Foreword by SJD:
My Friday’s post, as well as Copyright Clerk’s article on the same topic (Judge Write granting Morgan Pietz’s motion to interrogate Prenda regarding its allegedly fake clients) were featured on the main page of slashdot.org and generated a significant amount of comments. I can’t resist copying one particular comment here. Although most of the thoughts and conclusions expressed in this piece can be found throughout our site, it is nice to hear a story from a “semi-insider,” a story that expresses views similar to ours, a story that confirms that those adult producers who succumb to trolls’ preaching shoot themselves in the foot and risk losing much more than gaining from cooperation with troll lawyers. Interestingly, a very bold confirmation of this thesis is taking place as we speak: Prenda has hastily dismissed all the lawsuits filed “on behalf” of Sunlust Pictures, whose principles Daniel Weber and Sunny Leone are apparently in the process of cutting all the ties with Prenda after all the embarrassment, unwanted publicity, and potential perjury charges.
I replied to this comment on Slashdot, articulating my interest in reposting it, but the author did not react. I assume that he does not mind, but if he does, or, alternatively, wants to amend the text, I will respect his wishes.
I have worked for the porn industry and seen this guy preaching at industry conventions, once supposedly on a forum that was to discuss how to approach copyright infringement as a porn company/copyright holder. (There are other approaches: the best working is focusing on having your customers become loyal fans of your brand, so they want to pay, beg you to pay.)
It wasn’t a discussion really, as I sat by as a 3rd party (I do servers for whatever reason you might have and I make the same amount whether those servers are paid for by copyright owners, commercial pirates, amateurs or cat pictures) and was amazed to see him preach to the converted… well… up until the point you start asking for numbers. There are a lot of porn producers, a shit load more content and a near infinite amount of downloaders. The internet may consist of cat pictures but torrents are for porn. Yet he has done at the time only a few thousand cases. That is nothing! It ain’t even a drop in the bucket. The RIAA was doing vastly more cases.
While the audience was agreeing with him, you could see most didn’t have a clue as to the real issues and the developments with regards to copyrights and enforcing them. The porn industry likes to pride itself on being cutting edge, VHS, online payments but really that is just a tiny segment, the rest are slobs who figured out: sex sells. The moment the forum was over, I talked to some porn producers and asked what they though considering judgment like the then current claim of movie copyright infringement costing several times more than the entire world economy.
Or the cases of suing children, veterans and other people who might get the sympathy of the public. If the public chooses the side of dirty pirates against wholesome music executives… what chance does a porn peddler stand? Most porn producers are well aware that they are skirting the edge of public acceptance, they know they can only accept credit cards if they meet the decency requirements of the processing company, can only host with parties that accept adult content. They didn’t like it one bit when I linked them on my tablet to some John Steele publicity stunts, no porn company wants attention from Fox News about harassing some grandma who left her WiFi open as it was installed by her grandson who died in Afghanistan. No thank you sirree, that is not worth gathering a few bucks, especially when all the lawyer fees have been paid you end up owing the lawyer for bad publicity.
That I wasn’t the only doom spreader for dealing with John Steele is proven by the fact only a handful of companies deal with him. When you talk to him, he does his name justice Google his picture, say his name and what you think he will be like is how he is. A boisterous overconfident man who speaks so loud that he doesn’t hear anyone asking him to explain some details about cases thrown out of court and how does not quite work on a contingency basis (he gets more if he wins but he always get paid), how a settlement doesn’t include paying lawyer fees. If you lose in court and are ordered to pay $5,000 in damages, you often also have to pay lawyer fees. If you settle for $1,000, that is it, the lawyer still wants paying. John Steele certainly does.
It is no secret that copyright infringement happens, on a massive scale. And porn has an issue the mainstream media does not have. I once came up with a nice way to put but we are all males here so here it is: “You can cum on a trailer”.
Some Hollywood movies have trailers that tell you the entire movie and a few where the trailer is better than the movie but on the whole, the trailer makes you hungry for more.
In porn, the trailer is enough for most and just makes you sleepy. Watching a full movie on YouTube is a hassle (well it was until they removed the ten minute limit) but for porn tubes… how many minutes do you need? Oh wait, I forgot my audience. Seconds?
Sharing the entire movie on a torrent is far less of an issue to the industry then all those porn tube sites that contain more than enough to satisfy the audience. A teaser site can be enough.
But despite all this and free amateur (real, not paid for) content, the industry is doing just fine. John Steele isn’t needed. He tries to sell himself strongly to the industry but once the producers have left the hall and are outside the reach of his preaching, common sense sets in. And John is angry about that, he is trying to save the industry, all this money out there you can get from people downloading your movie.
He ain’t a happy bunny at all. A Forbes’ article is hardly the first look at his practices. When you talk to him directly or hear him speak (and he talks so fast and loud he can drown out anyone else) he is recovering fortunes for poor abused porn producers. In reality, it is a few bucks most of which go to him, and most of the industry refuses to deal with him. They might agree with him, but even the most rabid “oh my god they are stealing” producer I talked to, much preferred not to be in the spotlight like this and the bigger producers preferred simpler approaches to fight copying by focusing on engaging users with fresh content and see their back catalog as advertising.
To most porn producers, the guy who only needs a few seconds of porn is not their customer, they want the fan, the enthusiast, the one who refreshes his browser every 2 seconds when new content has been announced and writes reviews of the performers on the forum. These fans have no issue paying each month; it is their offering to their church. It was fun to see this lawyer and others like him try to sell copyright protection when all the business cases showed that the porn companies that do best are those who focus on their paying customers and ignore how much of their content is available on torrents. As long as the torrents are a week or more behind, they know their paying customers will keep paying.
John Steele is pursuing a business model that the industry does not support, and it doesn’t want the attention it is generating. I happen to have talked to some of the guys behind the content he is actually suing over and these are the most right wing nutcases you could ever hope to avoid. The majority of porn producers stay well clear. They listened to their geeks and saw how what was not working for mainstream content also would not work for them.