Bit Torrent Blues

Tom Hymes
The roving minstrels of Internet pornography are singing impassioned, angry songs these days about a torrent of trafficking in stolen goods and the jackals who feed on the ensuing human traffic. Indeed, we have heard these songs many times before, so what's different now?

Maybe the jangle of easy money no longer drowns out the rushing gush of lost revenue as millions upon millions of eyeballs feast on an unending supply of hot sex delivered free of charge; content, of course, that is plundered on a daily basis in a simultaneous orgy of theft-in-plain-sight.

Or maybe the incessant struggle to protect content and track down thieves, not to mention being forced to alert self-avowed thieves of their own theft, has worn patience too thin.

On the other hand, maybe the crimes we think we see are really nifty sleights-of-hand, Trojan horses hiding bands of digital salesmen eager to slay unwary surfers at their most vulnerable moment.

What if the argument is true that the unfettered sharing of digital content cannot be stopped, and that it is better to work with the system rather than against it? People have mined gold from torrent sites so why not play the game the smart way — as Internet players have been doing for years — and beat the torrent sites at their own game by seeding them with your own content, netting a few sales in the process and maybe more?

Or would that be like betting against the house as a business model?

The issue of stolen porn is not new, except that now it is more than images and video clips that are being shared wholesale, but entire websites, which renders the concept of seeding ludicrous for those who have been cleaned out. It goes without saying that some of the biggest names in the business got their start stealing content.

Now, many of them are upstanding citizens of the industry, best mates with their old marks, partying and reminiscing about the good old days. But they stole from one another under controlled circumstances during a time when it didn't really matter.

Today it matters and control is an illusion. Today, for many people the margins are wafer-thin and getting thinner. Now a whole new breed of old timers is coming on board; men mostly who have a history of how to skim off the top and an idea of how much is OK to take and how much is not so OK. I think the pile of manure they are about to step into is going to surprise and displease them.

My opinion about the torrent sites is simple: they are a scourge. Because of the global, multi-jurisdictional nature on the Internet, I do not think they are going to go away, however, so a rational person might have to consider whether it makes sense to come to an accommodation, though what that accommodation would be that equally counters the threat is beyond me.

As to the question of those in the adult affiliate network who also have ads on torrent sites, I tend to find their various justifications unconvincing. But I also know that some products thrive in that environment and nothing will keep them from making money there. Would I boycott them if I were a content producer? Damn straight I would.