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'Strike 3' adult websites sue porn pirates in Buffalo

Born in France and raised in Beverly Hills, Greg Lansky is the self-described Steven Spielberg of porn.

His moniker stems from Blacked, Tushy, Vixen and the other popular, upscale adult websites he helped create.

After just four years in existence, Strike 3, his Delaware-based company, is becoming known for its high-end movies – Lansky likes to call it porn as art – and a subscription base healthy enough to support their making.

He is also protective of Strike 3 and aggressively seeks out people who pirate its movies.

Lansky's latest targets are 40 "John Does" in Buffalo and across the region, and he is going to federal court to find out who they are.

"They lose millions of dollars because of this," said Jacqueline M. James of White Plains, a lawyer for Strike 3. "It's a huge problem for anyone with original content."

In 40 separate lawsuits, each one filed in Buffalo federal court, the company accuses an unnamed defendant of stealing movies from its websites. The suits include an IP address and seek to subpoena the subscriber.

Strike 3 also asks for damages and, for lawyers on the other side, that's one of the rubs.

In almost every case, the John Does want to keep their anonymity and many lawyers think the potential for embarrassment, even humiliation, motivates them to settle and pay.

"Some people may say, 'I don't give a ...., " said Jeffrey Antonelli, a Chicago lawyer who specializes in defending clients from Strike 3's lawsuits. "Others will say, 'I have security clearance,' or 'I live in a conservative community and this could be devastating to me.'"

Strike 3's tactics raise the question: Is the company using the threat of public embarrassment to win cash settlements, which can range from a few thousands dollars to tens of thousands of dollars?

In short, are the lawsuits a revenue source for the company?

By some estimates, the company has more than 1,200 suits ongoing at anytime across the nation.

James makes no apologies for her client's aggressive approach to battling piracy but noted that, when it comes to lawsuits, she only goes after repeat offenders.

In court papers, the company will usually list, with a date and movie title, the number of times a John Doe stole from a website. In most of the suits, the copy infringements climb into the dozens.

"People who enjoy this content seem to to enjoy it en masse," James said.

Strike 3 relies on surveillance that reveals IP addresses using BitTorrent software to pirate its content. With the court's help, those IP addresses can lead to names.

"I'm not trying to embarrass people," James said. "My client is actually proud of his content."

The ability to steal Strike 3's movies, as well as content from other websites, is rooted in a software known as BitTorrent.

The software allows peer-to-peer sharing of content and has become a valuable tool for people eager to pirate everything from movies to textbooks.

James said she would prefer to sue the big internet providers, but the U.S. Supreme Court said "no" to that, which leaves small, individual users as the only remaining target.

In each case, the judge ultimately decides if the defendant is named, but Strike 3 has a reputation for allowing anonymity.

"Sometimes they don't want to be exposed and I honor that," James said.

She is quick to defend her client's aggressive approach to protecting its product and suggested Strike 3's movies are unlike anything else you will find on the web. And with that higher quality comes increased expenses for everything from talent to production equipment.

In a Forbes profile last year, Lansky said he was always fascinated by Playboy and Penthouse and since the age of 13 dreamed of working in the porn industry.

When he finally did, he quickly realized people would pay for higher-end adult movies. Lansky's websites attract 30 million unique visitors each month, according to the magazine.

"We really have the same business model as HBO," he told Forbes.

Strike 3 is not the first adult website to go to court to protect its content.

Long before Lansky made his name in porn, Malibu Media was taking internet pirates to court. By 2014, the company was filing up to 1,300 lawsuits a year, prompting one judge to compare its tactics to extortion: pay the company or face a public shaming.

Antonelli, who claims to have represented 100 Strike 3 defendants over the past year, said his clients tend to be low-income people unable to pay the four- or five-figure settlements in these cases.

Often, he said, the subscribers are parents who didn't know their teenage son enjoyed upscale porn.

"A lot of these people are normal folks," he said of his clients.

 

 

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