When Will iTunes Sell Porn?

Interested in watching the epic SciFi series Babylon 5? Don’t worry, iTunes has it. Want to watch Dennis Quaid in The Rookie? iTunes has you covered. In the mood for comedy? Romance? Check and double check. Action? Adventure? Horror? Senseless violence, gratuitous cursing, and wanton disregard for human life? Oh yeah baby, you can find it all on iTunes.

However, what you can’t find on iTunes is adult entertainment. And I find this state of affairs somewhat puzzling. After all, the adult entertainment industry has always been on the leading edge of entertainment technologies. Come on, you don’t think VCRs became so popular because you could watch home movies on them, did you?

Yeah, me neither.

In fact, as we speak, the fight continues over whether or not porn will use Blu-Ray as their media of choice. Apparently Sony is none too keen on the idea (quite unlike the HD-DVD crowd). Frankly, I don’t understand this attitude. After all, porn is a 1.3 billion dollar a year industry. To put that number into perspective, remember that that is more than the Gross Domestic Product of Greenland (but less than that of the Cayman Islands). And it’s growing. So clearly there is some money to be made here.

Now I understand that Apple couldn’t start off selling this type of media when it decided to enter the video download business. I recognize that having Disney on board as the initial partner was a big step in convincing the other studios to come over and share. I get all that, I really do.

But that was then; this is now. And right now, with iTV shipping, porn could make Apple some serious money.

Why hasn’t it happened, you ask? Well, it most definitely isn’t because Apple is taking the “moral high ground” on the issue. Rest assured, if they thought they could legally get away with selling orphans to Cambodia for use as bait in tiger fighting matches, they would. Assuming, of course, that the negative publicity didn’t outweigh their 40% profit margins. I don’t want this statement to be taken as an indictment against Apple though. After all, they’re just a company like any other, which means they are in the business of making money. So, it isn’t a question of whether Apple morally opposes selling porn when the reality is that they will sell porn whenever they feel they can safely do so. And by “safely” I mean “won’t get killed by the moral backlash” generated by hordes of outraged Americans.

That, I think, is the real issue here. Because if Apple was serious about providing this type of content, then they would get this content to iTunes one way or another. Licensing deals, DRM, and contract issues are just minor problems to be solved. After all, if they can sign Disney they can sign anybody.

No, the real problem is the absurd attitudes Americans have towards sex. This insanity is most accurately described by the Hot Coffee controversy. Follow the link if you don’t recall the details. Here is a brief recap though. In 2005 the “Hot Coffee Mod” was released for the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This mod allowed the player to access hidden material in the game that allowed the player to simulate various sexual acts between his character and one of six female NPCs. As a result of this mod the game saw its rating jump to Adult (which resulted in many stores refusing to sell the game). And the predictable firestorm of protest ensued over the obscene content.

But wait, this is where it gets weird.

For those of you who don’t know, Grand Theft Auto isn’t a game where you help people cross the street, feed the homeless, or breed eagles in captivity for release in the wild. No, this is the game where you deal drugs, injure innocent people, break laws, drive recklessly, and, of course, kill people. Lots of people. In horrific ways. Then toss their bodies around the street with the blast from your 12 gauge shotgun. This is not a game for those who don’t like violence.

Do we see the irony yet? America was perfectly okay with a game that allowed you to kill hookers, but having sex with them first was completely unacceptable. This is what Apple (or anyone wanting to distribute porn) is up against. And I have no idea how long it will take before this attitude changes.

But change it will, because the opportunity is right here and waiting for someone like Apple to take advantage of it. Maybe in 5 or 6 years, once you’ve gotten used to buying all of your media from iTunes, Apple will change its tune and welcome the adult entertainment industry into the iTunes fold. If they do, that will definitely be a keynote speech worth watching. “One more thing” indeed.

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