When copyright trolls speak, they usually do so only through their lawyers. For the driving force behind a new wave of anti-BitTorrent settlement letters about to hit the UK, things are a little different. Out goes the stuffy legal jargon and in comes the basics – BitTorrent users are ‘tight’ and the upcoming campaign is about making even more money.
Last month the UK High Court gave UK pornographer Lyndsay Honey (aka Ben Dover) and his company Golden Eye International a provisional green light to obtain the identities of thousands of alleged file-sharers from ISP o2.
By now it’s a well-trodden path – send out scary letters to alleged copyright infringers and ask for money to make mostly imaginary court cases go away.
This controversial business is almost always conducted with a law firm front and center, who spend much of their public-facing time throwing around legal jargon and talking endlessly about infringed rights.
But Lyndsay Honey, who became famous in the UK for his ‘gonzo‘ style movies which placed himself at the center of the action, seems to want to ‘keep it real’ by continuing the tradition of doing his own dirty work – and that includes speaking publicly about his latest attempt at monetizing porn.
In an interview with Vice.com, Honey explains that due to “everything on the internet being free”, his income dropped by 90% in 2 years. This development didn’t go unnoticed by Revenue and Customs who apparently thought something underhand might be going on in Honey’s tax affairs. While noting that he assured them that wasn’t the case, Honey is clear about his motives for entering the ‘speculative invoicing’ market.
“At the end of the day, if I can’t make money out of porn, the only way I can make money is to get to the people who are not buying it,” Honey explains. “I need to earn a living. I’m not a charity.”
But while talking straight has its benefits, sometimes little nuggets of information leak out. From his own mouth it seems Honey isn’t that desperate for cash. After separating from his wife (their house went on the market for £2.5m), Honey now lives in a “beautiful apartment block” and goes on to admit that things are pretty good.
“I still have a very nice lifestyle,” he told Vice. “When I say I’m skint, people say, ‘No, you’re not skint mate, it’s just now you’ve only got three cars instead of five.’”
And even while claiming porn is “a sinking ship”, Honey admits that he’s still shooting movies (which of course someone must be able to sell) and to this day remains the highest earning porn star in the country.
“I still do like, two or three shoots a week in porn for other people, so I literally just turn up, fuck someone and come home and it pays good money,” said Honey.
As his venture into file-sharing settlements shows, Honey is trying squeeze every drop of revenue from the most popular items in his back catalog. His 2003 film Fancy an Indian is the movie that will appear in the letters going out later this year, but far from picking a title that hasn’t done well, the reverse is true. Honey says that Fancy An Indian and The XXX Factor are not only his most pirated titles, but also the ones he’s made the most money from.
However, according to the 60-year-old, not all free content online is bad. Currently he’s working on a mockumentary (NSFW), apparently in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Ironically, Lyndsay is giving it away for free to build an audience with the intention of later selling it to a TV company.
But while an impoverished Honey isn’t an impression that springs from his interview, it may well be that getting even more rich from file-sharing settlements is something that will remain out of reach.
Due to restrictions placed on his company by the High Court, the letters sent out to O2 customers will be much more tame than those previously sent out by ACS:Law. Furthermore, when people respond with a clear “I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did,” Honey and his associates at Golden Eye may well have to accept that answer as final rather than bully them into submission.
Internet users in the UK may have bent over initially for Andrew Crossley, but they’re better prepared for Ben Dover, there’s little doubt about that. Don’t give up your day job, Honey.