Porn industry innovates itself to death

Porn industry innovates itself to death

Summary: The porn industry's drive for technology innovation may have seen it cut off its own foot.

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The online pornography industry has adopted new technologies so successfully that it's in danger of innovating itself out of existence, according to author Jeff Sparrow.

"Increasingly, the porn industry's been dominated by pornographic versions of YouTube — various file-tube sites — that aggregate content. And, of course, the first people to do this make squillions of dollars because they get so much traffic, but the model itself is not financially sustainable," Sparrow said.

"It's rather akin to what The Huffington Post, say, is doing to the news media."

Sparrow, a research fellow at Victoria University in Melbourne, is the author of a new book called Money Shot: a journey into porn and censorship.

As Sparrow explains in this week's Patch Monday podcast, the porn industry has always taken advantage of new technology, from analog film and videocassette through to digital technologies, like DVD to internet downloads, and now live streaming to personal mobile devices.

"If you look at the history of the internet, an awful lot of the particular technologies, from video streaming to credit card encryption facilities, was driven by the porn industry," he said.

"The big Hollywood production studios are very conservative when it comes to new technology, because they've got so much invested in it, whereas it's pornographers who are prepared to push the envelope."

But now, technology has reduced production costs, and all but wiped out distribution costs, which has been Australia's traditional role — to distribute the US' content. Add this to the ease of creating free content, and the industry is doing it tough.

"In a weird kind of way, the porn industry now is starting to become a victim of its own success," Sparrow said. "The people that I spoke to suggested that the porn industry at the moment is going through a severe downturn."

Sparrow also discusses internet censorship, particularly Australia's attempts to introduce internet filtering.

"There's no easy way that any of these proposals for filters are ever going to work. There's always possibilities to get around them if you want," he said.

Just like child-protection expert Karen Flanagan from Save the Children Australia told us in March 2010, Sparrow believes that it's better to empower people to deal with the potential risks of pornography, rather than try to ban it and, inevitably, fail.

But while Sparrow is against the idea of censorship, his viewpoint is far more nuanced than "internet freedom good, Australian Christian Lobby bad".

"The Australian porn laws are a weird historically evolved strata, and it's really important to understand that history, because they don't make any sense without it," he said, particularly regarding the subtleties of what counts as an acceptable X-rated film and what is effectively banned as Refused Classification.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

Running time: 41 minutes, 30 seconds.

Disclosure: Stilgherrian provided Jeff Sparrow with some unpaid advice on and contacts related to the politics of internet censorship.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Australia

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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5 comments
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  • Legal age pornography should be never restricted

    It is blatantly obvious that there is no single objection to legal age pornography in secular ethics -- and as long as church is separate from state any prohibitive laws are unconstitutional and an abuse of human rights.
    DDERSSS
    • Secular the answer?

      Do you think dog-fighting is wrong? Do you agree that we should grant the State the moral authority to get involved? If the State is necessarily burdened by enforcing judged morality, how extensive should the retribution go, and where do we draw the line at forgiveness letting people laissez-faire?
      Vapur9
  • What's killing the porn industry

    TRUE amateur porn, submitted by the millions of consumers across the globe. People give the stuff away for free and many consider it a better value than professional performers with breast implants, covered in tattoos, piercings. overly tanned and injected with collagen.

    The problem is the porn industry HASN'T innovated. They still believe the old format of shooting a film in a seedy motel room and selling it is still viable.
    johnsmith9875
  • Innovation still ongoing

    Think about mobile technology and location oriented services.

    Porn industry is not fully there yet. Due to restrictions from Apple and Google.

    But give it time

    There are already first mobile porn apps available

    for example: Android Porn App (can be found of the site with the same name on net domain)
    Andrea Kornea
    • The possibilities are exciting...

      Location awareness that displays distance and ratings for every peep show, strip joint, bordello and escort in a user-defined radius.

      My wife already has a tendency to smash her phone to bits when she is mad. I can't imagine my phone surviving too many nanoseconds if she discovers such an app on mine.
      jvitous