FalconFoto Sues PornKings

Falcon Foto LLC, owner of one of the world’s largest libraries of copyrighted erotic images, has filed a multimillion-dollar copyright-infringement lawsuit against a variety of people and commercial entities that own and operate or have owned and operated all or part of the adult Internet affiliate program known as Porn Kings.

Filed Sept. 24 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the lawsuit claims Porn Kings and its various owners and operators “willful[ly], intentional[ly], and purposeful[ly], in reckless disregard of and with indifference to the rights of plaintiffs,” appropriated more than 400 images copyrighted by Falcon Foto after negotiations to license the images fell through. The images, obtained from Falcon in 2003 as examples of the products under consideration, as of in December 2003 began appearing in thumbnail gallery postings on websites owned by Porn Kings, and the images continued appearing at least through Aug. 17, 2006.

Robert Apgood, attorney for Falcon Foto, said the lawsuit was filed after attempts to negotiate a settlement failed to bear fruit. Although the offending images were removed from Porn Kings’ websites in late August after the company received a cease-and-desist and damages-demand letter, Porn Kings remains liable under the law for $150,000 per image plus attorney fees and court costs, Apgood says.

That’s not all. According to Apgood, Porn Kings affiliates who displayed free-hosted galleries containing Falcon Foto images—or worse, hosted Falcon Foto images provided by Porn Kings on their own servers—also are liable for what Apgood called “innocent infringement” of Falcon Foto’s copyrights, even if the affiliates were unaware Porn Kings hadn’t licensed the images. The offending images were marked with Falcon Foto’s copyright stamp.

“Falcon is undecided whether it intends to pursue infringement claims against affiliates,” Apgood said. “Affiliates in general should always be careful about the galleries they use to make sure the producers have the rights to the images,” he added.

What has made this lawsuit particularly vexing for Falcon and its legal team is what Falcon President Jason Tucker called “a very complicated chain of ownership.” The lawsuit names as defendants Seattle-based Noble Developments Inc., Marvad Corporation, and E-Media Group Inc., as well as Lucas Bradfield of Oregon, Roger Vadocz of Florida, Trey Hickey of Arizona, and a number of John and Jane Does who may have owned or operated Porn Kings between 2003 and 2006.

According to the suit, unknown parties (“John Does 1 and 2”) sold Porn Kings and its holdings to Marvad and Vadocz in 2003. The operation was returned to Does 1 and 2 sometime after that, and subsequently was sold to E-Media and Hickey. In late 2004 or early 2005, Hickey sold Porn Kings to Noble Developments and Bradfield. Tucker and Apgood expect the identities of the Does to be revealed during the discovery portion of the legal proceedings.

If successful, Falcon expects the suit to have a sweeping effect on the adult Internet industry.

“Any Porn Kings affiliate who has ever sent traffic through a Porn Kings free-hosted gallery that had a Falcon image could be held liable as an infringer,” Tucker wrote in a prepared statement distributed on Thursday. “That could amount to thousands of dollars [in personal liability] per affiliate.

“Falcon will vigorously protect its intellectual property and protect its legitimate licensees,” his statement continued. “Trey, Lucas, E-Media LLC, and Noble Developments Inc. have infringed our copyrights with complete disregard for the law and disregard for the potential exposure they have forced on their affiliates. We gave them almost a month to settle. With no other course of action, we have filed a lawsuit in federal court and anticipate a successful outcome.”

Apgood added, “Some say that pornographers should not sue each other. Wrong. They should not steal from each other.”

Porn Kings’ representatives contacted by AVNOnline.com on Thursday declined to comment about the lawsuit.