Vivid Entertainment Group has sued Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN) and related companies for unlawfully posting or allowing third parties to post copyrighted Vivid content on its "PornoTube.com" website and for failure to comply with certain provisions of the federal Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act requiring proof of age of performers.
The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California names Data Conversions, Inc., which does business as AEBN and PornoTube.com, and also WMM, LLC, which also owns and/or operates PornoTube. AEBN is a Charlotte-based company that claims to be the "global leader in adult pay-per-view video." PornoTube is a free website featuring a variety of sexually explicit material.
Vivid requested a jury trial to hear its claims that the defendants "have used technological advancements to willfully infringe copyrights belonging to Plaintiff, depriving Plaintiff of the lawful rewards that accompany creativity, effort and innovation." The suit contends that the "defendant's business plan depends on the uploading, posting, display and performance of copyrighted audio-visual works belonging to Vivid and others" and that the defendants "knowingly built a library of infringing works to draw Internet traffic" to its website.
Vivid contends that the PornoTube's infringement causes "great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money," and noted that the law provides for damages up to $150,000 for each willfully infringed work. The suit asks for a permanent injunction to bar future infringement and damages of at least $4.5 million.
In addition to its copyright infringement claims, Vivid also requests damages for willful and fraudulent "misappropriation of the actors' right of publicity" under California law, as well as for unfair business practices for unauthorized copying, reproducing, distributing and selling Vivid content.
A novel aspect of the suit is Vivid's contention that by displaying clips of its films on PornoTube the defendants violate California law and engage in unfair business practices by failing to follow labeling requirements under the so-called 2257 provisions of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act that require verification that all performers are over 18 years old.
"PornoTube and AEBN have exactly the same responsibility as any other adult content distributor or producer to obey U.S. copyright laws and 2257 regulations" according to Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment. "Vivid spends enormous sums to copyright its content and to comply with the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act age verification process. PornoTube and AEBN have been getting away with a practice that unlawfully earns it millions of dollars at our expense."
The copyright portion of the suit is similar to a $1 billion suit filed last March by Viacom (NYSE: VIA) against YouTube. Viacom, the owner of MTV and Nickelodeon, accused YouTube of "massive intentional copyright infringement" by allowing 160,000 unauthorized Viacom clips to be uploaded onto YouTube. The case is currently being adjudicated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.