Are We an Industry?

Stephen Yagielowicz

It’s been said that organizing the adult entertainment industry is akin to herding cats, due to the fiercely independent nature of its typically non-conformist participants, which simply shun anyone “trying to tell them what to do” — a trait especially prevalent among the younger operators attracted to the online space, where “teen angst” plays a major role.

It’s an attitude that a maturing industry of professionals cannot afford.

Today’s adult entertainment scene presents growing challenges in the diverse areas of age verification, child and copyright protection, legislative initiatives and beyond — challenges best addressed in a cohesive manner by industry trade representatives.

Today’s adult entertainment scene presents growing challenges in the diverse areas of age verification, child and copyright protection, legislative initiatives and beyond — challenges best addressed in a cohesive manner by industry trade representatives with the necessary expertise and resources — rather than as an uncoordinated hodgepodge of one-off approaches that could be more expensive and less effective.

For example, individual antipiracy efforts continue to sap rights holders’ resources, fueling an ongoing war, while widespread sharing continues unabated and the resulting revenue decline combines with myriad other factors to slow down the production and release of new content, further hurting revenues in a vicious, perhaps unstoppable cycle.

The money needed to support the industry’s trade group is a pittance in comparison to these lost revenues; while group initiatives may find a better, more profitable alternative to the industry’s woes, enabling all ships to rise with the incoming tide.

For example, the adult entertainment industry has continued to “clean up its act” and take the next step forward, thanks in part to the help and guidance of organizations such as the standard-bearing Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) and Free Speech Coalition — which contribute towards making the porn business more mainstream and more responsible corporate citizens.

“ASACP is committed to helping digital media businesses protect themselves by protecting children,” ASACP Executive Director Tim Henning told XBIZ. “We provide companies with the tools they need to secure their sites against unauthorized access to age-inappropriate content, as well as offer a Code of Ethics and specific Best Practices for various market segments.”

“These services, in addition to our CP Reporting Hotline and other efforts are only possible through the generous support of our sponsors, members and contributors,” Henning added. “It’s a small price to pay to have a voice in Washington and beyond.”

A longtime supporter of free speech rights, FSC has embraced many of the issues of concern to the adult entertainment industry, from censorship to the 18 USC ‘2257 federal recordkeeping requirements, to condoms in porn and the regulation of performer’s STD testing regimens, listed among its worthy causes.

But not every random group of businesses is ready for this level of representation.

With a tagline of “Together we are stronger,” the U.K.-based Adult Industry Trade Association (AITA) set out with the noble goal of uniting the various interests within the industry in order to accomplish more than a single company could alone. However, AITA recently announced the closing of its operations due to declining membership revenue — a move that took one more proponent of porn out of the fight.

“AITA has significantly reduced its running costs over the last three years, however with corresponding decreasing subscriptions it has been running at a significant loss since at least 2010,” the group announced in a statement.

AITA engaged in various lobbying efforts in the U.K., including holding quarterly networking meetings with a goal of raising adult industry standards — such as bolstering awareness of performer health issues and revising protocols for HIV and STI outbreaks.

Fiona Patten of Australia’s EROS Association told XBIZ at the time of the closure announcement that AITA’s plight was disappointing following its decade plus long fight on behalf of the U.K.’s adult entertainment industry.

“From what I am seeing, attacks on the industry in the U.K. are increasing with continued talk about an Internet filter and campaigns to shut down adult retail outlets. They need a national association now, more than ever,” Patten told XBIZ. “The fact that [millionaires in the U.K. who have earned their fortunes from the sex industry] are not prepared to kick back just a tiny percentage of those fortunes into creating identifiable Codes of Practice and Codes of Ethics, sends a very bad message to the public and to politicians. The religious right in the U.K. will be happyclapping harder than ever.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to criticize a specific region in such a way when we’re dealing with a globally accessible Internet that busts barriers to bring people together for good — or in other words, AITA’s U.K. presence did not preclude it from receiving support from overseas, including from the American market and other regions targeting an audience of British consumers — operators will just need to dig down a little deeper.

According to FSC CEO Diane Duke, compared to other industries, trade associations in the adult products and entertainment industry are seriously underfunded.

“To put it in perspective, the MPAA has a budget of well over $100 million annually, compared to FSC’s half million dollar budget,” Duke told XBIZ. “And, the MPAA handles only movies while FSC handles all production, distribution and pleasure products manufacturing, distribution and sales as well.”

“I am not surprised that AITA could not make it work,” Duke added. “Not for lack of trying but for lack of funding.”

Adult Content Industry United Foundation (ACIUF) President Siep Kuppens agrees, telling XBIZ that AITA’s closure announcement is both “disappointing and alarming.”

“Disappointing because it again it proves the inability of this industry to unite,” Kuppens said, “Alarming, because especially in the U.K., there is a big necessity for an official counterpart when it concerns government intervention.”

This inability for the industry to unite is a big concern for the ACIUF as well.

“There are times that I am wondering why the hell we started this initiative. In the beginning we got our fair share of sardonic laughter and even accusations like we were in this for the money,” Kuppens confided. “But at this moment I am still glad we went along with it. Interest is increasing and we are achieving some of our goals.”

Kuppens cites growing respect for ACIUF by hosting and financial companies, which allows the group to make life more difficult for large scale pirates and illegal file lockers — entities that ACIUF targeted from the beginning in hopes of ending commercial piracy or to at least “bring it back to an amateur level.”

The group also provides content removal services as a way to make life more difficult for file lockers, but these services are not ACIUF’s main goal.

“The donations of our members enable us to make legal reports and map the different (Eastern) European laws. But also (or maybe even “more”) important, it allows us to develop a security tool that is not familiar to pirates,” Kuppens explains. “These are early stages of the project but once we implement this, it will be mind blowing. Long story short: if a pirate downloads a movie, the video will only play on the device on which it was downloaded to. Once they move it to a file locker, the video is dead.”

These tools wouldn’t have been possible without the donations of ACIUF members.

“That is why it is important to unite,” Kuppens concluded. “That is why I regret the AITA is closing shop.”

If the countless companies, performers and operators in the adult entertainment world truly wish to become an industry worthy of representation, then hopefully AITA will be the last trade group to shutter its virtual doors — it’s in your hands (and checkbook) now.