evidence

Yes, Outing Kids With Gay Porn Does Lead To Suicide. Will Corbin Fisher Listen?

The response gay porn studio CorbinFisher.com gives — when slapped with criticism that its potential lawsuits against illegal filesharers will out closeted gay teens and subject them to violent households, suicide attempts, and other horrors — is that there’s barely any chance going after some 40,000 defendants could cause any serious harm. Kevin Farrell, the co-founder of UnicornBooty.com, which like Queerty has been covering CF’s intentions, counters: You’re really fucking wrong, because I almost took my own life when my parents found gay porn on my computer.

Kevin was 12 when X-rated gay smut was discovered on his computer. His parents weren’t pleased with his “nasty” habit. A week later, they kicked him out. He’s spoken to them three times in the 15 years since. He moved in with his aunt, and again at age 16 his cousin discovered gay porn on the family computer. Kevin was pummeled by his cousin. His aunt kicked him out. He became homeless, attempted suicide, all because gay porn was discovered on his computer.

CorbinFisher.com’s attorney Marc Randazza, when told how harmful the company’s lawsuits could be for gay youth, says the “thieving little shit who gets caught can very easily lie to his parents that he was looking at straight porn.” We already pointed out how, legally speaking, that’s just impossible. Now let’s see how Randazza, writing In December about copyright in the porn industry, appears to contradict the very strategy he and CF are undertaking:

Today, porn companies are embracing mass copyright-infringement lawsuits, usually with studios filing suit against several thousand anonymous defendants at once. Paul Levy, an attorney for the Public Citizen Litigation Group (another guardian of liberty himself), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (ditto) have come out publicly against these suits. Levy concerns and the EFF’s center on the difficulty of treating each case individually when filing a mass action, the likelihood of getting a quick — and unethical — settlement due to the embarrassment some associate with pornography, and the inequity of filing suit wherever a studio’s attorneys are located rather than where the harm occurred. In Levy’s words, if “you want to sue for copyright infringement, do it right.”

I respectfully disagree with Levy on some points, but his overall point, to “do it right,” is precisely correct. His concerns are well taken, and they should not be ignored. While the porn industry does need to step up its efforts to combat piracy, and it should not tie one hand behind its back when doing so, it should take Levy’s criticism as the voice of a philosophical ally — the industry’s conscience, if you will. The industry can keep its soul intact while protecting its bottom line.

I have yet to see where Randazza is working to maintain the porn industry’s “soul” with these potential lawsuits, but maybe I just missed it.

The company’s COO Brian Dunlap, meanwhile, writes in an email to The Sword (NSFW):

I’d challenge you to read through the posts by UnicornBooty, Queerty et al and find a single instance in which the authors of those pieces introduced anything more than their own assumptions. The Queerty ones are particularly interesting. Note the title of their first piece: “Will Corbin Fisher’s Gay Porn Piracy Crackdown Inevitably Out Gay Teens?” Fair enough to ask the question. We’ve compiled ample evidence to suggest it will not (and I acknowledge that there are no absolute certainties in any situation, really, but I’d say those proposing that idea have as much of an obligation to back up their assumptions as we do. Instead, they seem to have been granted the luxury of throwing out no more than speculation and that’s that). Note Queerty’s second title in the piece that followed that first one…”Hey Gay Teen Porn Pirates: Got $1900? You Can Avoid Being Outed.” I’m sorry…but at what point did they establish there were assuredly gay teens involved? It’s awfully convenient they can pose a question, and then answer it definitively without having offered up any proof or evidence in the interim. I’m convinced they just saw how much attention the first piece got and so chose to amp up the rhetoric and score even more attention the second time around with a more damning title.

But Kevin’s account gives a face to the inevitable outcome of these lawsuits: an untold number of kids — almost all of whom we will never hear about — will be violently attacked by their loved ones, kicked out of their homes, and possibly take their own lives. Sure, maybe some parents will use the opportunity of their kid being sued as a chance to have an open, honest, and warm conversation about their son’s sexuality when the court papers arrive. And sure, Corbin Fisher has every legal right to defend its intellectual property and keep its business afloat. And sure, that’s a lot of “ifs” in our argument. Except CorbinFisher’s argument rests on some bizarre claim that their lawsuits won’t do any harm.

Simply, that’s an impossible position to take.

Knowingly and ignorantly contributing to the misfortune of young gay kids is morally atrocious.

Says Kevin: “I’m not making assumptions about the dangerous road your company has set out on. I am living proof that you’re making a horrible mistake. It’s not too late to abandon the course you’re on and address the problem rather than the symptoms. If you don’t want people stealing your content, up your security measures. What about a watermark that has the user’s ID in the corner under your logo, so that people know they will be identified if they share? UB readers have pointed out that very specific technologies exist that will put an end the problem you are having. A campaign of lawsuits coupled with callous comments and sloppily handled PR is hardly the answer.”

Meanwhile, not only is Corbin Fisher’s legal strategy harmful to closeted gay Americans, but it may be wholly flawed: This month a similar fishing expedition, where plaintiffs sued 40,000 John Does over illegal peer-to-peer/BitTorrent file sharing, was dismissed. None of this means CF doesn’t have a right to go after illegal filesharers. But let’s allow cooler heads to prevail, and find a more reasonable way to protect the company’s business assets — which I’m sure many Queerty readers regularly pay for — and closeted gay kids.