OAKLAND – The internet spurs copyright infringements cases in the adult entertainment industry. Consider a recent example.

Strike 3 Holdings LLC, based in Los Angeles, filed a complaint on Dec. 7, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division against a John Doe defendant only identified with a subscriber assigned IP address 67.174.248.166 over allegations of copyright infringement. The case settled March 5 for an undetermined amount.

The plaintiff had sued defendant John Doe for more than $150,000 for allegedly using the BitTorrent file distribution network to download Strike 3 films without paying for them. Strike 3 operates three subscription-based websites and its DVDs are available for a fee to buyers.

The pay-free online downloads of Strike 3’s adult films caused revenue losses, according to the complaint, given the company’s “more than 20 million unique visitors to its websites each month.” Strike 3's complaint states it produces “award-winning, critically acclaimed adult motion pictures,” that are “distributed through the Blacked, Tushy and Vixen adult websites and DVDs.”

The company stated in its complaint that it used IP address geolocation technology, provided by Maxmind Inc., to find the defendant’s IP address, which turned up a physical address in the Northern District of California.

Greg Lansky is Strike 3’s co-owner and a member of its parent company, General Media Systems, a California foreign limited liability company. In a declaration filed with the District Court in December 2017, he wrote that: “We send on average 50,000 DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices a month but it does virtually nothing to stop the rampant copyright infringement. The only effective way to stop the piracy of our movies on BitTorrent networks is to file lawsuits like this one.”

Effectiveness has a price, though.

Firms such as Strike 3 sending scores of DMCA take-down notices to alleged copyright offenders that threaten them with lawsuits is “a lot of work for everyone,” Ben Depoorter, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, told the Northern California Record.

“It is an expensive strategy of issuing subpoenas, finding IP addresses and people’s identities,” Depoorter said.

“That is a substantial amount of DMCA notices to send,” Ruth Carter, an attorney, author and speaker based in Phoenix, Arizona, told the Northern California Record

It is unclear if there are actually 50,000 copyright infringements of Strike 3’s fee-based adult entertainment per month. The actual number could be higher or lower.

The plaintiff’s complaint identified the defendant by an IP address connected with Comcast Cable Communications LLC. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley found that the plaintiff had “good cause” to serve a Rule 45 subpoena to Comcast for the defendant IP’s name and address, according to a Jan. 17 order.

On March 5, Scott Corley issued an order of dismissal in the copyright infringement case as the court had "been advised that the parties have agreed to a settlement of the case."

Carter is unsurprised. 

“Ninety-five percent of lawsuits filed never make it to trial due to the high costs of going through the process,” Carter said

The high prices and mental anguish of litigation combine to ensure that 5 percent of lawsuits proceed, she said.

In terms of sending DMCA notices as a winning tactic, recipients in part face the possibility of negative public scrutiny over alleged copyright infringement of adult films. The public has little sympathy for people who access online pornography without paying for it generally, according to Depoorter.

This sentiment enables adult film content providers such as Strike 3 a window of opportunity to pursue John Doe lawsuits alleging copyright infringement “on a grand scale” by using DMCA notices, the complaint states.

“The pornographic industry has been the most active and successful in this type of enforcement,” Depoorter said. “It is a business model that makes up money lost from non-paying consumers of adult content.”

Lincoln D. Bandlow of Fox Rothschild LLP in Los Angeles represented Strike 3 in federal court. 

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento-based journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email him at sethsandronsky@gmail.com

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