Eye Candy: Ethics

This is the letter I sent to X-Art today explaining why I won’t be doing business with them anymore. Should they stop what they’re doing, I’ll be happy to continue the mutually beneficial financial relationship:

Dear X-Art,

I’m deeply saddened to tell you that after reading about your company’s participation in this shakedown, I will no longer be promoting your website:

Louisville woman says California porn studios trying to extort her (Courier Journal)

Jennifer Barker, 44, of Louisville says she has never downloaded pornography — legally or otherwise.

So she said she was stunned when a representative of a California porn studio called her in May and told her she could pay a settlement of a few thousand dollars for illegally downloading videos from its “X-Art” website — or face a judgment in court of $150,000 per violation.

When the company — Malibu Media LLC, maker of such videos as “The Girl in the Shower,” started calling her at work, her shock turned to anger, she said.

And last week she struck back: In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville, she alleged that Malibu and four other studios tried to extort money from her and others they claim have downloaded pornography from the Internet.

“I am standing up for my rights not to be bullied for something I did not do,” Barker said in a email. “If it is happening to me, it is happening to other innocent people.”

Barker, in fact, is one of about 250,000 people who have been accused of using file-sharing networks such as “Torrent” to illegally obtain pornography and other videos, according to TorrentFreak.com, a blog that is following the litigation.

In her suit, Barker said a representative of Malibu called and told her she’d been named in a lawsuit filed in Florida and could either pay money to settle it or be identified publicly as having downloaded porn and be subject to a judgment of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if the suit went forward, because there were multiple downloads.

If and when you stop harassing innocent people, I will be happy to resume the promotion of your brand and your content. I will miss serving your excellent content to my readers, and I will take a financial loss, but what your company is doing to people is wrong. I just wanted to let you know my feelings as a webmaster who has promoted content for over ten years, I can no longer be proud of my partnership with X-Art and simply cannot have your IP enforcement extortions associated with my reputation, my name or my brand.

Violet Blue

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Image credit: Lorelei Lee at Kink’s Divine Bitches

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  1. If they want to be famous for their extortion lawyers that is their prerogative as a business decision. The idea of sex with lawyers and bailiffs involved seems like a very minority fetish to cater for, though.

    Round of applause for you, Violet, but a standing ovation to Jennifer Barker.

  2. Wow! I’m subscribed to X-Art (which really is a quality site), but might not want to stay subscribed after reading about this. And good call in dropping your affiliate program with them – practices like theirs are not the kind of thing you want to be associated with, even indirectly.

    Reading the news article you link to and doing a bit more background reading leads to a lot about the phenomenon of Copyright trolling, an unscrupulous practice in which copyright holders (which in recent years has been primarily porn companies and mainstream movie companies as well) farm out recovery rights to shady and aggressive lawyers who do mass searches on torrent IPs, subpoena the names from IP providers, then make extortionary demands on the end user, who may or may not be guilty of anything more than having an open WiFi connection or being hacked. (I was also very disappointed to learn that one of my favorite free speech bloggers, Marc Randazza of Legal Satyricon, is a practicing copyright troll. Won’t be linking to his blog anytime soon.)

    It also amazes me that porn companies who’s reputation is already under siege from people like Gail Dines, Shelly Lubben, and Michael Weinstein would court this kind of bad publicity. Even RIAA has abandoned this strategy several years ago. If anything, the porn industry should be trying to avoid the perception of being greedy corporate Goliaths.

    This is not to say that piracy isn’t a very real problem. I googled up several of X-Art’s titles, and sure enough, found all of them on multiple sites, including a movie X-Art only put up on their own site in the last day. There were even a few boards that looked like they had a site rip of most or all of X-Arts content. And while I can definitely see why sites like X-Art would very well have cause to sue pirate boards and pirate sites like MegaUpload out of existence, the strategy of going after end-downloaders, particularly based on mass IP searches, is so utterly misguided it’s not even funny.

  3. Thanks for standing up for those with little power, money, influence or fame, we appreciate it. Time and again we’ve seen stories in the news of mistaken identity when it comes to who actually downloaded specific files, it’s sad that otherwise excellent companies are taking bad advice or making bad decisions.

  4. Chris: thank you for such generous praise in your comment – Ii more than makes my day.

    I was so upset when I saw the article. Not just for the business association of my own, but also because the hypocrisy of a porn company threatening to out, name and shame its customers for money… it makes me SO sick to my stomach.

    Thanks for the support. It means more than you know!

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