Adult Industry Grapples With Free Porn

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES – It’s a battle on several fronts as adult content producers struggle to make sales in a market saturated with freely distributed, nefariously pirated, and — all too often — continually traded porn.

Even the largest of adult companies are facing tough times today, with Vivid reportedly seeing a major decline in its DVD revenues, which have dropped from accounting for around 80 percent to 30 percent of the company's $100 million dollars in annual sales.

"We're dealing with rampant piracy [and] tons of free content," Vivid's co-founder Steven Hirsch told Reuters.

While piracy and file trading tend to make the headlines, much of the free adult material that is available online was placed their by its marketers and their affiliates. For some operators, the level of promotional material used essentially covers their entire library.

This promotional material, which includes the ubiquitous free hosted gallery, is collected, swapped and shared all over the Internet; finding particular favor on the "tube" type sites.

Coupled with this give-away porn are the downloaded contents of countless premium paysites, whose customers really wanted "to get their money's worth" out of the website, and are now uploading to every video-sharing portal they can find.

Some of this shared material, however, belongs to Vivid; and the company is taking high profile legal action in the case against AEBN and its PornoTube website; demanding $4.5 million in damages for the 30 of its videos allegedly posted by users to PornoTube.

The case, which includes claims of '2257 violations against PornoTube, served as a wakeup shot across the bow of many sites that feature user-submitted materials.

Indeed, XTube abruptly announced the cancellation of webmaster-submitted uploads to its website, causing speculation within the webmaster community that the move was prompted by fears of a Vivid vs. Pornotube style confrontation with copyright holders upset over potential cases of their content appearing on the video-sharing website.

"We're not pirates," Lance Cassidy, one of XTube's founders, said in a recent interview. "We are providing a service that people think they can use to pirate."

While pursuing piracy in general and tube sites in particular won't end the free and easy availability of online adult entertainment, nor will a reduction in promo materials, they are all steps in the right direction.

"This industry is going to have to get together and look at these guys that are putting out the stuff for free... so they are going to have to get in line and start paying for it," Hirsch said. "If that doesn't happen and we see all of this free content out there, people are not going to be able to afford to produce movies anymore."