U.S. Adult Companies Win Australian Piracy Case

Matt O'Conner
SYDNEY, Australia – Defendants in an Australian film piracy case pleaded guilty on Feb.3 to breaching copyrights owned by U.S. adult companies Wicked Pictures, CalVista and Adultshop.com.

Retail, online and mail-order businesses Kaosshop Pty Ltd., Platinum Interactive Pty Ltd. and their director, Theo Armenis, accepted liability for the infringements at the start of a hearing in Australia’s Federal Magistrates Court. They also accepted a series of permanent injunctions against selling, distributing or advertising the films in question.

Because the defendants pleaded guilty, the majority of the hearing was spent arguing over damages. The judge gave no indication of when he will make his decision regarding damages.

The victory sets an important precedent, according to Steven Vlottes, vice president of international sales and licensing at Wicked.

“The decision is going to make other people doing this sort of thing stop and think, ‘Maybe it’s not worth it,’” Vlottes told XBiz.

Vlottes said his company was losing at least 50 percent of its Australian business due to rampant, unchecked piracy.

“Piracy is a major problem in the Australian adult film industry and we are being flooded with pirated DVDs and videos,” said Graeme Dunne, executive officer of Australia’s Adult Industry Copyright Organization, the group that filed suit on behalf of Wicked and the other companies involved. “We estimate that they account for over 80 percent of the adult films sold in Australia.”

Piracy isn’t nearly as prevalent in the U.S., but some within the industry estimate that illegal copying is sapping as much as 30 percent of annual profits from larger studios such as Wicked and Vivid.

“Every time we put a finger in the dam, we spring another leak,” said Jay Grdina, president of Club Jenna and husband of Jenna Jameson.

Vlottes said that, while U.S copyright laws are much easier to enforce, the industry would benefit from having a domestic organization similar to AICO.

“It would be great if we had an organization we could go to and put these types of cases in their hands,” he said.

Because AICO is funded not by studios but by Australian distributors, it is the distributors who will win any damages the court awards.