Interview: Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass – the Nemesis of Porn Piracy

July 6, 2015
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Interview: Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass - the Nemesis of Porn Piracy

Since even before the Internet took over our hearts and souls, it was possible to get ahold of adult content for free. However, when the Internet did rise to dominance, the era of paying for adult media felt the nasty sting of piracy much deeper than ever before. Also, the vast majority of folks now probably head straight to tube sites for their content, the mainstream believing this to be where all adult lies.

Thanks to the brilliant Nate Glass, the creator of Takedown Piracy and the powerful anti-piracy tool Nemesis, things may begin to change. Glass, who started the company in 2009 after years working in different sectors of the adult industry, is leading the charge against online piracy, as it hurts those producing legitimate and high quality content, and cheapens the very nature of adult entertainment.

Takedown Piracy, now contracted by many companies, adult and mainstream alike, utilizes digital fingerprinting technology to root out copyright infringements across the vast regions of tube sites. Nemesis is a custom tool developed as part of the piracy-hunting juggernaut that is Glass’s program.  

Glass’s perspective on the industry is valuable in that there’s care given to the unsung professionals behind the veil; Takedown Piracy is not only about protecting the performers, it’s about recognizing the work that goes into adult, the hidden economic factors behind tube piracy, and how there needs to be changes in how adult is perceived if Takedown Piracy’s mission is to achieve success.

Enjoy this conversation with an entertaining, insightful, and commanding adversary of tube piracy.

What is the overall goal of what you do with Nemesis and Takedown Piracy in the adult industry?

I came up in this industry. When I was about 19 years old I started as a clerk in an adult video store, and worked my way up for years. This is the industry I made my life in. It’s not only a business to me; it’s also personal, because I know the people who own these companies. When I see them being ripped off, not only is it bad economically, it also hurts me. When we started this, it was a side project, and I was working for one of the studios in LA. They had this brilliant idea, that they were going to buy an RV, put me in it, and I would travel the country, basically promoting their movies, and building a list of stores they could contact. That was, hands down, the worst three years of my life. But I had a lot of free time at night, and this is when the industry was coming out of that boom period of the mid 2000s, and people were pirating. The studios started seeing the financial downturn, and it didn’t seem like anyone was addressing it, and I had free time to work on this, so that’s the genesis of where Takedown Piracy came from. The mission statement would be to protect our clients’ content.

People compare the piracy to what happens in music, but on the financial side of music, there’s merchandising and other ways to keep the artist afloat and producing work.

Porn doesn’t really have merchandising, the stuff that music has. There’s no box office money coming in, they’re completely reliant on that DVD or that membership, that’s where all the money comes from. When I talk to people who are pro-piracy, they mention Radiohead and their self-releases. I tell them that’s what they did five or six years ago, but look at what they’re doing now, they’re not on that boat anymore. They went back to the studio. Thom Yorke even said that by doing the self-release, it only played into devaluing their music, and allowing people like Apple to set the value for their music. It was an experiment, and I think it was awesome, but unfortunately I don’t know it was as fruitful as they wanted it to be.

It runs parallel to how more performers are making more specific, private content for consumers, instead of going through studios. What are your thoughts on piracy in relation to this?

I think it has empowered people to do their own thing more, through webcams and custom videos. That’s always a good thing, but there’s a certain benefit of having a studio behind you. They’re going to have a bigger budget, they’ll be able to promote you more, there’s a tradeoff there. It’s up to each person individually. What we used to see a few years ago, when it came to piracy, the webcam companies were always very apathetic. What we’re seeing now is, after several years, I’m getting emails from different webcam performers about how people are recording all their sessions and now there’s a whole section of them on Pornhub. Even that webcam model is not immune to the effects of piracy.

Interview: Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass - the Nemesis of Porn Piracy

What are the economic and personal effects of piracy that the mainstream media wouldn’t see?

I saw this first hand. When things started going downhill financially, more and more people got laid off. You’re losing jobs, and if you ever go to where this stuff is produced, you see so many other places that are connected to the industry that thrive off it, and those places feel that pinch too. My background is in retail. I saw the stores reducing staff. I’m kind of conflicted. I love technology, but in the back of my head, I know that it’s not always 100% gain for human beings. There’s a cost here where people are being put out of jobs, or doing stuff for the cheapest amount, and I feel that with porn and piracy, there’s a human cost involved that not a lot of people want to think about.

What does piracy do to the art form?

As far as the art form, I think it reduces it. When you look at a site like Pornhub, even if you have this amazing scene, with backgrounds and costumes, and a bigger budget, you’re just thrown up there like everything else. It’s almost like, I hate to use this term, a flea market or bargain bin. Everything’s the same price. I’ve actually dealt with people who complain there’s no porn for women. I tell them there’s tons! She told me she’d been through Pornhub, and I said that it’s mostly stolen shit! You’re getting such a skewed perspective of the industry, there’s a lot of people who think that whatever porn produces is on sites like Pornhub. It reduces the art form in the perception of the public, almost ghettoizes the industry.

What do you believe people in the industry can do to get ahead of piracy?

Everybody in the industry has probably heard this before, that there should be an iTunes for porn. It’s one of those obvious things, but the reality of putting that together is not so simple. I do think there needs to be something that answers that convenience aspect, the way iTunes makes it so it’s easier to buy something for 99 cents instantly than pirating it. It’s not that anybody’s being a luddite, but the economics for certain sites don’t make sense, and if you go to the bank and say, I want to start the iTunes for porn, you’re going to be kicked out. Porn has a lot of those logistical issues, even if everyone within the industry’s willing. I’d like to see the performers take more of a leadership role on that, and speak out against it, and not work for people who promote these piracy sites, and things like that, but at the end of the day, not a lot of them have the long term economic stability of the industry in mind. I even see performers retweet torrent sites.

Have you given thought to the pseudo utopian notion of all content being paid for? Do you have a vision of what that would be like?

In a way, when you flash back to the 80s or 90s, you could still get free porn. There will always be ways to get free porn. Even before piracy, when the Internet was first bursting onto the scene, studios were willingly giving away tons of free porn, so there’s always been that. Even if we eradicate everything for our clients, there’s still so much “orphaned content,” where the studio’s no longer in business, or they don’t want to protect it, that stuff’s going to be out there forever. If you want premium, good stuff, that’s the stuff you have to pay for. To me, that’s the closest thing to a realistic outcome as we’ll ever see. It’s fun to think about the utopia, but then I get the soul crushing reality. We’re never going to be able to take everything down.

How does the program work? How would you explain it to non-programmers?

We worked on this for about eight months before we ever even opened it up to our clients. The industry had tried a digital fingerprinting program in the past, but it required the tube sites to voluntarily sign up for it, and to self-police. The idealist in me said, well of course they’d want to self-police, but of course they didn’t want to self-police at all because they make more money on pirated stuff than legitimate stuff.

Basically, what we designed, in layman’s terms, it’s kind of like on YouTube, where they have their own content identification system so if you try to upload The Avengers to YouTube, they’ll catch it. We kind of have the same thing, except the tube site’s not the entity detecting the infringement, because we don’t believe they’ll self-police. What we created was a system that’ll take all these tube videos, analyze them, and match that content up to our copyright holder’s content. The copyright holder gives us access to all their movies, we make digital fingerprints of their movies, and then we can check those against what’s uploaded on the tube sites. It’s quicker, because prior to this we had to eyeball stuff, or hope that we could catch a metatag or watermark, but that’s not fast enough to keep up with the amount of stuff uploaded.

Interview: Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass - the Nemesis of Porn Piracy
Nate Glass and Jessica Drake at Chicago University

Porn has an issue that Hollywood does not have. If someone uploads The Avengers to YouTube, you know what it is. Porn puts out so much more content, I can guarantee you that if you showed the guy that owns the studio, he wouldn’t know what half of his scenes look like. Relying on eyeball identification is not going to be quick enough. From testing, we knew that this was legit, this was the solution to tube piracy; the problem is convincing everybody of that and getting them on board. Once we started getting results, people started signing up and it snowballed from there.

What are the plans for the future of Takedown Piracy?

We want to get to the point where the tube piracy problem isn’t the inhibitor to any significant innovation; we want to get around that. My fear is that we do our part of this, we take all this stuff down, and then people say that the porn on the tube sites is shitty, and they want good stuff, and there isn’t then a platform for those people. Right now, I have no control over that. Once people go, okay there’s no more free porn, there should be a convenient platform for that consumer. I think some people have grown up with this concept that porn’s free, and as those people get older, maybe some of that will be aged out, that mentality. When you’re young and you don’t have any disposable income, you don’t want to pay for anything, but once you’ve become an adult and you have a regular job, that idea of being the cheapskate becomes less cool.

Paying for it is legitimizing it in the eyes of economics. Do you think people will actually take the step to finding the good, ethical, non-free content?

I hope people will take that step. Studios have to work to get their product in front of the mainstream, to make it look better, innovate technologically so that people can get access to their stuff, so that the only window to adult isn’t a tube site. One of the criticisms I’ve had of adult, for the longest time, was that whenever there is a mainstream news piece about adult, it’s always centered around the performers. It’s always about this seemingly glamorous thing. We’re still selling that fantasy. It’s one thing to sell the fantasy to the customer, but I feel like when we are doing a news thing, we should show that there’s real people who work in porn. If we showed the office, non-performer’s side, maybe people would have a different perception of adult. Sometimes I feel like we’re specimens in a glass jar, but we’re just like everybody else, not the preconceived notion people have. If we could show consumers that business side and that legitimate side, and make it more socially acceptable, I think more people would be apt to pay for adult.

Tell me more about this more realistic image you want to convey about the industry.

When I worked for a studio, there was a chain of stores who came to us wanting to do a promotion where a customer would get to go out and watch a movie being shot. We were like, no, no, no… why would you want to do that to them? It’s not going to be fun for them! In their minds it was the coolest thing, to be on a porn set, but when you’re there it’s actually so fucking boring! In a porn office, you wouldn’t know if the people sitting at desks are editing porn or editing some reality show. We’ve never really showed that side of porn, because it’s boring, but I do feel like it needs to be shown.

If you go to the headquarters of Wicked, it’s not just an orgy, there are people at desks, people who handle accounts payable, accounts receivable, you’ve got whatever! It’s just people sitting around doing the daily business. If you work in porn for any amount of time, that whole fascination with porn wears off. It’s your job. You kind of have to be able to separate yourself from fandom to be a professional.

What would you tell a consumer to help them be savvier about adult, more than simply not consuming illegal content?

I saw a documentary recently about the economics behind Google and seemingly free sites, and there was a great quote, “you’re the product, you’re the one being sold.” There are certain tube sites that do these PR things where they release all this data… think about the data they’re not releasing. Nothing is ever truly free, there’s a cost involved. You may not be pulling out your wallet to watch that video on that tube site, but some of your data is being tracked and collected, and probably sold, and then there’s the cost to that studio or that performer. If you really like that performer, you can buy a scene for three bucks, so when I see people bitching about how porn’s too expensive, I say they’re typing that after paying six for coffee at Starbucks. I don’t buy into that whole “it’s too expensive” thing. Nothing’s ever really free. You’ve got to think about all the real costs involved in watching something for free.

To learn more about Takedown Piracy and Nate Glass, check out the website and Glass’s Twitter. To be an active consumer, support the performers, companies, and professionals responsible for quality material, and take into consideration the hidden, nefarious costs of digging on secretly not-so-free content. 

Images via TakedownPiracy.com.

Interview: Takedown Piracy’s Nate Glass – the Nemesis of Porn Piracy 3 votes

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