Why the Porn Industry Can’t Beat the Pirates

Photo by Pixabay

Keeping porn from getting ripped and posted is impossible. After having free pornography clips easily accessible for years, nobody expects that customers will ever buy DVDs in the numbers they once did. The porn industry’s sales figures are disputed; estimates range from a few billion to as high as $14 billion, a widely cited figure from a 1998 Forrester Research report that Forbes easily dismantled. But no one disputes that the percentage of revenues from DVDs has shrunk dramatically, and that piracy on the Internet shot up after the early 2000s. Takedown Piracy, which Glass founded in 2009, focuses on containing the damage.

Glass, who is dressed like an accountant, talks about the 2007 adult film financial crisis in terms of the broader recession. “It was really kind of a perfect storm of events there,” he tells me. “There was always piracy in general. But at least for adult, it went from being something in the back-shadowy corners of the Internet, or something that required a certain level of technical knowledge to acquire … [to] ‘push the little triangle button and the movie plays.’” With the accessibility came the assumption that porn should be accessible — that it wasn’t worth paying for. “People might have a certain guilt about pirating Guardians of the Galaxy or whatever, but porn — ‘ah, that’s porn,’” Glass says. “It’s considered ‘less than.’ And porn doesn’t have the revenue channels that a Guardians of the Galaxy might have. We’re not doing theatrical release. There’s not really merchandise.” Other barriers to marketing and fighting piracy are particular to porn. PayPal won’t do porn transactions, and Apple doesn’t allow any porn apps. Lawmakers are unlikely to support pornographers, and it’s difficult to legislate against piracy because many of the major tube sites are located outside the U.S.

Molly Lambert writing in Grantland about the Adult Video News awards.