Adult industry execs fret over piracy, L.A. condom ordinance

Five minutes is all you need.

And that amount of time just might kill the pornographic film industry.

As 20,000 adult industry figures — from porn stars to film distributors to ardent fans — descend on Las Vegas for the annual AVN Adult Entertainment Expo that runs through Saturday, those in the pleasure business are talking most about ways to fight rampant piracy and adjusting to a new Los Angeles city ordinance requiring performers to wear condoms while at work.

Both are seen as threats to the financial health of an industry said to produce about $8 billion per year in revenue.

Fighting piracy is the norm now for anyone in the entertainment business, adult or otherwise.

Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of industry giant Vivid Entertainment, for instance, goes after websites that illegally post his content. But he acknowledges that victories are usually short-lived. A clip removed from one site usually goes right back up on another.

"It’s certainly an issue that needs to be dealt with," he said. "We are against piracy as is everyone else. I do understand the First Amendment argument as well."

One reason piracy is especially damaging to the adult industry is that users often need only five minutes of film to get the job done, Hirsch said, without defining the job in question. It’s easier to steal a five-minute clip than a 90-minute movie made for theatrical release, he noted.

Mega porn company Manwin, with 900 employees, owns eight websites that are a mix of paid membership sites featuring original, produced 30-minute scenes and free, user-upload sites with varying content, such as

Kate Miller, Manwin’s communications and marketing director, said her company, too, is a victim of piracy.

"It’s everywhere," Miller said. "It’s not going to stop."

Steve Javors, AVN Media Network’s associate managing editor, said, ""It’s definitely eaten into DVD sales."

Javors explained that piracy has created the expectation that adult movies are free while it takes anywhere from $15,000 to $1 million to produce the content.

Although adult films can be made anywhere, much of the industry is concentrated in Southern California, where the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance that requires all performers in sex scenes to wear condoms to prevent transmission of disease.

The measure still has to be signed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s desk, and before he will act on it police officials must figure out exactly how to enforce it.

While there’s been some speculation that adult filmmakers might relocate out of LA, Javors said most studios will probably take a wait-and-see approach.

"It’s interesting and we’ll see how things play out," Hirsch added, as if on cue.

Vivid Entertainment has long allowed performers to decide for themselves whether they want to use condoms.

"We believe performers have the right to make that decision," Hirsch said.

Now, performers must be tested for sexually transmitted diseases every 30 days and must present the results on set before they’re allowed to work.

"The system works and works well," Hirsch said, though he notes that movies with condoms don’t sell as well as those without.

"Consumers certainly don’t want it," Javors said.

But, will any studios relocate — crossing the border, for example, to set up shop in a more permissive Las Vegas?

"We’re going to have to see," Hirsch said. "We’re keeping our options open."

Javors added, "It’s realistic."

Javors said some studios will move, some will go underground without permits and some will just ignore the new law.

"It doesn’t really make sense," he said of the law. "It kind of ruins the fantasy."

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at or 702-380-4588.

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