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Porn producers put focus on Internet pirates

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Despite a summer of canceled conventions and conferences due to Arizona's SB 1070, calls for a boycott over the state's illegal immigration measure didn't keep one group out of town.

A group of porn production companies and adult industry lawyers met in Tucson last week, convened by locally-based studio Pink Visual, to work on stopping online pirates they claim are threatening the industry.

The October 17-19 "Content Protection Retreat" was held at a Foothills resort, said Quentin Boyer, Pink Visual's director of public relations.

"We're being pretty tight-lipped about the proceedings," Boyer said. "We don't want ot overplay our hand. We want to protect the privacy of the people who were there."

Some four dozen companies attended the event, which gathered porn producers like Pink Visual and Hustler along with industry legal groups like the Free Speech Coalition, Boyer said. "There were the big studios, right down the the mom-and-pop producers."

Whatever their size, there's been some shrinkage in the adult industry's profits.

Revenues are down about 40 percent since 2007, Boyer said. Pink Visual's focus on mobile phone distribution has led to better than average numbers, he said, but the company has still seen a 25-30 percent drop in revenue in recent years.

"Industry-wide, it amounts to hundred of millions (of dollars) over the course of a few years," he said.

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The adult industry is "battling a consumer mindset that adult content is something one should not have to pay for, and scrambling to prevent further infringement on their intellectual property rights," a press release on the event said.

Advances in online technology have made the piracy problem that much harder for the adult entertainment industry, Boyer said.

Sites that offer pirated porn can offer movies that can often be just as good as on sites run by studios, he said. Many sites dedicated to porn movie clips operate on a model like Youtube, where individual users can upload movies — many of which are professional productions put out by the studios.

One tactic has producers suing individuals who upload copyrighted content, a move that worked for the record companies that wanted to shut down music-sharing sites a decade ago.

In September, Larry Flynt Publications sued 635 "John Does" in a Texas court, focusing on users of BitTorrent sites who shared videos of shemales and 18-year old girls. The possibility of an accused pirate's name being exposed as part of a suit is seen as a deterrent by some.

Commenting on the Texas suits, Allison Vivas, Pink Visual's president, told Agence France Presse last month, "It seems like it will be quite embarrassing for whichever user ends up in a lawsuit about using a popular shemale title. When it comes to private sexual fantasies and fetishes, going public is probably not worth the risk that these torrent and peer-to-peer users are taking."

"We discussed a lot of different approaches" at last week's meeting, Boyer said. "We want people to be more respectful of intellectual property. They might be more interested in doing that than getting sued."

Chasing down individual users is a "controversial idea among the studios. People in the industry don't savor that," Boyer said.

Producers don't want to jeopardize porn's new-found mainstream acceptance, Boyer said.

"I don't want to shame people over the nature of the content," he said. "There is a place for end-user litigation, but we don't want to send a message that people shouldn't be looking."

"We know we can't eliminate piracy; we're looking to mitigate it," he said.

Some studios agreed to go after the "tube" sites that host videos uploaded by users.

The producers aim to compel website operators to agree to use "digital fingerprint" technology on their sites, to allow studios to track their content.

New digital fingerprinting methods allow studios to track and identify their content anywhere it appears online, even clips as short as a minute.

"It can recognize content even if it's been edited significantly," Boyer said.

The technology works by measuring the shapes, colors, sounds and motion of a video to create a digital file that can identify the clip.

Older digital watermarking techniques were less robust, and couldn't be used to track videos that didn't include a watermark when it was distributed.

Website owners can use digital fingerprints to identify and remove copyrighted material, without producers having to search for infringement, Boyer said.

A campaign by the porn industry that urged users to stop sharing copyrighted movies hasn't been all that successful.

Earlier this year, a YouTube campaign by the Free Speech Coalition featured adult stars like Ron Jeremy and Joanna Angel making the case for paying for adult entertaiment.

Saying they "work hard to entertain you and arouse you," performers warned consumers that not paying for porn would eventually cause the supply to dry up.

Another clip, of Charlie Laine, saw the adult performer call for an end of copyright infringement under the slogan "help fight Internet piracy... and turn a frown upside-down."

As for the calls for a boycott over SB 1070, "We didn't give that a thought," Boyer said. "This was a private event, and Tucson was a good place to do it."

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Pink Visual

The Tucson-based adult entertainment company has made a few media waves over the years.

In 2009, Pink Visual's president, Allison Vivas, was given an Entrepreneur of the Year award by an organization led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. While that honor was quickly rescinded, it sparked news coverage around the world.

Other media notice has been more self-started: The company has made offers to both "Octomom" Nadya Suleman (to not do porn in exchange for a year's supply of diapers) and Conan O'Brien (after his firing from The Tonight Show).

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