LAS VEGAS - "It's not a happy ending," said John Stagliano, referring to the multi-million dollar settlement awarded Evil Angel and Jules Jordan Video by the Los Angeles US District Court in the piracy case against Toronto based Kaytel Distribution late last year. " The legal system is very expensive to work with."
Stagliano, along with Jules Jordan, attorneys Allan Gelbard and Sean Macias, Erick Schut of TLA, and Mark Sprague with Bay TSP, made up the panel for Friday afternoon's 'Stick 'em Up! Pirates Continue to Plunder' seminar.
While Jules Jordan Video attorney Sean Macias enjoyed the forum's spotlight, often seizing the opportunity to make rich lawyer jokes to an audience comprised of mostly non-rich lawyers, Stagliano articulated both his and the industry's frustration with the piracy issue.
"I hate to say it, but the legal fees far exceeded what the damages and/or what the rewards were in this," he said. "It really was a situation to protect ourselves in the future from people who may try to rip us off. But we're not talking about suing MicroSoft or somebody where you get a judgment and you get the money. We're talking about suing criminals. So there's no way that, if I win 8 million dollars, I'm just going to get a check. That didn't happen, and it's not going to happen."
Despite his calm demeanor and casual tone, Stagliano did not pull any punches. "The legal system seems to be tainted by politics of the modern day in terms of the judge possibly being influenced by the fact he was appointed by a president with a mandate to not protect pornographers rights," Stagliano said. "He was interpreting the law in whatever way he could to not protect our rights. And, I hope someone prints that because my lawyer had told me to never say that!"
As if on cue, Evil Angel attorney Allan Gelbard reminded the audience that, when court-bound, "the jury is your friend." Gelbard supported his comment with a courtroom anecdote from the case in which Judge Holmert insisted Gelbard compare an authentic Jules Jordan Video with a counterfeit copy by playing them simultaneously for the jury.
"I'm kneeling underneath two monitors and Jules has the remote control," explained Gelbard. "In the scene Jules pauses on—its an anal scene—there's a large black man and a small white woman in mid stroke. I'm kneeling before a federal jury in a federal courthouse downtown asking, 'Ok, what's the difference? Jules to his credit begins, 'if you look closely on the shaft you see the pixilation.' And, the jury is like, 'Yea! I see it!"
Jordan stressed the importance of vigilance in the fight against piracy, encouraging studios to periodically purchase copies of their product from websites. "From the seat of your office, you can buy now from all around the world. There are a lot of Internet retailers that will ship you product from every country. I suggest studios—every few months—go and purchase their product from website stores."
The panel remarked that studios like Evil Angel and Jules Jordan Video are vulnerable to piracy because they carry a higher wholesale price. A well-packaged knockoff marked at six dollars can easily make retailers look the other way.
"Obviously, no one is going to pirate the dollar stuff. They're going after the high-end product," said Jordan. "There's a demand for our stuff so retailers have to stock it but I think we came out of this on good terms with all the retailers we deal with."
The second half of the 2-hour seminar focused on preemptive measures such as watermarks and foil packaging. TLA's Erick Schut and Bay TSP's Mark Sprague discussed tracking technologies designed to fight online piracy.