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Pirated booty
Piracy is a thing on the internet. Whether it be movies, games, music, or the latest version of Adobe Photoshop, most of you reading this have at one time or another grabbed something via an unauthorized download of some sort. Maybe you felt bad about it, maybe you didn't, but at least there was some sort of conscious moral choice involved in that decision.

But, there's one commodity that gets stolen constantly on the internet and that no one really gives a second thought about: pornography.

The porn industry is credited with being the first commercial enterprise to truly monetize the internet, a realm where people today still feel entitled to getting it all for free. Innovations like web rings (remember those?), credit-card processing, streaming video (remember RealPlayer?), and Shockwave (now Adobe) Flash were pushed into prominence to peddle adult wares to a ready and wanting audience. It's estimated that 13 percent of all internet searches are for some sort of erotic content, and that impressive number is probably way down from the pre-millennium era of the internet when it was largely a boys club. Still, that's a LOT of web traffic; the porn industry should be rolling in dough, right?

Not exactly. While the internet has altered the business models of pretty much every other form of entertainment, from music to video games, the popularity of the "tube site" has been exceptionally destructive to the adult entertainment world. Why pay for porn when you can go to Redtube, Pornhub, Xhamster, or a dozen other streaming video hubs that present whatever your libido desires for the awesome cost of free?  You might have to work a little harder to find more niche content, which for now is held behind increasingly fragile paywalls, but if you want to see someone taking ten inches up the bum, you're in paradise.

The big problem with the tube sites is that the creators of most of the content on them aren't being compensated for it. Piracy is just as rampant, even more so, as it is in other forms of media. But unlike the MPAA or RIAA, the porn industry doesn't have the legal clout to sue everyone or the presence to start a public relations campaign. Seriously, how are you gonna tell people to stop stealing porn when your audience still has a hard time admitting they watch it at all? And because they don't admit that they watch it, the guilt trip is different. They're guilty for watching it, not stealing it.

When people pirate most anything, whether it be a movie, a TV series, or the latest version of Photoshop, a moral judgment is made. They know that they're doing something illegal, and either make some kind of justification for it ("I'm just trying this out, I'll pay for it later") or don't care at all ("FUCK THE POLICE"). This moral judgment almost never applies to pirated porn. Hell, most people who watch Pornhub probably have no idea that what they're looking at isn't supposed to be there. The people who upload the videos know it, but the onslaught of DMCA takedown requests from porn studios, or even the occasional lawsuit, probably isn't much of a deterrent.

The end result is that "traditional" porn is dying out. The BG scene is largely past tense; when you have people posting amateur clips of themselves railing their wives or girlfriends for fake internet points on reddit, it's futile to charge money for the same thing. The survivors are resorting to filling specific niches or fetishes, or are creating custom content for their audience. The largest adult site today, LiveJasmin.com (NSFW, duh), sells interactive webcam shows as its primary product. Other sites are focusing more on gay, BBW, wet-and-messy, bondage, tattoos, or other more exotic fetishes.

There's no real moral to this story. I just found it to be an interesting tale of how the industry responsible in large part for allowing ANYONE to make money off the internet was made largely irrelevant by it. Maybe it was a failure to properly adapt to the "tube" way of doing video, allowing the Pornhubs of the world to swoop in and subjugate. Maybe it's a lack of respect for the craft, where we allow piracy to run rampant instead of treating adult entertainment as a legitimate art form.

Or maybe no one cares because when you want to pleasure yourself in private at 11 p.m., there will always be some corner of the internet willing to accommodate you, whether they're getting paid for it or not.
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