XSF '08: FSC Piracy Roundtables

Joanne Cachapero
LAS VEGAS – The Free Speech Coalition [FSC] kicked off the first morning of the XBIZ Summer Forum with its roundtable workshop on content piracy. The hot-button topic drew a light audience, which may have been due to the previous night’s Circle Bar activities or the perfect 105-degree bikini weather by the poolside cabanas by 11 a.m.

Those in attendance were greeted by FSC Executive Director Diane Duke, as well as Sureflix Digital Distribution CBDO Michel Lozier. Last year, Sureflix bankrolled the Global Anti-Piracy Group [GAPA], which has since joined forces with the FSC, in order to present a united front on piracy issues, on behalf the adult industry.

Lozier, who is in contact with content producers internationally, noted that several court cases in Europe have been decided in favor of content producers. Those rulings will eventually form a basis for common law, in order to regulate legitimate producers’ copyrights.

“The courts have been slow in setting up laws — but the courts have to do it. So far [in Europe] it looks like the tide is changing in favor of legitimate producers and providers, and against the pirates,” Lozier told XBIZ. “France, Germany, Sweden — what is happening there is several court cases in the last six months — not all adult, some mainstream, but in the end the result is the same. The judges have been coming down very hard on the pirates.

“And when we talk about the pirates, we’re not talking just about the person doing the copy,” Lozier added. “We’re talking about the networks behind that person that allowed the sharing of those files; the bit torrents of the world. And the judges are saying, 'You can’t hide yourself any more behind that you are just the conduit and you are not the pirate.' This will have long-term repercussions on the cable companies and Internet service providers, who are all, at the moment, hiding this notion that they are just the highway and they don’t have anything to do with piracy.”

Former GAPA Director Caryn Goldberg told XBIZ, “I think that people are realizing that it’s time to do something about it all together. We’re making little bits of progress and watching people come together like this, in a venue and getting real information, with people giving up a lot of expertise that they have, for free — just so people can learn. If everybody isn’t fighting this then it isn’t going to go away.”

The seminar was presented in four instructional sections.

One of the most compelling sections was on the topic of tracking pirated content, which was presented by Ark Home Entertainment President Kevin Song.

Song, who is a wholesaler/retailer, has a background in law enforcement and a vested interest in tracking pirated materials. Using hidden online identities to access pirate networks, Song was able to put together a list of more than 200 URL addresses where pirated content could be found. The list was included in the workshop packet.

He pointed out to attendees that much of hard product piracy can be traced back to countries in Southeast Asia, while online pirates often originate in Europe and Eastern Europe. Despite overseas servers, Song said that with enough research, pirates could often be traced to businesses located in the U.S. and could be attacked through those affiliations when a producer seeks to have content removed from a network or site.

“The idea is not to stop piracy completely,” Song said, “but to get your own content off the Web.

He suggested the use of WhoIs.com, DomainTools.com and WayBackMachine.com as resources for researching pirate websites. Also, Song recommended watermarking all photo and video content.

Song also said that while tube sites were getting a lot of attention from content producers, file hosting sites like RapidShare were more of a concern.

While several companies now offer tracking services to producers, Song said that even with 10 to 15 minutes a day spent searching for pirated content, most producers would see noticeable results from their due diligence. The hardest part, he said, was getting producers to change their viewpoint on the importance of protecting their own materials.

“Unfortunately, it’s getting their mindset right because a lot of people feel that piracy doesn’t need to be addressed because the medium is going to be so different in the coming years that we don’t need to face piracy,” he said.

“What we need to do is get everyone on the same page and understand that piracy is going to exist in many forms, and then you can get people to combat it in many different forms,” Song added. “But if you don’t make the effort, then nothing is going to change.”

Song also offered to advise industry members interested in finding out more about content tracking.

Specialty Publications' Adam Lucas presented the copyright portion of the seminar. Lucas said that producers who neglect to copyright their content are leaving themselves open to potential losses if they find themselves in litigation with pirates.

“[Adult content is] one of the most pirated things in the world, and they don’t do anything to protect it,” Lucas told XBIZ. “And then when they go to court, they have no recourse.”

“Filing copyright is easy and cheap, and if you just create it as part of your production cost for a production, or a magazine, you add that $45 filing fee and it takes two seconds to do,” Lucas told XBIZ. "The forms are all available online at the government website, and it’s done. For five minutes of work, you could collect up to $30,000 in statutory damages, so it’s extremely valuable.”

Lucas pointed out that video content is not the only material at risk. He recently found an entire issue of Freshmen magazine, a Specialty Publications product, available for downloading on RapidShare.

Industry attorney and XBIZ columnist Greg Piccionelli gave information on the process of writing and issuing cease-and-desist or DMCA letters.

“A well drafted cease-and-desist letter that is part of an overall strategy to enforce intellectual property rights, particularly on the Web, is probably the single most cost-effective way of protecting property rights,” Piccionelli said. “Because if it’s properly drafted, it converts the other person from what might be an innocent infringer, to a willful infringer of copyrights and trademarks. Then, the potential of damages goes way up and the availability of attorney’s fees kicks in [in event of a lawsuit].”

Piccionelli said that most producers are satisfied with the cessation of infringement, though extreme cases might proceed to court, if the plaintiff was seeking money damages or trying to make a statement to pirates to stay away from their content.

Industry attorney Clyde DeWitt gave information on filing suit against pirates, and suggested to attendees to do as much research and documentation as possible, before proceeding, in order to substantiate any claims.

“What I’ve explain to industry members is that this is just a first step,” FSC Director Duke said. “As we look to the future of technology I think one of the things that the FSC needs to do, is to help people make sure that are making the smart business decisions that they need to make to have successful businesses in the future.

“So, in November we’re going to be doing a summit, where we’re going to be bringing some people together from inside the industry and outside to really look at this issue and get more information about what other industries are doing around these issues, and then seeing what we can do to fight this problem,” Duke added. “People’s understanding of the issue needs to come up to a level, but then we, as an industry needs to make a decision on how to move forward.”

Seminar attendee and content producer PapaGMP said his three websites have only been live for a year and he has not seen too much of his content ripped yet –— but he still sees piracy as a major concern. He monitors search engines and has found some of his affiliate clips on mirror sites.

“I think that piracy is the biggest issue that we’re facing right now as far as loss to the producer, physical loss,” he said. “I’d like to see us group together more and see the combined strength of all of us combat the piracy and copyright issues. I don’t feel hopeless. Time will tell — theft is theft and the majority of people in the world think it’s wrong.”