LFP Settles With Titan Over Alleged Infringement

Gretchen Gallen
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Titan Media chalked up a second copyright infringement victory this week, this time against Larry Flynt Publications.

According to Titan's Vice President of Marketing, Keith Webb, the two companies settled out of court for $400,000, based on 160 unique images at 2,500 per image. Both companies took responsibility for their own attorneys fees.

LFP President Jim Kohls sent out a statement saying that the dispute with Titan ended amicably, and he blamed the incident on a third-party content provider.

Titan filed a lawsuit against LFP in November 2003 claiming that Flynt Digital's newly launched gay membership site, StudClub.com, infringed on some of its gay adult content.

The lawsuit against LFP, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged that LFP posted hundreds of unauthorized photos on StudClub without permission from Titan.

"They hired a third party to get all of the content, but they didn't clear any of it," Webb told XBiz. "They decided to get into the gay niche and didn't know what they were doing. They made a big mistake."

Webb added, however, that once the infringement was recognized by LFP's Kohl, the situation was dealt with in a swift and professional manner.

"He realized it was ultimately his responsibility and he was gentlemen and took care of it," Webb said.

San Francisco-based Titan, a subsidiary of IO Group Inc., has been at the forefront of the content copyright wars, and earlier this week won a longstanding infringement lawsuit against website owner Timothy J. Ward who had used 279 of Titan's images on his Sobe-cfg.com and Sobear.com websites.

In an interview with Titan's general counsel earlier this year, Gill Sperlein told XBiz that Titan has seen so much of its content stolen by other adult entertainment sites that the company now has several full-time employees who devote their time entirely to combing the web for the use of unauthorized content.

"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," Sperlein said.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, which sought maximum damages, there was no knowledge of how long the images had been up on the StudClub site, but according to Sperlein, many of them had the Titan Media name in the filemark.

Sperlein added that typically infringers are smaller companies looking to make a fast dollar and when they get caught, the plea is often that the infringement was an oversight.

"For a producer of his [Larry Flynt] scale to print images that belong to someone else, he had a responsibility to know where the content was coming from," Sperlein told XBiz.

Titan has also been a strong opponent of peer-to-peer networks and the amount of unauthorized content being shared via the Internet. Titan's fight against P2P networks like Kazaa has closely resembled 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.