Fighting Back

Stephen Yagielowicz
When examining the most problematic issues facing adult operators today, “piracy” consistently ranks near the top of the list. Unlike “the economy” or other factors that are outside of operators’ control, however, piracy is a problem that can be tackled head on — as a growing number of companies, initiatives and organizations are proving.

Piracy and posturing: It is important to note that the term “piracy” means different things to different people and can encompass non-infringing activities — or copious lies to cover infringing action. This includes the cat-andmouse game of a tube site, for example, that has one employee posting stolen clips all day long, while the guy sitting next to him is processing DMCA notices — within the allowed timeline of course, which is long enough to attract an enormous amount of website visitors.

Many folks would consider this to be an example of piracy, as it deals with material that may have been directly ripped from a DVD or website member’s area, for instance. Would it still be piracy, however, if a tube site owner downloaded the .WMV clips from a sponsor’s free hosted galleries, encoded them to Flash and then uploaded them to his tube — using his affiliate referral links on that content and surrounding advertising to send traffic to that sponsor — but without receiving specific authorization to do so?

What if this tube featured all of the videos from all that sponsor’s FHGs?

A sponsor wanting to get out of a commission payment might find this to be piracy, but doubtless many affiliates might consider it a fair and legitimate use of that content, especially when the affiliate is now shouldering the expense of the videos’ bandwidth.

The upshot of all this is that to fully grasp and deal with this problem, rights holders must not view piracy as simply concerning “stolen” material, but as “unauthorized use” — providing a much broader perspective that includes terms-of-service violations.

Look at it this way: when we talk about piracy, what we are really trying to express is our desire to control who displays, views and profits from our content, and how they do it — as is our right; and by approaching the issue of piracy from this comprehensive angle, substantial and profitable results may be seen.

Proactive protection. Hindsight being 20/20, many rights holders seeking remedies from pirates and other unauthorized users of their content, may wish that they had registered the copyrights to that material, due to the awarding of attorneys fees and far higher judgments; had a more favorable and robust set of terms and conditions, licensing agreements and other legal instruments to prove ownership, use and limitations; and trademarked their brand name.

If you haven’t already taken these steps, now is the time to speak to an attorney.

Once the paperwork is out of the way, consider the ways that you release content: sales or licensing to others or through your own sites and videos. If you remarket to other companies, you can either provide the content for them to use as they see fit, or use feeds that you host and lock down to maximize control and minimize “leakage.”

While consumers express an overwhelming distaste for DRM, the technology and its user friendliness is improving and becoming more commonplace, offering a means for website owners to protect their content at the point of release. Not allowing downloads is also becoming more widespread, with streamingonly member’s areas on the increase, as a growing number of old-school operators wish they had retained better control over their content in the first place — and that includes the amount given away to and by affiliates.

Pursuing pirates. Crying over spilled milk doesn’t get us anywhere, and while the previously outlined steps can help mitigate the problem going forward, it does nothing to alleviate today’s situation, where a mountain of stolen content is being used, often by low income and thus judgment-proof folks that may operate from a jurisdiction where piracy is not a crime and international copyrights not acknowledged.

Rights holders can’t just sit back and do nothing, however, in a vain hope that the problem of content piracy will fix itself. As a result and in response, a growing number of recent adult content antipiracy initiatives are gaining momentum.

These efforts include targeted DMCA campaigns; measures to prove that certain sites are abusing and not covered by the Safe Harbor provisions of the DMCA; the recovery of financial damages; domain and asset seizures; and more. While pirates themselves can be hard to reach, the various infrastructure providers they rely upon may be easier targets, with deeper pockets. Even the consumers who “share” copyrighted adult content are now targeted for legal action, in a bold move borrowed from the music industry’s playbook.

The Free Speech Coalition offers its Anti-Piracy Action Program (APAP) as a means by which content owners can protect their rights while monetizing their material, with program features for both content owners and tube site owners. Utilizing the Vobile system, unauthorized videos can be swapped on the fly for promotional material, making APAP a step in the right direction. More information can be found at

Industry-leading company Pink Visual is also in the forefront of antipiracy initiatives, hosting the recent Content Protection Retreat in Tucson, Ariz., which brought together a group of adult heavyweights, including Hustler and Titan Media, to discuss some of the latest antipiracy measures and how adult operators can work together for better results.

From simple watermarking to advanced digital fingerprinting, to a growing array of policy and technological measures, courtroom battles and evolving legislation, legitimate operators are waging a war against content piracy — a fight that may decide the adult industry’s fate, along with the fate of other entertainment sectors, including Hollywood and the music industry — both of which are watching the outcomes of our actions.


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