When Will iTunes Sell Porn?

by James R. Stoup Apr 09, 2007

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.


  • Apple already allows adult content in their podcasts. Look for the “Explicit” label in the directory when browsing.

    planetmike had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 23
  • It’s coming(oops) quick, but not direct from Apple I hope

    'nuffsaid had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 7
  • 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.

    Oh, come on now. You can’t make a statement like that and expect the article to be taken seriously as journalism. Now I understand why legal pundits draw a line between “bloggers” and “journalists”.

    To state that *any* company would sell orphans “if they could get away with it” is beyond hyperbole and throws the rest of the article’s points, if there were any, into the toilet.

    The fact is most large DVD outlets do not sell porn—not Blockbuster, Best Buy, Circuit City, Hollywood Video… They have some of those light-fare, soft-core rated R material, but no real pr0n. 

    That’s always been left to the Mom & Pop adult books and video stores. Why should Apple be any different?

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 243
  • Also, don’t overlook the FCC regulations in regards to transmission of pornography across state lines. You know how the Spice channel (and similar cable stations) only show soft-core porn, but nothing with actual visible penetration?

    There are a lot of old broadcast rules that are still in places with regards to pornography. Up to now, no one has tested them against the internet and what exactly qualifies as an “illegal broadcast”.

    Apple has a fiscal obligation to its shareholders—but not to anyone looking to get their rocks off. There are plenty of other destinations on the internet for them.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 243
  • I don’t see it happening through the iTunes store.  Will people want their kids downloading music with a link to porn available?  Sure there are filters and rules to prohibit it but most kids are far more computer literate than their parents.  Will parents being setting up the preferences when they have to ask their kids how to do it?  I doubt it.
    About the closest to porn you’ll probably see on iTunes is Playboy.  Maybe.  Even “The Girls Next Door” only shows the censored TV version.  They might do an uncensored version and then some regular playboy videos—but that’s it.
    Dealing in porn would put a scarlet letter on Apple and a lot of people would not buy ANYTHING from them if they ventured into the area of porn. 
    Apple makes plenty of money doing what it does.  It doesn’t have to be a smut dealer.

    Hal Summers had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 4
  • I agree with vb_baysider.  Two things sprang to mind reading this article: first, “Is this what happens when a troll writes an IT article?”; two, “I guess there’s not a lot of Apple news to report right now”.

    44$rqs:XWEnQ had this to say on Apr 09, 2007 Posts: 13
  • Slow trickle coming down from Cupertino, eh, Mr. Stoup?

    Why would Apple sell porn? There are too many places in the internet (including P2P) where anyone can obtain their smut flicks at a dire minute of urge.

    Let those dirty little shops worry about their legal standings with the feds and the “hypocritical” public. Yeah, the general public do tolerate simulated violences but not to the point of selling simulated sex to minors.

    iTunes will not make Apple the billions from selling hard-core content that you are insinuating here. iTunes is designed to be the front-end of the Mac/iPod/AppleTV/iPhone on the internet. It exists only to promote hardware sales and it is doing a fine, fine job at that.

    Adding porn, even soft-porn from Playboy, can have a magnitude change in this equilibrium. You might think that porn should increase hardware sales like a rocket, and initially, you may be correct.

    After all, there are countless perverted teens and the forlorns out there (like yourself) dreaming of this possibility. Imagine, 720p HD versions of Debbie Does Dallas 5? Now that would blow your socks off.

    So, my take? No, Apple will stay within the boundaries of their carefully crafted image. The company’s goal is to sell you beautiful hardware and simplicity through creative design that “just works!”.

    Robomac had this to say on Apr 15, 2007 Posts: 846
  • I have my own opinion about porn on the iTunes platform. Today we have London escorts available so I don’t see the need for porn on the iTunes platform. There are so many other sources for that. I sincerely do not think that adding that to the iTunes options list will be an improvement.

    IBMdude had this to say on Sep 09, 2011 Posts: 50
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