Judge orders porn site to pay $4M in piracy case

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A judge has ordered the operators of a popular pornographic website to pay $4 million for copyright infringement to an Iowa-based adult film company — a ruling that should serve as a deterrent to others who pirate content online, a lawyer said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett in Cedar Rapids entered the judgment last week against Mark and Mina Faragalla of Beaumont, Calif., who operated PornVisit.com. He ordered them to pay the maximum damages of $150,000 per infringement to Norwood, Iowa-based FraserSide IP LLC, a subsidiary of Nevada-based adult entertainment company Private Media Group, Inc., and to stop stealing its copyrighted works.

"Simply having the word 'million' in a judgment sends a message — it is going to be better to comply with copyright laws than to make money from the work of others," said Phoenix attorney Chad Belville, who represents FraserSide. "The only way online piracy will truly be slowed or stopped is to take the financial incentive away."

Belville has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of FraserSide in recent months as part of a campaign against websites that illegally profit from its intellectual property. FraserSide owns the copyrights to 75 adult films in the U.S. and other content that is distributed through Internet, television and DVD sales in 45 countries. He said the ruling against the Faragallas was one of the largest recent awards for piracy that he's heard about.

Judge Bennett called his ruling "a shot across the bow" against online piracy. He said PornVisit.com was visited by more than 500,000 Internet users daily, making it among the top 2,900 most popular sites in the world. Belville said PornVisit.com recently stopped operating, but its sister site, PornVisitHD.com, remains in business.

"The modern day pirates at issue in this litigation do not wear tricornes and extract their ill-gotten booty at cutlass point, but with a mouse and the internet. Nonetheless, their theft of property is every bit as lucrative as their brethren in the golden age of piracy," Bennett wrote.

From 2 to 3 percent of visitors to PornVisit.com bought memberships that ranged in cost from $3.95 for two days to $100 for six months, and the site made $720,000 per year in advertising revenue, Bennett said.

The site was "a cash cow, made all the more profitable by the fact that its product is the result of pirating copies of others' adult films," he said.

Bennett entered a default judgment against the Faragallas after they did not contest the lawsuit, but he still had to calculate the amount of damages. He said 19 FraserSide films were being unlawfully used by their site as of last August, and he awarded the maximum damages of $150,000 for each by finding the Faragallas' actions were willful for a total of $2.85 million. Bennett could have awarded as little as $750 for each infringement.

He awarded FraserSide an additional $1.14 million in damages for trademark claims based on what he called a conservative estimate of lost sales and the 1,500 members Pornvisit.com received from FraserSide films.

The Faragallas did not have an attorney. A man who answered the phone at the address where the lawsuit was served said they no longer live there.

Belville said he would try to collect the judgment by locating their assets, which he said includes two homes and the PornVisitHD.com site.

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