The owners of the X-rated YouTube clone PornoTube.com won’t have to bare it all in court, after all: Porn powerhouse Vivid dropped its copyright infringement lawsuit against PornoTube owner Data Conversions Inc., also known as the Adult Entertainment Broadcasting Network (AEBN), earlier this week.
Vivid sued AEBN back in December of 2007, alleging that PornoTube distributed at least 50 scenes from Vivid’s porn movies without any license to do so. One of the movies mentioned in the original complaint was the sex tape of network TV starlet and B-list personality Kim Kardashian. These movies have all disappeared from the site since then. In fact, users have reported that PornoTube has been removing countless clips in recent days, hinting at an out-of-court agreement. Vivid told us that it has “no comment at this time” on any arrangement between the two companies.
Vivid alleged in its original lawsuit filing (PDF copy) that PornoTube willfully enabled and facilitated the infringement of its works. “(E)ven a cursory review of the PornoTube.com website” would make it clear that users aren’t just uploading their naughty home videos, but commercially produced porn flicks that oftentimes still displayed Vivid’s logos and movie titles, the complaint claimed. The porn maker asked the court for a permanent injunction against AEBN as well as $4.5 million in damages.
The lawsuit against AEBN was widely seen as the porn industry’s first big step against online video piracy, and many people in the industry compared it to Viacom suing YouTube. However, the situation was a little more complex because AEBN is also running a network of pay-per-view video websites that contribute to Vivid’s online revenue. Other porn video sites are less connected to the industry, and also much less susceptible to U.S. court rulings. The popular porn hoster Megarotic, for example, is incorporated in Hong Kong.
Vivid pioneered a new legal strategy with is lawsuit against AEBN because it invoked a law requiring porn producers and distributors to keep detailed documentation abut the age and identity of their performers on record. Vivid alleged that AEBN unfairly competed in the adult entertainment marketplace because it didn’t abide by these requirements. Many porn studios had hoped that this would turn out to be a new weapon in the fight against infringers, but with the lawsuit withdrawn, those hopes are now put on hold.
The adult biz has struggled to come up with a consistent strategy against online video piracy. Some studios have contemplated to sue individual file sharers, but most companies have so far resisted the idea of mass-scale lawsuits and instead concentrated on sending take-down notices to PornoTube-like sites.
Some have however argued that it would be better to monetize infringement than to fight it, and the adult biz has previously shown that it doesn’t shy away from doing business with pirates. One example is the acquisition of the online personals site Adult FriendFinder, which has the reputation of being one of the biggest advertiser on adult torrent sites, by Penthouse in late 2007.