LOS ANGELES—You can hear the collective sigh of relief for hundreds of miles. The Joe Francis sex tape will never be released for public consumption, courtesy of Vivid honch Steve Hirsch, who told TMZ that he bought the allegedly stolen footage and then returned it to his fellow mogul along with a BFF promise never to let it see the light of day.

"Because of the time-sensitive nature of the situation I made a decision to expedite the process and return the movie to its original owner," Hirsch told the gossip site to explain why the "the porn kings didn't involve police."

So now the public is spared having to see the tape Francis made with girlfriend Abbey Wilson, and Francis is spared having to "sue everyone and their mother over the tape."

Sigh.

Photo: Steve Hirsch, left, and Joe Francis.