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Titan Media Sues Flynt

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Nov 20, 2003 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Larry Flynt Publications (LFP) has been served with a sizeable copyright infringement lawsuit by Titan Media, a gay content producer owned by IO Group.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that LFP posted 250 unauthorized photos on newly launched Studclub.com, a paid membership site that is believed to be part of the Flynt Digital family of adult websites, although XBiz was not able to confirm that fact at the time of this printing.

Titan and parent company IO Group have stated that Flynt "willfully infringed" on its property and that they fully intend to seek maximum damages.

"It seems to be an attempt for Flynt to build a gay market, and it looks like he used our material to build this site," Titan Media's General Counsel Gill Sperlein told XBiz. "We've seen plenty of other business models where people have used unlicensed material to build a subscriber base and then once they've established themselves, they switch over to copyrighted material."

Titan Media is no stranger to similar acts of copyright infringement since its launch in the mid-nineties. According to Sperlein, Titan has seen so much of its content get lifted by other adult entertainment sites that they now have several full-time employees that devote their time entirely to combing the web for unauthorized Titan content.

Sperlein told XBiz that Titan's gay adult images were being used in Larry Flynt's Studclub.com galleries without proper credit or prior consent. There is no knowledge yet how long the images were up on the Studclub site.

Sperlein also said that of the 250 images being used unlawfully, an estimated 150 of them have the Titan Media name in the file mark as a form of copyright claim.

"For a producer of his scale to print images that belong to someone else, he had a responsibility to know where the content was coming from," Sperlein told XBiz. "For a smaller company looking to make a quick buck, they could make the argument that it was a mistake or that they thought they had authorization. But in this case, there is no way he [LFP] can claim that this was an innocent mistake. We feel we have been harmed and we will seek redress aggressively."

Sperlein added that the most frequent cases of copyright infringement against Titan come from the "little guys" and that Titan has been hit hard by piracy issues over the past few years; so hard that the company has had to lay off several employees to compensate for the financial drain on its bottom line.

"It's not just adult producers that are suffering the effects of this," Sperlein said. "But in our business in particular, we suffer more because people are always looking for an anonymous way to get adult material."

The biggest culprit, according to Sperlein, comes from peer-to-peer networks, a sore issue that closely resembles similar complaints made by the motion picture and music industries, which have waged bitter wars against file-sharing networks that continue to infringe on creative content.

"Piracy happens because content producers don't take the same position in protecting their content as we do, I think with the exception of maybe Playboy and a few other producers," said Sperlein. "People just have this idea that on the Internet anything and everything is free and they can do whatever they want with it."

If liability is established, Titan and IO Group have asked the court for 'willful statutory damages' for each of the 250 images, which could result in a maximum award of up to $100,000 in penalties per photo.

According to Sperlein, a status conference on the case has been scheduled for Feb. 17, although there could be motions for a summary judgment in the meantime. LFP has not yet filed an answer.

"It could be some time before this thing gets resolved," he said.

Representatives for LFP were not available for comment.

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