Can porn industry crack the piracy problem?

The porn industry has decided to take a stand against p2p. Having largely ignored the huge amounts of adult content available on file sharing networks, 65 porn purveyors met last week to discuss how to address “rampant piracy”.

Can porn industry crack the piracy problem?

According to attorney Greg Piccionelli, who addressed the meeting, as little as a fifth of the total pornographic content in circulation is from legitimate sales.

“At the present time, if you were to take all of the content that is produced by the adult business, the legitimate sales currently account for no more than 15% to 20% of the actual numbers of copies that are out there, and the lack of enforcement over the years has left the pirates and consumers with the impression that copying and stealing adult content is something that has absolutely no punitive consequence associated with it whatsoever, and so the industry has really sort of dug its own grave to this degree.”

Acknowledging the problem is one thing, doing something about it is another, as the record and mainstream movie industries have discovered. One solution may lie in the new high-definition Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, which promise much greater copy protection than DVD and may enable the industry to stem the flow of new content onto p2p networks.

That relies on the robustness of the DRM – for the time being both Blu-ray and HD DVD are managing to stay one step ahead of the hackers but there is no guarantee that either format will remain secure.

Should the porn industry adopt one of these formats in large numbers, it will be interesting to see if it still has the same influence on technology adoption that it has had in the past. Porn is often credited with stimulating take-up of VHS video players and driving innovation in video content and payment systems on the internet.

The solution suggested by Piccionelli is to begin selling digital content at a price low enough to make it an attractive alternative to file sharing. “My personal opinion is until we get to the era of quantum computers where you can have effective locks and keys, the industry simply has to learn how to deal with the new milieu,” he says. “One of the ways of dealing with it is, for example, an iTunes kind of situation where you have scene sales at a low enough price that appropriately deters people from stealing it.”

And if the porn industry can make that work, then it may still prove as influential as ever by persuading other content providers that low prices, not DRM, is the best antidote to music and video piracy.

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