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Stoya Explains When It's OK to Pirate Porn

We spoke with the entrepreneur and porn star about the importance of having good porn in the commons.

by Jordan Pearson
Mar 9 2015, 10:00pm

Photo: Steve Prue. Courtesy of: Stoya Inc./TRENCHCOATx.com.

Stoya wants you to download her porn for free.

The alt-porn mega star, entrepreneur, and writer said as much in a blog post she published last week. In it, she railed against tube sites—YouTube-style porn sites that regularly upload copyrighted material—and floated the idea that if you're not going to pay for porn, then the least you can do is support freedom of information by torrenting it instead of clicking around tube sites and generating ad revenue for them.

She also expressed her wish for a Creative Commons license specific to her porn, which would make it torrentable but leave it off tube sites. A little background: Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides copyright licenses that allow for the free sharing of works in public. With a share-alike license, for example, a work can be re-posted only if it's under the same license. A non-commercial license permits reuse only if you're not making money.

Tube sites have a long and well-documented history of bad behaviour. A 2014 Slate feature on MindGeek—by far the largest owner of tube sites and porn production companies in North America—called the company a "monopoly" due to its practice of buying up its competition on the producing and distributing front. MindGeek is also one of Stoya's favorite targets.

"Just take it, and don't make any money off of it"

When she's not eviscerating bad actors in the world of adult entertainment, Stoya is also working on launching her new pay-per-scene porn site, TRENCHCOATx. It already boasts smutty breakthroughs like videos funded by product placements, a first for the industry. The first film, headed up by TRENCHCOATx co-founder Kayden Kross, will feature ArrangementFinders—a sugar daddy dating site. It's called Screwing Wall Street: The ArrangementFinders IPO.

Advocating for the right to steal content while you're building a company to produce said content seemed like a pretty bold move. So, we called up Stoya to get her thoughts on everything from copyright to capitalism and the importance of making good porn available to everyone.

Photo: Steve Prue. Courtesy of: Stoya Inc./TRENCHCOATx.com.

Motherboard: What's your motivation in asking people to torrent your porn?

Stoya: There's clearly an interesting amount of cognitive dissonance going on there in certain ways. Absolutely, yes, it costs a certain amount of money to make any production. It then costs more money to make a production with a certain level of production value. With Graphic Depictions [a series documenting the sex life of a queer protagonist], having it fully scored, the guy scoring it deserves a big chunk of money—how are you going to fund that? At the same time, especially now that we're dealing with the web, it gets harder.

​Motherboard's recent podcast about the vagaries and general confusion of copyright law.​

Let's say we had TRENCHCOATx, the brick-and-mortar store front in Brooklyn, where you could walk around and touch things and buy physical objects—a DVD, or a thumb drive with a pretty booklet that goes with it or whatever. Then, let's say, someone came in, put it in their pocket, and walked off with it. That's, like, ah!

But when we're talking about things that are just ones and zeroes—we made the thing. It's on a drive and on a server somewhere. But after that, watching it on a torrent site isn't cleanly a theft of goods. As an industry, we've talked a lot about paying for porn. On the one hand, it's a great sentiment. But on the other, it ignores some concerns. One is that piracy is just going to happen.

It seems like you think of torrenting as more "ethical" than other modes of information dissemination. Do you think there's a social benefit to having porn spread through torrents?

Well, the other thing it ignores is—I'm going to say something kind of egotistical—if there's some 18 year old kid working two jobs just scrambling to make rent and they decide, "You know, I want to watch some porn for entertainment or masturbatory purposes," and they don't have the disposable income, I'd rather they watch something like my work rather than only be able to choose either really old stuff—that gives this frequently inaccurate idea of what adult entertainment is now—or the dominant entity in adult, MindGeek. They have this one style which is progressively more and more homogenous.

"Sex education needs to be more than looking at an entertainment medium"

On the one hand, yes, the goal with production is to have it be able to make enough to be my job and Kayden's job. But also the thing that drives me to put anything out in the world, whether it's a blog or a porno, it's some sort of a sharing of expression toward the aim of showing sexual plurality. Then yeah, put my stuff out in the arena of people who don't have disposable income. Please, enter that into the pornographic video discourse.

Do you think releasing porn in the commons is feasible for a company like yours?

The "I wish the creative commons had a special Stoya license" thing was kind of a joke. But the one that I asked for definitely specifies non-commercial and share-alike. That, I'm 100 percent behind. I think anything is feasible—any sort of financially viable career making entertainment is still feasible on the internet without copyright trolling and being a total jerk. Then, non-commercial is the way to go. Just take it, and don't make any money off of it. And if you do, then we should get a cut. That's the way that I think any kind of collaborative, commercial project should happen. We're nowhere near that, as an industry or TRENCHCOATx as a business, but that's where I'd like to see that get.

Photo: Steve Prue. Courtesy of: Stoya Inc./TRENCHCOATx.com.

Could a legitimate "YouTube for porn" ever exist, and would you be okay with it?

I think that that's a huge fucking issue to unpack. If it's a giant ball of yarn, then I've got one thread of it teased out. We could make a whole book about this. But there are tube sites—WoodRocket, for instance, and PornTube—that are independently owned, and they are much nicer and more ethical. If they're giving things away, they make sure they have the right to give things away, which I would say is ethical.​

To say "no tubes, only torrents" does gloss over the existence of the few good tube sites, but that was necessary to ensure that the message had an impact. In the same way that, with regards to sexual health education, we go, "Condom! Use a condom!" Because if you have 20 seconds to get something into somebody's brain, condoms are the way to go. But it's a little more complicated than that. Condoms aren't entirely safe, there are other methods you can use—like, you can stack methods. Say, condoms and discussion of sexual history and testing. You can get as close to safe as possible. You'll never hit "safe" in reality, but you can get safer, and safer, and safer.

Okay, now we've gone on a tangent about sexual health, but the point is that sometimes you have to sacrifice nuance in exchange for, basically, strength of propaganda.

How does a "good" tube site operate?

They act in good faith, basically. They license stuff, and whether it's old video that the owners have wrung basically every last drop out of so they say, "Yeah, we'll give this pile of drives to you for however many dollars." Or it's some other kind of deal—I don't know the intricacies of their business—but they make sure that the owner of the content is aware that it's being used, for one, and they ask first. There's also some kind of compensation in exchange for it. That's cool.

"How do you navigate capitalism, which is a shitty, shitty system?"

Also, and this is very much a specifically "porn" thing, [some tube sites] leverage a network of tube sites to devalue the entire industry—buying up enough of it that Slate called MindGeek a monopoly—and then start homogenizing everything. When any one person or company in the United States—and we do treat companies disturbingly like people—has half of the power in a large group, that's a problem. And when they're using that power to homogenize something, that's a giant problem.

Sex education needs to be more than looking at an entertainment medium. Working the with the assumption that there is a lack of information on sexual education, the porn industry is where people have to turn. And then seeing this one company impose their single view of sex and women and all of that, and seeing that spread and become more concrete—that's a fucking nightmare.

Not everyone is going to torrent your work in good faith, though. Where does the balance lie between getting paid and leaving yourself open to being taken advantage of, if I can use that phrase?

The core of that is: How do you navigate capitalism, which is a shitty, shitty system? Every time you turn around, something truly awful is happening in the world and it directly ties back into capitalism. Because someone did something horrific in the name of capital, or in the name of power. The rise of polio in Pakistan, for instance, because the CIA used vaccinations as a cover to operate there and now people are afraid to get vaccinated. Like, what the fuck? Absolute atrocities happen in the name of capitalism and power.

How do you navigate that? You can't just ask people to lay down their bank accounts and stop being a jerk. How do you navigate that, but also still be able to sleep at night? That's an ongoing process, and it's an experiment, and I don't think anyone has the answer to that unless they're a sociopath that can sleep at night no matter what and they're the people doing terrible, terrible things in the name of money and power.

What would you say to someone about to upload a video to their favorite tube site, assuming they don't know who owns it?

In that case, even I would have to put in a lot of effort to dig up who owns the tube. That's why I would say, just put it in a torrent instead. Don't with the tubes. Do torrents instead.​

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