July 18, 2003 02:00am
Porn Sites May Stream No More
by: Noah Shachtman
Acacia Media Technologies, a company that claims to have a patent on streaming video, declared a major legal victory Wednesday against several Internet pornographers it says are infringing on its intellectual property.
The U.S. District Court in Orange County, California, issued preliminary injunctions against five online smut houses, barring them from sending out nudie flicks from their sites.
But patent experts and other Internet adult firms say the ruling isn't all that it seems. The five porn sites didn't bother to respond to Acacia's legal attacks, so they're more guilty of sloth than patent infringement.
Judge Alice Marie Stotler prohibited Extreme Productions, Go Entertainment, Lace Productions, WebZotic and Wild Ventures from transmitting compressed digital video from any of their websites. The companies were also barred from posting any advertisements or links to other sites that use Acacia's patents, said Acacia senior Vice President Rob Berman.
"What this says is that webmasters in the adult entertainment industry are going to have to deal with us," he said.
The judge's decision doesn't say much more than that, said Rich Belgard, independent patent consultant in Saratoga, California.
"There's no legal win here," Belgard said. "Somebody files a lawsuit against you and you ignore it, you're going to lose."
"It does nothing to either validate or invalidate the patents," Jeff Miller, president of Ademia Multimedia, told his fellow adult webmasters on the GoFuckYourself.com bulletin board. "The defendants didn't respond. No evidence was submitted or heard by the court. This is not a victory for Acacia, it is a non-event."
Ademia leases porno videos for streaming to porn sites.
The five adult firms slapped down by Judge Stotler are not part of the consortium of blue businesses tangling within U.S. District Court. But Miller -- whose company, Ademia, is part of that larger erotica industry group -- did acknowledge that the ruling against the five "hurts everybody because of the inappropriate spin Acacia puts on it."
The porn defendants' ranks grew thinner Wednesday, when Acacia announced that two adult Internet companies, Babenet and White Sands Communications, had agreed to license Acacia's technologies. Porn webmaster affiliate house CECash made a similar deal earlier this month.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. But Acacia has typically asked for 1 to 2 percent of gross revenues in return for licenses to its patents. So far, 27 companies have settled with Acacia. Those include LodgeNet Entertainment Corporation, the hotel video-on-demand service, and Virgin Radio, a streaming music firm.
Acacia claims its patents cover just about every form of digital audio and video distribution. According to Berman, these kinds of activities violate Acacia's intellectual property rights: pushing MP3s from peer-to-peer groups, streaming newscasts from Internet radio sites and delivering movies through cable networks.
Spike Goldberg, president of the amateur porn firm Homegrown Video, said Acacia's legal strategy is to first bully adult operators of limited means into licenses, and then go after the media giants.
"It's a strategy that has been employed before," said Belgard. "And if that's what Acacia's doing, it gives them the ability to say that there's a precedent of people that have licensed the patent."
Berman responded that the adult industry backed Acacia into a corner by being stubborn in the face of its legal requests.
"Other industries have responded in a much different way" he said. "And as a result, we're in negotiations. There's a clear message here: You can't just ignore us and we'll go away."