If you value porn, please pay for it!

Porn SaleRecently, I found out by chance that a Dutch TV station had screened content from my film “(S)he Comes” without my knowledge or consent to license this footage. I was livid. I have worked for 20 years in TV myself and know that any visual content has to be licensed and paid for unless it is a “quotation”. This would be a very brief shot of a few seconds taken, for example, in a cinema showing not just the footage on screen but also clearly the cinema surroundings. But this was not the case – there were almost 30 seconds of my footage that filled the TV screen and in a piece that is only just over three minutes long that meant a significant part of their documentary on sex over fifty was illustrated with my footage.

I contacted a copyright solicitor and they confirmed that yes, indeed “(S)he Comes” was my “intellectual property” and to screen it without my permission was a severe breach of copyright. The TV station should have firstly asked for my permission and secondly set up a licensing agreement that clearly defines the terms of this license and of course they should have paid me for my footage. As it was, they never even bothered to send me an email to enquire about a license. I can only imagine that this means that they assumed that I would never find out and that different rules apply to porn than any other footage. Clearly with sites like YouPorn and PornHub blooming, porn is now widely considered as “free for all”.

I sent an invoice to the TV station for the footage used at my usual per-minute price and also requested for my footage to be credited. As they did not credit my footage but still showed it on their website as well as on their facebook page, I requested for the footage to be removed. Consequently the clip was removed and payment was agreed but I am still waiting for my invoice to be paid now. Time to send a reminder soon. Rest assured, I will not let this one go!

This is not just about the money. It is also hurts to feel disrespected as the creator of this film; a film I worked on for over a year, casting it, directing, filming and producing it and spending endless weeks in post-production with the help of seasoned (and expensive) professionals. I gave this film my all – love, sweat and tears and a big pile of cash that I borrowed from my bank to finance the project.

So to have my footage stolen hurts in two ways: it is disrespectful to both me as the filmmaker and my footage as something unique and valuable; but it also really hurts me financially because to be honest even a year after the release of this film, I have only recouped 50% of the production costs and somehow I need to pay that credit plus interest back to the bank eventually.

Sadly, what happened with that TV station is just the tip of the iceberg. One of the main problems right now is that the new porn audience expects all porn to be free. They get it on sites like PornHub or by going onto file-sharing sites where pirated files can be downloaded free of charge. So I might sell one DVD or one download but have no idea how many times this film has been replicated and passed around as a freebie.

I believe that if you enjoy watching porn, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and pay for it. Paying for porn is the responsible thing to do – especially for an audience who wants to support alternative, authentic and “ethical” porn. To put it in perspective: a mainstream porn production costs on average 5000 Euros all in. I tend to spend around six times this amount on a feature film. Time is money and I like to give my performers time to build trust with each other and let the lust grow organically. So I might shoot one scene over a day or two days, whereas some commercial paint-by-numbers porn productions often shoot up to three scenes in a day. As a result, the sex is often very rushed and contrived. There is no time for spontaneity, creativity and an authentic curve of arousal.

I also feel that the performers and crew should be valued in the pay they receive as well as the production set-up. I like to offer everyone only the best that I can – food, location, props, accommodation, etc., so that everyone feels happy and well looked after. After the shoot I spend endless months with a team working in the postproduction: editing, colour-grading and sound mixing the rushes until a feature film emerges that I and all involved in it will be proud of. It is impossible to keep on producing high-end and fair–trade films without a budget. The money needs to come from somewhere: savings, a bank credit, crowd-funding and eventually sales of the film as downloads or DVDs. When I started out 11 years ago, the concept of online crowd-funding did not exist. I have lost money on some of my films and pretty much blown my inheritance this way. There is a limit to how much money you can beg, borrow or steal. So for many directors this is the harsh reality: if viewers do not value our work by paying for it, it is the end of the road for us and we simply cannot afford to produce any more content.

There is something else to consider for porn viewers:

Free porn often means that there are no ID’s as proof of age, no model release forms as proof of consent and no certificate for health tests, and this might mean that you are watching porn featuring underage performers or performers who did not fully consent to this footage being published or performers who had no tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Porn that was published on DVD or is sold online on official Video-On-Demand sites needs to fulfil certain criteria such as maintaining records of model release forms, age verifications and health tests. If this paperwork is in order, it will have been a “professional” production where everyone consented to being filmed having sex and got paid.

“Ethical” and feminist porn goes one step further and lifts the shroud of secrecy that still surrounds the bulk of porn productions. Transparency is a necessity to me when it comes to porn and especially ethical porn – “Who did this film and what were the working conditions on set?” are important questions to answer. This is why I always publish a behind the scene documentary with my films, as well as performers’ interviews. This is why I show my face and talk freely about my work – there are no skeletons in the closet.

Regardless of whether you like mainstream or alternative porn, or both, I think the right thing to do is to pay for your porn.

Any filmmaker who values their intellectual property and creativity should be able charge for their content. Streaming and Download fees are so low that realistically almost any viewer can afford them. You can view an erotic feature such as my latest film “(S)he Comes” online at Hot Movies For Her for the price of a pint of beer. It does not hurt the audience to pay but helps us as directors immensely to feel valued and be able to keep on producing. As the Spanish alternative porn collective Toytool Committee says: “Support your local pornographers!”, because if you don’t they will be gone one day and you may not like the free alternatives that remain.

More info:

This is an interesting article featuring feminist porn director Tristan Taormino’s and gender-queer performer Jiz Lee’s perspective on why the audience should pay for porn: http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2015/04/how-to-watch-porn-responsibly-according-to-porn-stars/390624/

The movement is also gaining momentum online:

http://www.payforyourporn.org/
#PAYFORYOURPORN

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