Pornhub Sees DMCA Notices Vanish After Enabling Uploader Verification

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Pornhub has discovered the 'holy grail' to combat piracy on user-generated content sites. This remarkable achievement is exemplified by a historic 98% drop in DMCA removals. All that it took was the mandatory verification of uploaders' identities. An impressive result that won't go unnoticed by some of the largest media companies in the world.

pornhubPornhub is without a doubt one of the most visited adult entertainment outlets on the Internet.

The ‘entertainment’ platform is owned by MindGeek, the company formerly known as Manwin. In just a few years it has transformed the adult industry’s pay-to-access model into an all-you-can-eat, free-to-stream business.

Part of this magic formula is down to Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned tube sites allowing users to upload content. This material includes legitimate videos but also quite a few pirated versions too.

DMCA-Protected Flywheel

These videos drove millions of visitors to the site, which also helped to draw in even more uploaders. This flywheel kept spinning and spinning with help from the DMCA, which shields Pornhub from copyright liability.

Over the years, complaints from porn rightsholders increased alongside pressure from credit card companies calling for a ban on ‘offensive’ material. Then the authorities expressed increasing concern over potentially abusive content on the site.

Pornhub worked hard to weather the storm by implementing upload filters, manual content checks, and by processing hundreds of thousands of takedown requests. But despite all this effort, Pornhub could not prevent the floodgates from opening in late 2020.

“The Children of Pornhub”

In an opinion piece titled “The Children of Pornhub,” the New York Times shone a light on the dark side of the tube site.

The piece made an impact on people around the world, including billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who piled pressure on Pornhub payment providers Visa and Mastercard.

While Pornhub thrives on free content, FT recently documented that its operations are heavily intertwined with the credit card companies, who help to process many millions in ad revenue. So, when Visa and Mastercard suspended these payments, MindGeek’s flagship was destined to go down.

The Purge

Faced with potentially imminent demise, in December 2020 Pornhub responded by taking down millions of videos. The goal was to prevent anything exploitive, including child pornography, from ever appearing on the platform. To support this commitment, content uploaders would have to be verified going forward.


Pornhub’s decision wasn’t so much about copyright but verification inadvertently became one of the Internet’s most effective ‘anti-piracy’ interventions.

The copyright infringement implications have not been reported publicly by PornHub but data shows a significant impact. When TorrentFreak compared Pornhub’s most recent transparency report with the one issued a year earlier, we found a massive uploader verification effect on piracy complaints.

DMCA Takedowns ‘Vanish’

In 2020, PornHub removed 544,021 pieces of content in response to DMCA notices. That’s a significant number, even when considering that Pornhub hosted close to 14 million videos at the time.

A large chunk of these videos were removed when the site went ‘verified-only’. Roughly four million videos survived the purge and many more were re-added when verified. As a result of this process, DMCA removals tanked.

In 2021, Pornhub removed just 8,547 pieces of content in response to DMCA notices, a historic drop of more than 98% year-over-year.

The Holy Verification Grail?

Aside from the obvious conclusion that it’s good to see Pornhub tackling child exploitation and other types of abuse, this saga might just plant a seed with copyright holders. Apparently, uploader verification is a very effective anti-piracy tool.

Pornhub had been dealing with DMCA complaints for many years. It spent serious effort and resources building a dedicated takedown team. Then, after flipping on the verification switch, all problems suddenly vanished.

This is both impressive and scary, depending on your perspective. While many copyright holders dream of uploader “verification” checks on YouTube, for example, the prospect of mandatory ‘Internet passports’ give others nightmares.

It is hard to tell whether Pornhub’s data will lead to anything new. However, the adult entertainment industry is often the first to implement new ideas and technologies, whether it’s related to online streaming, payment processing, or virtual reality. And user verification too, perhaps.


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