trends

Waves of BitTorrent Piracy Suits Filed

Rhett Pardon
Piracy has hit a breaking point for adult operators, who have responded with suits targeting more than 8,200 BitTorrent users in the month of September.

The number of suits, spawned by new technology and attorneys willing to cash in by searching out and identifying BitTorrent users, took a big jump in late summer.

The thousands of John Does who may have downloaded or distributed porn movies through BitTorrent are being served by scores of adult companies.

Gill Sperlein, general counsel for Titan Media, told XBIZ that he applauds the rash of filings. Sperlein oversees the Free Speech Coalition’s Anti-Piracy Action Program’s day-to-day operations.

“There many different ways people infringe adult content,” he said. “However, content producers have recently started working together to stop infringement in all of its forms.

“The industry is down 30 to 40 percent. I attribute almost all of that to piracy.”

In the past two months, more than a dozen companies have filed suit against swarms of BitTorrent users.

Adult studios Larry Flynt Publications, VCX, Lightspeed Media Corp., Titan Media, Corbin Fisher, Mick Haig Productions, First Time Videos (FTVCash.com), BlazingBucks, Chicas Place and Michael Lucas Productions.

So has AmateurAlleur.com, Grooby Productions, West Coast Productions, Combat Zone, Third World Media and Elegant Angel.

VCX President David Sutton told XBIZ that it’s well past its time to go after pirates illegally distributing or downloading his material.

“They are taking away from my sales — from VOD to mail order,” Sutton told XBIZ. “There is a lot of different components of piracy, not the least of which is the guy who is downloading my adult content.

“But our hope is that every component of downloading will be stopped, including the bit torrent companies that facilitate the downloading. So far, we have had some remedial success in getting sites to pull our content off.”

In all of the recent legal cases, the companies have asked for motions to discover the identities of the defendants through their Internet service providers.

Once identified, attorneys will have the leverage to settle with the defendants or decide to meet them at court. In nearly all cases, the attorneys work on a contingency basis for the clients.

Attorney John L. Steele of Chicago, who operates Media Copyright Group, offers a “turnkey solution for combating online piracy of their copyrighted media,” according to his website.

Steele told XBIZ that, depending on studio client, letters will go out to alleged BitTorrent downloaders offering settlement deals between $1,900-$3,900 for each infringed movie.

“Of course, those numbers are initial settlement numbers,” he said. “For those who decline those offers, the bill goes up to about $7,500.”

Steele, who offers to track and ID infringers through his company’s proprietary software, said that piracy is setting the industry back substantially.

“I don’t like piracy,” he said. “I think that if left unchecked, the file sharers are going to set back this industry 20-30 years. Why should studios spend money for huge productions, when there are those who get it for free.”

Third World Media, which sells ethnic and shemale adult content, has found that tracking down and legally confronting users who share their material on the web has created its own niche industry, with its own revenue stream.

‘Ever since technology has enabled us to track users who distribute our content, we’ve been seeing this as a new source of revenue,” Third World’s Ed Hunter told XBIZ, noting that the 11-yearold Chatsworth, Calif., company uses three separate companies to hunt for piracy.

Attorney Sperlein agrees. “It is not surprising that content owners are seeking new ways to try to recoup a small portion of the huge amounts of revenue lost to piracy,” he said. Allowing unfettered illegal distribution of content is simply not sustainable.”

Larry Flynt Publications President Michael Klein echoed Sperlein and told XBIZ that if the industry doesn’t get a firm grip on piracy, “you can watch all of your efforts and your profit wither away.”

“There’s a need [for litigation], and we can make a few dollars along the way,” he said.

With the potential for a new stream of revenue, some of the attorneys involved in piracy cases are even pitching their jurisdictional abilities to litigate.

For example, attorney Evan Stone said he files the suits in the Lone Star state because porn producers have an easier time establishing copyright in Texas.

“Showing proof that you’ve applied for a copyright is good enough for the Northern District of Texas,” Stone said. “While in other jurisdictions you’d need to hold the copyright already — which is either time-consuming there’s an eight month backlog or expensive $800 to expedite the application.”

With legal wheels and technology in place, more suits are in the works as more studios join in on litigation against online porn thievery.

Matt H of Copyright Enforcement Group told XBIZ that his company represents more than 35 adult companies.

“We will be filing suits for five other adult studios very soon that will include a much larger amount,” Matt H said.

Steele also said his company, Media Copyright Group, plans on mounting more legal attacks. His firm already has six suits.

“We’re looking at seven more suits by Dec. 31,” Steele said, noting that Media Copyright Group now has a dozen clients.

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