Recently, CNBC aired a special on the current plight of the porn industry entitled “Porn: The Business of Pleasure.” One of the major issues addressed in this report is the effect that recent technological advances have had on the producers of pornography. Now, I’m sure most of my readers are far too conservative to concern themselves with the problems facing the purveyors of such sinful indulgences, but perhaps a few of you would find this show interesting.
The porn industry is essentially struggling to adapt to many of the same changes that the music industry has been dealing with over the past decade. Back in the year 2000, when Internet savvy teenagers were discovering that they could acquire a single song in as little as half an hour over their 28.8K modems, record companies and recording artists suddenly got their panties in a bunch over the potential loss in profits. At that point, people were happy with the ability to transfer still images of men and women engaging in various forms of debauchery, and porn producers had no apparent reason to get involved in the battle over Internet piracy. However, their lack of foresight quickly became apparent as Internet bandwidth increased and hackers shifted their focus to breaking DVD encryptions and developing more effective ways to compress and transfer large files.
Although DVD sales have decreased substantially, 30-50% in the past year according to the CNBC report, peer-to-peer file sharing is not entirely to blame, and porn producers probably have little to gain from following the example of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich by hunting down horny college students who have managed to acquire their smut by less than legal means. As technology has improved and become more accessible, people are not only able to distribute unauthorized copies of professionally produced pornography, they are also able to easily create, promote, and distribute their own material – another issue the music industry has been struggling with as well.
The most significant shift affecting the profitability of adult entertainment is probably the overall ease of accessibility to all forms of pornography. There has always been a market for porn, but until relatively recently, people had no choice other than going out in public to view or purchase porn. Now, anybody with access to a halfway decent computer can go online and find free enactments of almost any sexual fantasy, and as Stephen Hirsch, the co-founder of Vivid Entertainment, says, “Why would anyone pay for it when they can get it for free?”
This leads to the question of what porn producers can do to continue to generate enough of a profit to make it worthwhile for them to keep creating high-quality pornographic material. I’m not suggesting that the porn industry is in danger of collapsing. It will certainly find a way to adapt and continue to meet the public’s demand for porn. I only hope that the companies that are affected by the decline in adult DVD sales are better equipped modernize and use technological advances to their advantage than the record companies were. Some companies are already exploring ways to use new technology such as developing applications for mobile phones and monthly subscription TV services such as FyreTV. What other options should these companies look into?
Another intriguing issue this report addresses is the amount of legal content limitations being placed on the producers of pornography. The show looks specifically at the case of Max Hardcore, who is known for pushing the boundaries in his films by having the actresses act like underage girls and having them perform extreme or unusual lewd acts such as drinking his piss out of their gaping anuses. Max (a.k.a. Paul Little) was recently charged with violating several obscenity laws and is currently serving a 46 month prison sentence. Could legal action such as this lead to further regulation of the porn industry? Were Max’s films truly indecent to the extent that they should not be made available to the people who want to see them, or is the government simple infringing on his right to freedom of speech and expression?