Downloading a hit song or Hollywood movie from BitTorrent might become an expensive mistake if you find yourself targeted in a lawsuit, but downloading an adult video might become an expensive and embarrassing mistake.

That, at least, is what Third World Media is hoping. As CNET has reported, the California-based adult entertainment studio is filing suits around the country against John Doe defendants who the studio alleges illegally downloaded its content through file sharing networks like BitTorrent. If the courts permit, those John Does will be unmasked by their ISPs, subjecting them to more than just legal headaches.

Third World Media, of course, is following in the footsteps of the recording and movie industries, which have also used the strategy of filing lawsuits against thousands of defendants in hopes that many of them will opt to settle outside of court.

The fact that the adult entertainment industry is adopting such a strategy makes for an interesting story, particularly as this is an industry often touted as forward-thinking and in many cases, pioneering. For better or worse, the adult entertainment industry played an oftentimes important role in developing various internet technologies and business models that are now common in the mainstream. From streaming video to paid content, many of us in the mainstream can thank, in part, the adult entertainment industry for paving the way.

But the industry that helped paved the way has encountered a rocky road of its own. Extreme competition and hoards of free content has squeezed margins and made it tougher for adult entertainment companies to make a buck online. And like the music and movie industries, the adult entertainment industry faces the scourge of piracy, which many of its players blame for their woes.

So some of them are turning to lawsuits in an effort to fight back. In doing so, they reveal a stark truth many in the mainstream tech industry would rather not face: no matter how tech-savvy or 'innovative' your industry, when push comes to shove, no option is off the table in defending business models that were really, really lucrative -- until they weren't.

The reality, of course, is that digital piracy has created an untenable situation for content creators of all shapes and sizes. While it's fun to throw stones at record labels and movie studios, if content creators can't exploit the works they produce as permitted by law, there will be little incentive to continue creating. That hurts everybody, consumers included. But pragmatically-speaking, digital piracy will never be defeated entirely. Which begs the question: what's the better investment -- filing lawsuits or trying to rework your product and business model?

Lawsuits haven't exactly done much for record labels and movie studios, but the adult entertainment industry is clearly ready to try its hand. It has the embarrassment factor going for it, which may push some defendants to settle when they otherwise wouldn't have. But if the adult entertainment industry expects lawsuits to solve its problems, it will probably be as disappointed its mainstream media counterparts a few miles south of the San Fernando Valley.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 October, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)



Which is exactly what ACS Law and other have been doing for a couple of years now.

over 7 years ago



For a while, the adult content industry was also able to defy gravity by producing more and more explicit content for smaller and smaller niche audiences. (That's the long tail in action: a fetish shared by 0,001% of the general population can be a profitable global niche). If raunchiness could be quantified, it would make an interesting and probably accelerating curve from the first pubic hair in Playboy to the first online [insert disgusting sex act of your choice here].

But now it seems that this strategy has hit a wall. I don't know what to make of the "cease to create" argument. There's enough porn freely available online to keep generations of teenagers in a permanent state of excitement, and various amateurs are making more of it for various reasons. Go on, quit, I dare you! Wouldn't be a great loss to humanity.

We humans are built to constantly search for something new. Old stuff won't do, or won't be worth as much, and this could be the logic flaw in the content business model which under current copyright laws is fast approaching "create once - charge eternally".

over 7 years ago

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