Pornhub & YouPorn Owner Funds Fight Against Cyberlockers

The company behind YouPorn and PornHub has agreed to fund an anti-piracy outfit dedicated to bringing down 'rogue' cyberlockers and illicit file-sharing forums. Speaking with TorrentFreak, the Adult Content Industry United Foundation says they will be using the money to cut off funding to cyberlockers in the hope that hitting them in the pocket brings them to their knees. But are cyberlockers and so-called 'tube' sites facing the same issues?

Ever since the Internet touched the average home, adult industry entrepreneurs have been raking in the money from their pay-sites. Conveniently secured behind the tightest of walls, these sites were a dream come true for businesses previously tied up in expensive print and cumbersome DVDs.

Then along came P2P file-sharing, particularly BitTorrent, which in the final half of the last decade turned the whole thing on its head to become porn enemy number one. But something much more threateningly accessible was on the horizon.

‘Tube’ sites, so named due to their similarities with YouTube, appeared thick and fast offering huge libraries of content previously uploaded by their users. Some of it was amateur material but much of it was pirated content owned by existing porn companies. Paysites had their sign-up processes and credit cards while Tube sites offered everything for free, and often just one click away.

While some studios initially chose to fight these ‘Tube’ sites, these days its common to see studios advertising on them, promoting content via short clips and longer offerings via partner programs. For example, YouPorn’s program claims to have 400 partners including big companies like Vivid.

YouPornPartner

But having partnered with the Tube sites, the studios had another problem to deal with – file-sharing forums that rely on cyberlocker sites to serve up illicit content to their users.
While these are often dealt with by companies such as Takedown Piracy who remove millions of links on behalf of the industry, earlier this year another anti-piracy outfit appeared with more aggressive aims.

According to XBIZ, the Adult Content Industry United Foundation (ACIUF) was formed by paysite-owning companies with the aim of cutting off piracy higher up the branch.

“We build a program which allows us to analyze a pirate,” said Siep R. Kuppens, president of International Media Company, the paysite owner leading the ACIUF.

“With this, we can see where they take the content, say to at least 60 smaller pirate sites. Kill the big ones and the little ones go as well. For example, if we prove that file hosting companies have stolen content, we can take proper action. The hosting company will have no other option than to block the site. If they pop up somewhere else, we will repeat the action. One by one we will go after them.”

Just this week, we learned that ACIUF has a familiar name in its sights – a cyberlocker called Oron. Among its other users, this file-hosting service is a favorite among uploaders of pornographic material and is used extensively by members of several adult-orientated file-sharing sites.

ACIUF’s Madalina Manolache told TorrentFreak that they intend to put Oron out of business by cutting off the site’s revenue by restricting its ability to sell premium accounts. To this end ACIUF applied pressure to the CCBill payment processor. It worked, and then some.

“[CCBill] can no longer provide transaction services to businesses operating a file locker model,” said Gary Jackson, CCBill’s managing vice president.

This week ACIUF stepped up the battle by going after Acquiro, Oron’s latest payment processor. ACIUF say that with support of Mastercard, Acquiro has now also withdrawn its services from Oron. Oron have reportedly already moved to a new company, but ACIUF say they will keep following them. Oron did not respond to a request for comment.

ACIUF say they have big ambitions which of course will cost money to realize, but according to the anti-piracy group, funding is not a problem. That is because – and this will certainly raise eyebrows – the cost of their operations has been covered by an interesting donor.

The cash has come from a company called Manwin, the owners of YouPorn, PornHub, XTube, Tube8, ExtremeTube and SpankWire. According to ACIUF, Manwin wanted to keep their involvement quiet, but ACIUF “decided to give Manwin the credit it deserves.”

“The Adult Content Industry United Foundation (ACIUF) is happy to announce Manwin’s support in the ACIUF fight against piracy, and illegal filehosting. With no other expectation than achieving the objectives, Manwin has made a standing donation that will help cover the operational cost,” ACIUF said in a statement.

What provokes discussion here is that Oron and ‘Tube’ sites face similar issues – both are at the mercy of their users when it comes to uploaded content. There can be little doubt that both Oron and sites like PornHub and YouPorn (and indeed YouTube) contain large amounts of infringing content. But what they have in common is that they all respond to DMCA takedowns in order to operate within the law.

ACIUF

Not surprisingly, ACIUF’s Madalina Manolache sees a difference between Tube sites and cyberlockers like Oron.

“Oron indeed uses the excuse the (stolen) content is uploaded by their users and they have no control over what is uploaded,” she told TorrentFreak. “But the truth well-known by everyone is that they are paying those users (at least the big uploaders) for uploading the infringed content and asking money from others to download it; they are operating using a criminal business model. They are instigating users into uploading new and desired materials and they are doing it well – because they are paying good money.”

Of course, similar arguments have been made by other content owners against sites such as Megaupload, in which they insist that the mere existence of a user upload rewards program necessarily points to a business model hell-bent on infringement. Lawyers representing Megaupload bitterly dispute that assertion.

So that brings us back to the business models of sites like YouPorn and PornHub, that at least in their early days survived almost exclusively on content uploaded by users, much of it copyright infringing. As noted earlier though, the atmosphere has changed since Manwin started sucking up Tube sites in 2010 and 2011, with the company now encouraging other tube site owners to help the adult industry through mechanisms such as partner programs, rather than “simply aiming to make content freely available to all.”

But even now, with Manwin apparently striving for tube-site legitimacy and seeming to make a decent job of it, sites such as PornHub still carry infringing content, content potentially belonging to ACIUF anti-piracy initiative members. So is there a conflict of interest on the cards?

ACIUF say that despite the cash donation from Manwin, apparently the company “did not require immunity” from ACIUF actions, although biting the hand that feeds may not be in the anti-piracy group’s interests.

“All we can say about this is when [Manwin] donates money to ACIUF to bring down major pirate sites and major cyberlockers, we will gladly use it to bring Oron down,” ACIUF conclude.

But when it comes to Oron, the hawks are already circling. On Wednesday, adult studio Corbin Fisher filed a $34.8 million copyright infringement against the site and its operators, XBIZ reports.

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