Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

SOPA Fight Pits Big Porn Against Little Porn

David Livingston/Getty Images
Hustler creator Larry Flynt said Thursday he wants to defend his adult productions from overseas online pirates but was skeptical of government censorship.

The Web blackout mounted this week by Internet companies to protest anti-piracy legislation appears to have derailed the measures and won the day for an unusual constituency: online pornographers.

The industry calls them “tube” sites, a well-traveled red light district that includes PornHub.com, the 58th most viewed website among American Internet users, and XVideos.com, the 64th most viewed, according to Alexa, which monitors Web traffic. That’s on par with the traffic to Reddit, NFL.com and Hulu. Like many Internet companies, the tube sites are fiercely opposed to regulation and have been asking their visitors to urge lawmakers to oppose the legislation for months. Protected by the First Amendment, YouPorn.com and others voluntarily went dark Wednesday along with other, more mainstream sites like Wikipedia.

The tube sites’ pleas are bumping against the lifeblood of the industry: the professional producers of adult content like Vivid Entertainment and Hustler, the flagship publication of Larry Flynt’s pornography empire. They argue that they have suffered at the hands of piracy more than any other business.

“Sites in China and the European countries — their whole focus is plagiarizing. ... I actually support some kind of censorship in that area. They are basically feeding off the American movie market,” Flynt told Roll Call in an interview Thursday. “But on the other hand, as a content provider on the Internet, I don’t want the government censoring what I do.”

The Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP acts would give the Justice Department the authority to block websites deemed to be illegally selling copyrighted goods such as movies, music and prescription drugs.

Steven Hirsch, the founder of Vivid Entertainment, said his company sends cease-and-desist letters on a daily basis to foreign pornography websites running his films without permission. But when the infringing sites are based overseas, he said, those letters are worthless.

Industry sources identified PornW.org, IntPorn.com and Kitty-Kats.com as the most common copyright violators. The illegal sites are often based in Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Germany.

Revenue for adult film producers has dropped by about 50 percent in the past four years, industry sources said. Many producers were slow to develop an online customer base even as the proliferation of free, often-pirated online videos crippled their DVD sales.

This week’s protests may have sealed the fate of the Stop Online Piracy Act, but the debate between content producers and disseminators will be on full display this weekend as the adult entertainment industry’s major players convene in Las Vegas for its most star-studded event, the Adult Video News Adult Entertainment Expo.

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