2 Comments

Summary:

Porn producers have been going after BitTorrent file sharers with mass lawsuits, but courts have made it harder to actually unmask users based on their IP address. Some porn studios now think it’s time to fight piracy with cheaper and better online video offerings instead.

porn money

Porn producers have filed tens of thousands of lawsuits against file sharers in recent months, going after BitTorrent users who have downloaded titles like Batman XXX and Black Big Booty Queens. But the industry seems increasingly divided about this approach after some of the most prolific lawsuits were curtailed by the courts. Some studios and producers vow to fight on, while others wonder whether it’s time to embrace new business models instead.

On one side of the debate are people like Alex Braun, the mastermind behind Batman XXX: A Porn Parody. Braun had targeted some 7,000 people for downloading the movie with a single lawsuit, but a U.S. District Court ruled in late December that the cases had been improperly joined. In other words, Braun would have to file a separate lawsuit against each and every single file sharer.

That decision followed a similar order earlier in December related to thousands of further porn piracy lawsuits, as well as a decision that limits lawsuits to those users that actually reside within the jurisdiction of a court. Still, Braun seems determined to carry on. “I can assure you that I am not quitting,” he told the adult industry news site XBIZ last week, adding the threat: “Heads will roll.”

On the other side are people like Allison Vivas, president of the Southern California-based porn studio Pink Visual (site not safe for work). Vivas told me during a phone conversation this week that her company has been approached by law offices specializing in P2P lawsuits as well, but decided against taking part in it. “It wasn’t as straightforward as advertised,” she said about the lawsuits.

Vivas anticipated early on that groups like the EFF would get involved, and that the courts would question some of the legal tactics used to bring forward mass lawsuits against file sharers. The recent court defeats only validated her concerns, leading Vivas to rule out lawsuits against consumers in the future as well. “I don’t think we will engage in it,” she told me.

That doesn’t mean Pink Visual is turning a blind eye to piracy. The company is educating customers about the rights and wrongs of file sharing, and it’s going after some of the bigger X-rated YouTube clone sites that offer free streaming of unlicensed porn movies. However, Vivas also believes that the porn industry needs to adapt. “We still see a consumer willing to purchase — just not the same way they used to,” she told me.

Porn studios pioneered online subscriptions long before mainstream companies like Netflix and Hulu adopted the idea of monthly flat fees for videos. But many studios priced their online libraries at a premium for fear of undercutting DVD revenue. Those expensive monthly membership fees, as well as DVDs that are oftentimes priced twice as high as mainstream Hollywood movies, are hard to justify if people can find much of the content for free elsewhere. “The consumer doesn’t like these hefty $40 to $50 prices for adult content,” Vivas said.

Pink Visual isn’t alone in its quest for new business models. Private CEO Berth Milton told us last year that his company wants to embrace services that can’t be copied, like social networking and real-life sex experiences for swingers. Milton said these types of services would eventually make up for most of Private’s revenue, at which point piracy would essentially become promotion. Milton went on to call the lawsuits against file sharers “a lost battle” (check out the entire interview with him embedded below).

Pink Visual soon wants to launch a new offering to sell videos for $3 to $6 a pop. The idea of iTunes-like pricing for porn has been raised before, but Vivas told me that iTunes is actually the wrong metaphor. Apple’s business is centered around an application that downloads content to your hard drive, but most porn consumers wouldn’t feel comfortable to have a Porntunes app pop-up in their start menu. A more privacy-conscious solution is to offer everything from the cloud instead. Consumers pay once for a clip, then access it anywhere and from any device. Vivas said her company would launch such an offering by the end of January.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rob Boudon.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. It is good to see are looking into different business models. If I was them, I would look into getting advertisers to pay for product placements. Hard liquor companies and rebel micro-breweries would be who I’d pitch first.

  2. Porn Company Rejects Mass Lawsuits, Goes After Torrent Sites | TorrentFreak Monday, February 7, 2011

    [...] Visual will not do is enter the end-user mass litigation market. Last week president Allison Vivas said that her company had been approached by law firms specializing in this type of work, but had turned [...]

Comments have been disabled for this post