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The gay porn studio Titan Media filed a round of 22 lawsuits this week against porn bloggers and file swappers. These lawsuits are a sign for things to come for the adult industry: more and more porn companies are getting ready to take legal action against […]

The gay porn studio Titan Media filed a round of 22 lawsuits this week against porn bloggers and file swappers. These lawsuits are a sign for things to come for the adult industry: more and more porn companies are getting ready to take legal action against file-sharing web sites and their users. There are even preparations to start an industry association to coordinate those lawsuits.

Nobody paying attention to this community is surprised. Adult content has always played a big role in the file-sharing world. The NPD group estimates that as much as 60 percent of all videos downloaded from P2P networks are porn. The real question is: Why did it take the “other Hollywood” so long to do something about it? Why are they about to copy a strategy from the music industry that so clearly hasn’t stopped people from swapping files. And where is that spirit of innovation that is supposed to make the adult industry the motor of technological progress?

Take a look at any of the big porn torrent sites, and you get a sense of how serious the situation for the adult industry is. Sites like Epornium or Puretna each have more than a million registered users and tens of thousands of active torrents. Users trade individual scenes, full DVD rips and even DVD image files to burn their own discs, complete with menus and extras.

Mainstream torrent sites like The Pirate Bay also offer access to plenty of porn, albeit more hidden access, in order to not scare off their advertisers. There are also streaming video sites that make PrudeTube blush by hosting full scenes of commercial porn movies, and one-click hosters aren’t shying away from the steamy fare, either. Hong Kong-based file hoster Megaupload even started a dedicated platform called Megarotic to capture a bigger slice of the porn-swapping market.

All of this isn’t exactly news to the adult industry. Bram Cohen offered a porn movie as one of the first public beta tests for his newly developed BitTorrent protocol back in 2002, and porn pictures and clips have been a big hit on other file-sharing networks for years as well. The big studios decided to show restraint and not go after potential customers, instead painting themselves as more technologically advanced than the mainstream entertainment industry. Randy Nicolau, then-president of Playboy.com, even compared himself to Henry Ford at the dawn of the automotive age when the New York Times wrote about the subject back in 2004.

The truth is not quite as glamorous. Porn companies have been giving away content online for years, paying web sites lots of money to get customers to sign up for their premium services. P2P looked like a good way to cut out the middle man by leaving the marketing to the end user, who decided to just get the rest of his porn fix for free as well. Tough luck.

Now some of the smaller studios are starting to hurt, which in turn worries big porn empires that are doubling as distributors of the smaller companies’ films. In early September, representatives of 65 porn companies came together in Los Angeles (NSFW) to talk anti-piracy strategy. A few of the studios present decided to go forward and create an industry association to sue file sharers.

The folks over at the GFY adult webmaster forum (NSFW) apparently don’t want to wait for the lawyers. Some started to collect evidence in the form of screenshots, others discussed fantasies to pay someone to rough up or even kill (NSFW) the owners of the Pirate Bay.

What’s completely missing from these discussions are innovative ideas to win back customers. The adult industry still doesn’t have its version of iTunes, Rhapsody or Joost. Innovation is obviously happening elsewhere these days. Porn blogger and Fleshbot (NSFW) editor Gram Ponante is not surprised: “I think porn has been trading on the ‘first in Internet technology’ myth for an overlong time. The difference between porn and Hollywood is hardly content anymore — watch TMZ and be confused by the lack of a pop shot at the end — it is only money,” he told NewTeeVee. “Luckily for porn, the margins have always been low and the returns have always been predictable. It is the knowledge that these smaller returns are themselves being cut into by piracy that has spurred people into action.”

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