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Voyeur Dorm in Legal Battle

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Nov 12, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
TAMPA, Fla. – Adult entertainment sites that offer live webcam access into the homes of young, college-age models have discovered a gold mine of willing and eager subscribers. Although Voyeur Dorm, L.C. Entertainment Network Inc. has run into some legal problems with its cam models, and in doing so has raised a hailstorm of issues regarding adult companies that pay models to expose themselves on a continuous timetable.

The legal tussle began with a lawsuit filed on behalf of Voyeur Dorm when two of its former models joined a competitor's site. Voyeur Dorm claimed the two girls had violated the non-compete clause in their contracts when they joined rival cam company Voyeur Cam Friends, also based in Florida.

Voyeur Dorm filed suit in a state circuit court against Laura Spell and Stephanie Piccolo claiming that the contract clause prohibited them from joining another adult website within two years of leaving the company.

XBiz contacted a representative for Voyeur Dorm but was told the company had no comment.

Voyeur Dorm charges subscribers a flat forty-dollar monthly rate to watch its models in a faux-dormitory setting equipment with 50 cameras. According to Voyeur, the models are housed for free and paid a fixed salary for allowing the cams to capture their every moment during a set number of hours per day and per week, including group activities and online chats.

The company is operated by David Marshlack and Charles Hammil, and is owned by U.K -based D&H Enterprises.

Spell and Piccolo retaliated against Voyeur Dorm by filing a counter-suit claiming that the company had stiffed them for over-time pay.

The two models were soon joined in a collection class action suit by nearly a dozen other cam models who claimed that continuous cam coverage, which ran twenty-four hours on the girls, should have made them eligible for additional wages.

The two principal litigants, Spell and Piccolo, contend that the fixed salary covered the 40 hours per week they agreed to be filmed, but that they were never compensated for over-time or time-and-a-half.

On an average basis, there were between 5 and 12 cam models being housed in the Tampa house at a time, most of whom signed a contract which stated that they were "employees" on a "stage and filming location" with no reasonable expectation of privacy for entertainment purposes.

The plaintiffs are being called "disgruntled workers" on behalf of Voyeur Dorm's legal counsel. However many outsiders of the case are saying that it raises interesting legal issues regarding adult entertainment companies and cam models who are expected to be available to adult subscribers around-the-clock.

Voyeur Dorm is no stranger to lawsuits and has faced several major legal hurdles over the past few years.

In 2000, the company filed a suit against CBS Corp. claiming it used "proprietary information" for a television show that later became the hit television series "Big Brother." The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in New York against CBS, asking that the show be prohibited from airing.

Additionally, the Tampa City Council voted to shut down the cam company because it violated regulations against adult entertainment businesses located in residential neighborhoods.

But that ruling was later reversed by the United States Court of Appeals, which claimed that Voyeur Dorm was an Internet-based operation and did not fit in the same definition of an adult entertainment establishment and therefore did not violate residential Tampa city code.

The Eleventh Circuit determined that for a business to be deemed an "adult entertainment establishment" within the meaning of the code, members of the public must actually be physically present at the establishment when the adult entertainment is displayed.

Because the public was not physically at the residence in question, but rather viewed the performance over the Internet, the location was not an "adult entertainment establishment" within the meaning of the zoning regulations, and hence not prohibited by it.

Litigation between Voyeur Dorm and its cam models is still pending, according to sources.

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