A while back, I came across an awesome article entitled “Down the Tubes” by Scott Fayner (MIT Technology Review). In this piece, Fayner talks about the development of streaming video technology (think YouTube) and the impact porn tube sites (think “YouTubePorn,” if you will) have had on the adult film industry since the mid-2000s. And then, just this past Friday, a friend of mine was asking me about the very same topic.
So it seems that, even though full understanding of this topic is a dissertation-sized project in of itself, the universe is asking me to address the effects of porn tube sites on adult content production in my own small PVV-like way.
According to Fayner, these are some of the significant dimensions and issues related to tensions between what I am going to call “YouTubePorn” sites and the “formal” adult production industry (as opposed to unregulated, amateur, and/or more “independent”-type productions).
Piracy – porn producers spend time and money generating content, that content is released/sold to the public, and then someone chops it up into manageable chunks and makes it available on YouTubePorn-type sites.
Now this is not to say that all content available on these sites is pirated from adult companies – you could easily film yourself doing XXX and upload it for all the world to see (maybe it’ll go viral, and you’ll be on the next episode of “South Park”?!!). But enough professionally produced adult content has been pirated such that the industry has taken a significant hit. As a consequence, the industry has experienced…
Declining sales, jobs, and wages – as people purchase less content, companies suffer. Smaller businesses close and what larger companies can afford to pay performers declines. This was not addressed in Fayner’s article, but the number of people behind-the-scenes also diminishes, with workers picking up the slack from other areas when companies can no longer afford a full staff – and people will complete the work under these circumstances because they are happy just to have a job (wow… I can think of so many other occupations wherein this exact same thing is happening).
Sinking the pirates – because of 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, websites are not responsible for using/displaying/uploading copywritten material unless someone calls it to their attention. This means that production companies that have had their work stolen are responsible for first finding the pirates and then letting them know “Ahoy there matey! That’s my copywritten stuff, and you have to take it down!!”
This goes for all content posted on the interwebs by the way. Consider this: I recently found one of my PVVOnline articles posted bold as brass on some random site without any sort of “written by Dr. Chauntelle” attribution. I had to contact the webmaster, which was a chore, and then it still took them almost a week to add a referent naming me as the author. It really pissed me off, especially when I think of how long that site did and could have been getting credit for my fantastic brilliant work. I can’t even imagine how mad I would have been had I spent thousands of dollars generating the article/”content” (well, I actually kinda did – graduate school is not cheap).
There is some technology that producers may use to seek-out their pirated material, but the onus is on producers to acquire and make use of said technology. And even then, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act regarding notification and the like still applies… but only to US pirates. According to Fayner, most YouTubePorn-like pirate sites operate outside the US; and there’s no such thing as International Internet Law, especially not for pirated porn.
[FYI: Takedown Piracy (TDP) provides excellent copyright infringement services for members of the adult industry and the mainstream. Here is their website www.takedownpiracy.com, and here is an audio interview PVV did with TDP founder Nate Glass (updated May, 2011)]
YouTubePorn sites… assholes!!
And by the way: I am saying “YouTubePorn” and not providing you all with specific site names here for a very specific reason – I don’t think you should be getting your porn there. Bitchy, not cool, totally subjective, and biased? Yes, and I still maintain this position. Here’s why…
It’s not ok to exploit the labor of others, and stealing is not nice. People who post pirated adult content on these sites are unlawfully accessing the work and effort of others for their own gain. This is exploitative, unlawful, and has had a significant negative impact on the adult production industry.
You may be thinking “Oh woe is me, poor porn producer, poor porn star!! Don’t give me your ‘Lars Ulrich’ bullshit, Dr. Chauntelle.” And guess what? I would tend to agree with you if any member of the adult industry was rolling as fat as Lars appears to be.
Now I say “appears” because I don’t know Lars’ financial situation (he may be broke as a joke), but I do know that the vast majority of professional porn production companies are small mom-and-pop-type businesses. Many of them operate on very shoestring budgets and have suffered mightily during the past five years as a direct result of YouTubePorn-type sites. Whatsmore, the handful that seem to be on top of the world are operating with far smaller profit margins than you can possibly imagine – a direct result of free porn tube sites.
And don’t even get me started on performers. I have already explained the scene-by-scene manner in which performers are paid, the disparity between women’s and men’s pay rates, and the finite nature of most performers’ careers [six months to three years for women on average according to Sharon Mitchell, formerly of the now defunct AIM (AIM closed in the spring of 2011)]. Contract girls make up only a very small and steadily declining percentage of women talent, their wages are nothing like you’d think, and companies with the capacity to afford contract talent are becoming fewer and fewer. In spite of how it may appear, many talent struggle financially; and you’re going to make it worse for them by stealing their shit and crippling their industry?
Think about it – if this was the auto industry, sweatshop-generated clothing, food production, construction work, gardeners or domestic workers, or even mainstream film, would this be ok with you? Oh wait… I guess the state of our global and local economies are enough of an answer for me.
Now you still may feel unsympathetic for all the adult industry “Lars” out there, and that’s ok; but what about the amateur talent that are featured on those YouTubePorn-type sites? Yes, they may have posted their super low-quality and kinda sloppy blow bang for your enjoyment, but they’re not getting kicked back any of the advertising money generated from those postings. Money is made by persons running these sites from advertisers; so, rather than giving a little bit of your hard-earned cash to “Fine Ass Amateur XXX” for her “wet fuck and suck,” you’re giving it to some little uploader by the proxy of your hit… really?
Not compelled by my “avoiding commodification, paying workers for the real labor they provide, and refraining from exploitation” argument thus far? Well then, let’s try public health.
One of the most compelling things about the “formal” adult production industry is its internal regulation. Talent are HIV/STI tested regularly by a centralized health organization (formerly AIM; currently centralized by AHPSS), and companies age/identity-verify rigorously. Talent are paid a predetermined amount for work they agree to perform. Post-production is performed in safe, clean, formal office-like environments. Laws are upheld; and workers’ rights, both above and below the line, are protected.
Now don’t get me wrong – there is no such thing as occupational utopia, and there are assholes and trainwrecks at every level of every industry, adult included. But for the most part, professional adult production is a safe legal environment wherein thousands of people earn their livings. But some janky amateur “producer” with a laptop somewhere in Middle America has no connection to the industry or its internal regulations. As these free sites slowly cripple the organized and interconnected portions of the industry, more space is made for these fly-by-night operations. And without the protection provided by internal industry organization and co/operation, the door is opened for exploitation and illegal activity.
Think about your favorite hottest, stickiest, most luscious adult performer – doesn’t that person deserve the same respect you give your gardener, the person who built your TV, the teachers and professors who educate your kids, or even Lars Ulrich? Doesn’t that person deserve the same respect as you? (yes, they do.)
Certainly some form of collaborative solution will someday emerge, but in the meantime – pay for your porn!! Go to company websites and/or your favorite talent’s official site and sign up. It’s the same as bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, buying organic or local, and compensating any type of worker fairly for their labor. The universe will be happier with you in the end – trust me.
Addendum: further discussion of anti/piracy-realted issues that were raised in response to this post are here.
…and for your further anti-piracy pornedification and viewing enjoyment, here’s an anti-piracy PSA sponsored by the Free Speech Coalition (FSC).
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pictured throughout: all sorts of friendly tubes via Google – not monetized at all
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”