Breaching the Goldilocks Zone of Porn Piracy

‘Even if their motivation is selfish and they’re trying to profit off of your content, if there is a symbiosis in the theft of your free video, look, there are worse crimes, in my opinion.’ ­
– Luc Dean, Adult content creator

Porn piracy is running rampant, with adult content being the most pirated content online. However, creators in the industry say a symbiotic relationship can be had with select porn pirates.

The general sentiment is there could be a ‘goldilocks zone’ to porn piracy. A little can be good. But too much? Now, that is just being mean and greedy.

Having fun downloading that dodgy porn? Illustration: Ben Steele
SO, WHAT IS PORN PIRACY?

Piracy includes making illegal copies of copyrighted music, games, software, electronic books, and movies — or streaming that content without permission.

And porn is just another form of content that can get pirated – especially with the growth of online porn seen on Pornhub and Onlyfans.

It is just like that time you illegally streamed the latest films in the Naughty Noughties even after seeing the peak of advertisements..

Creators upload their content to studio websites, aggregators or tube sites like Pornhub, and fan sites like OnlyFans or JustFor.Fans, but they are also using social media to promote their paid content by posting teasers and samples of their work.

Illustration: Ben Steele

Adult content creator Luc Dean said Twitter is the main social media platform for creators like himself to post explicit stuff.

‘Twitter is – for now – the safe haven for people who like to post naked pictures of themselves.

‘If you’re posting on one of the fans sites, you almost always have a Twitter account. I don’t think I know a single person that doesn’t,’ said Dean.

These teasers and samples often get posted to other Twitter accounts and sites without the creator’s permission.

‘I have definitely seen media that I have published to my Twitter account being ripped and reposted by other people,’ said Dean.

‘In self-marketing, you have to give a little to get a little.

‘If they’re helping, even if, you know, their motivation is selfish and they’re trying to profit off your content, if there is a symbiosis in the theft of your free video, look, there are worse crimes, in my opinion.’

There are many porn pirates who cite their source and attribute the creator of the explicit content. By reposting the content to a new platform with the correct attribution, creators are able to access a new audience who may have never seen their content otherwise. This is seen as a really good asset by many adult creators.

This reposting of free content – although technically piracy – is widely accepted to be free marketing.

Freelance content writer for porn affiliate blogs Conran Thomas said porn piracy can operate in a similar way to music piracy on sites like YouTube.

‘What most of us do as affiliates is ‘reacting’ to the content and promoting it to our audience.

‘The goal is to entice the reader to see more, so I often use an affiliate post more as an excuse to talk about the studio and the performers [and] to drive traffic to their sites,’ said Thomas.

The problem is when work is not credited.

‘When people take those free snippets of who I am and repost them without attribution, that has the potential to impact my income stream,’ said Dean.

BUT WHAT ABOUT PIRACY VIA OTHER PLATFORMS?

Bentley Race owner Ben’s content is more commonly pirated to tube, file sharing and torrent sites, and doesn’t have a problem with pirates reposting short snippets of his content because it’s like giving a preview of somebody’s work.

‘I think there is a place for those tube sites in you know, saying Look at this company. They do great work. They’ve got nice models and good quality videos.

‘But where you see somebody has posted a 24-minute video, then, okay, that’s just stealing somebody’s work,’ said Ben.

Torrent and file sharing sites are more damaging to creators because they provide pirates the opportunity to make a profit from the stolen content they post. Torrent sites use the BitTorrent network to allow users to upload files from their own devices for others to download. While most uploaders don’t make any profit, there is potential to make money through ad revenue.

Hardcore pirates use file sharing sites.

‘There are file sharing websites like filesmonster.com that have tonnes of stuff on there, and you can buy a monthly membership to get all the stolen videos. That is just outrageous to me,’ said Ben.

A JustFor.Fans spokesperson said pirates using file sharing sites are doing it purely for profit – the sites operate like a paid Dropbox.

‘These file sharing sites pay these guys based on how popular their files are. The more people download it, the more the higher percentage of these site memberships that go to the pirates.

SO, WHAT ARE CREATORS DOING ABOUT IT?

Once a file has been shared, it’s hard to stop it from spreading online.

‘It gets to a point where you just can’t take it off everywhere because it’s been shared so widely,’ said Ben.

Porn piracy has reached such a fever pitch that whole businesses have been created solely to find, report, and take down pirated porn.

A spokesperson from Porn Guardian, a porn privacy prevention service, said they have hundreds of clients who come to them to help find and remove illegally posted content.

‘We know pirates who are making, you know, $80 000 to $100 000USD per year.

‘Twitter is amateur hour, the real piracy isn’t there. The real piracy are the corporate pirates who are doing this for a living.

‘These are organisations with data servers who are actively doing this. And they’re often run by large organised crime organisations to make real money.’

The main method for taking down illegally posted content is to report it directly to the site or platform.

‘It’s like having a burst pipe and trying to clean up the water. The best way to stop it is to shut off the water from the source,’ said JustFor.Fans.

There are a few measures that creators can take to prevent piracy.

The most widely accessible is a US measure under the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act which legislates ‘takedown notices’ that can be legally enforced against hosting services.

However, this applies to hosting services that fall within US jurisdiction.

Porn Guardian said it’s less about where the model is from and more about where the hosting service is.

‘Generally, web hosting services respect the DMCA. There are some countries that have other mechanisms that Porn Guardian uses.’

Another more technological measure is ‘digital watermarking’.

‘When anybody streams or downloads that movie, the movie gets impregnated with a digital watermark. It’s not visible. It’s something digital in the file,’ said Porn Guardian.

The digital watermark can then be used to specifically identify who downloaded and pirated the content.

‘It’s very, very robust. You can take a screen recording, you can edit it, you can downsize it, you can chop it up but you will not be able to get rid of a digital watermark,’ said Porn Guardian.

SO, IS PORN PIRACY GOOD OR BAD?

MojoHost Business Development Manager ‘Natalie P’ said one of her clients saw an increase in new signups after their content had been pirated the month before. However, she stressed this was not always the case.

‘It might theoretically be possible that a short-term positive effect may be seen, but the long-term result is negative either way,’ she said.

Some industry veterans see online porn piracy as a personal attack on the creator. Thieves are stealing directly from the individual who created it, not some nameless entity or corporation.

The reality is that some people are just never going to pay for porn, and free promotional pirated porn will always have a huge audience. And the complicated truth is that porn piracy is not a black or white issue.

Luc Dean calls porn piracy decidedly neutral.

‘It’s neither good nor bad. If they’re not asking for permission but they’re still attributing you, there’s nothing lost. But there isn’t necessarily anything gained.

‘If they are stealing your video for their own use and not attributing you as the creator, that’s an obvious negative.

‘A symbiotic relationship isn’t necessarily good or bad or neutral. It can be any of those things. It’s just sometimes quite useful,’ said Dean.

Ben Steele
Ben Steele
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