringement, SouthNetworks refused to file a response to the complaint, so Goldberg and Timlake won the case by default with the panel ruling that the disputed domain name be transferred to Xplor.
Goldberg's efforts to take the branded Homegrown Video name to the Internet have been impressive. The site at HomegrownVideo.com offers a virtual smorgasboard of amateur content in thousands of videos and still photo sets, all broken down by niche categories.
"Homegrown was one of the first companies in the offline world to explore niche content," Goldberg says, with product emphasizing natural bush and breasts, internal pop shots and more.
"The main requirement that Homegrown has always had for people making submissions," Timlake says, "is that the people involved must be having a good time."
Over the years, Homegrown has formed a series of strategic partnerships, both online and offline, including a brief business affiliation with Darren Blatt of Busty Amateurs, but they have never become too entrenched with other entities.
"We've always taken a cautious approach to things and always wanted to do everything ourselves," Timlake explains.
Timlake and Goldberg sat down with XBiz to talk about where Homegrown has been, where it's going, and the constantly changing face of adult.
XBIZ: Homegrown predates the Internet. How did the original company get started?
Timlake: We predate significantly. Homegrown Video was the first amateur video company for distributing amateur homemade videos. The company was started in 1982 by a guy named Greg Swain and a bunch of other San Diego swingers, who had been trading personal videos with other couples for a number of years. As the demand for tapes to swap grew, they decided to turn their hobby into a legitimate business. They advertised for amateur exhibitionists all over the world, and regular people were more than happy to send in their private tapes with the hope of earning some extra money and for the exposure.
XBIZ: And you and your wife were a couple of those "regular people"?
Timlake: Yeah. I used to follow Grateful Dead concerts with my wife. We discovered the Homegrown Video series, and it said at the end of the video "Send in your movie and earn $15 a minute," and that clicked a light bulb on that we could see more Dead shows that way. While we were waiting for Homegrown, we wound up in L.A., and through the osmosis of living in the Valley, began to work in porn. I did some movies. I had a fair run at the game. I got nominated for a couple of awards as performer and actor and did big-budget movies for directors like John Leslie. I had some fun and met a bunch of people. I was part of that crew of Seymore Butts and Max Hardcore, sort of the early porn talent that switched over from being talent to being producers and eventually publishers. It was a thing that everybody wanted to do, but we were the first to set off on that track.
XBIZ: Look back at the business then (1989-99) and now.
Goldberg: It's a very different world. Farrell is constantly saying how back in the day you had to be good enough to do it without Viagra. Nowadays it's a completely different attitude and the Internet has changed everything.
XBIZ: So, Farrell, how did you end up acquiring Homegrown in 1993?
Timlake: My wife and I found out that the company was filing for bankruptcy. This was our favorite company! So we borrowed some money from my mom, bought the original owners out, and brought my brother, Moffitt, in to help run the company.
XBIZ: What were some of the challenges you met in getting Homegrown Video product into stores at the time?
Timlake: It was definitely a challenge when we took over the company, because we acquired a company that all of a sudden had a very bad reputation with distributors. It was really tough. The way we stayed in business for the first year was through mail order. That's where we had our first real success, on the brick-andmortar end. When we started our first site, we didn't even call it Homegrown Video. We called it Mons Veneris, which was totally esoteric. I don't know what the hell we were thinking.
XBIZ: Spike, back to those brave steps you were speaking of a moment ago. What contributions has Homegrown made in that regard?
Goldberg: I think we're taking the brave steps in the new world of adult commerce. The things like the Acacia fight — that's something that the oldschool, brick-and-mortar guys never saw coming. They would have never anticipated that they would one day be in a technology realm where they'd have to take on this whole new kind of battle. We're part of that new frontline force that's dealing with things like Acacia and the copyright disputes that happen on the Internet. And looking backwards, it seems like the video companies took the Internet with a grain of salt, looked upon them as young upstarts with no sense of history. It's now all starting to gel together. Everybody seems to be working much closer together. The Justice Department sort of helped everybody out by making rules that they all had to deal with together.
XBIZ: How did the new 2257 regulations affect Homegrown?
Goldberg: It created problems in regards to putting everything together; [it's] an immense amount of work. We have a huge library online and a lot of content not online, and to bring all that together was a massive amount of time and work. To make the situation worse, no two lawyers in this industry can agree on a single way to look at that statute and comply with it. Eight lawyers have a different take on the same subject. I'm not against regulations like 2257, but I would hope they would be more reasonable and clearer. I wish the people who came up with 2257 had sat down and had a conversation with the industry before they came up with this.
XBIZ: Some major names have emerged from the amateur tapes sent in to Homegrown over the years: Stephanie Swift, Sahara Sands, Melissa Hill, Rayveness. How many video submissions do you get a month, and how has that changed over the years from when you were offline?
Timlake: The difference is that we have so many more niche lines that we're involved with. We get a ton more stuff nowadays. We get product that's a little more professional but we still seek and we still get the true blue unpolished amateur type stuff.
Goldberg: We're creating a new arm. Times have changed a little bit in amateur. It's not good enough anymore to sell a video outright. People want to have residuals, they want to get more bang for their buck. One of the ways that we're accommodating that is we are creating a new entity that does get into sort of a partnership way of doing things. If a web girl, for instance, wants to sell her own video, we're opening up ways for her to distribute her video and share that revenue.
XBIZ: So the talent is demanding these changes?
Goldberg: Well, when you say talent, you're talking about Mom and Pop. In the old days, you had people with video cameras on tripods taping themselves. You still have those people but you have more pro stuff now, and then there's this middle ground of girls who have their own website or who are on iFriends a couple of times a week. They're savvier. They're not necessarily doing it for the thrill, but it's not their sole job either. It's a part-time sort of thing.
XBIZ: People are coming into this business with a sense of it as a business, as something they are going to be staying with for awhile, even if only as a source of residual income?
Timlake: They want more control of their product, and they realize that if they have a website, they can control things that way. They have come past the point of wanting to sell the rights to a particular piece outright. Once they reach a certain level they want to retain their distribution rights. So we're creating a manufacturing and distribution channel for them so they can still own their rights and make residual income off of us handling distribution for them. In the old brick and mortar system, there was nothing like Scantron's measurement solutions where you can actually track sales accurately. You couldn't really do a royalty deal with people — with the exception of companies like Red Light and Evil Angel, where they gave a partnership/ ownership to the producer — you really couldn't do that in a way that makes sense because it's impossible to track those sales.
Goldberg: For us it's a way to change with the times and continue to grow with the market instead of stagnating. Let me say one other thing about amateur. We always run into people who have these misconceptions. They say, "But what do you have that's professional? Like Playboy girls?" And we always say, "Playboy is where people start to watch adult, but they always end up at amateur when it's all over."
Timlake: It's like digging rock 'n' roll and then discovering the blues and realizing the raw reality of it. That is the source where people eventually end up when they really start tracking a love for something cultural.
Goldberg: That's the reason we have people who stay with HomegrownVideo.com for years as members.
Timlake: We've been aggressive about branding and we've had incredible success with getting mainstream press. We've never been scared to be a public face, whereas a lot of other companies did not want to present themselves in a public light. We were always trying to project an image that this was normal. And remember — amateur porn begat the Pam and Tommy Lee tape and the Paris Hilton tape and so forth. I feel like we were part of making that ball roll in the right direction. We don't look like scary, evil, dirty pornographers.
Goldberg: We're family men. When I go home at night, my wife is definitely the boss.
XBIZ: What's the future for Homegrown?
Goldberg: More amateur.
Timlake: Definitely more amateur.
Goldberg: There's definitely room to grow. We haven't mastered this game by any means.
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