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The Porn Industry Goes After Digital Pirates

Porn Valley- Thousands of Web sites are putting Playboy magazine’s pictures on the Internet – free. And Randy Nicolau, the president of Playboy.com, is loving it. “It’s direct marketing at its finest,” he said.

Let the music industry sue those who share files, and let Hollywood push for tough laws and regulations to curb movie copying. Playboy, like many companies that provide access to virtual flesh and naughtiness, is turning online freeloaders into subscribers by giving away pictures to other sites that, in turn, drive visitors right back to Playboy.com.

When Mr. Nicolau is asked whether he thinks that the entertainment industry is making a mistake by taking a different approach, he replies: “I haven’t spent much time thinking about it. It’s like asking Henry Ford, ‘What were the buggy-whip guys doing wrong?’ ”

The copyright rumble is playing out a little differently in the red-light districts of cyberspace. That neighborhood is increasingly difficult to confine, what with a fetishwear-clad Janet Jackson flashing a Super Bowl audience of millions, and Paris Hilton making her own version of a “Girls Gone Wild” video. Professional peddlers say they are hard pressed to compete.

Still, the business of being bad is very good, especially for the biggest players. Though the industry has felt a financial squeeze during the economic slowdown, it nonetheless has sales of as much as $2 billion each year, said Tom Hymes, the editor of AVNOnline, a business magazine for the industry.

And the pornography industry, which has always been among the first to exploit new technologies, including the VCR, the World Wide Web and online payment systems, is finding novel ways to deal with the threat of online piracy as well. The mainstream entertainment industry, some experts say, would do well to pay attention.

Music executives say their campaign of lawsuits has been successful. They say they have spread the word that downloading free music infringes on copyrights and that there could be consequences for large-scale file sharers.

But the pornography industry has been dealing with Internet copyright issues since the 1980’s. By comparison, the movie and music businesses are relative newcomers. Mr. Hymes said companies in his industry had come to realize that suing consumers and promoting “draconian laws” were not the answer. “No law written can stem the tide,” he said. And so, he said, companies are seeking ways to live with the technologies that threaten them and are trying to turn them to their advantage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/08/

 

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