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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

GirlsDoPorn victims awarded video copyrights, clearing way for takedowns

All 402 women who filmed with GirlsDoPorn were awarded rights to the videos, which were made under false representations that they would only be sold on physical media overseas and not published online.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — Hundreds of GirlsDoPorn victims who were duped into filming porn videos now own the copyrights to their videos and can enforce takedown notices against the world’s top visited websites, including Google.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino granted an order for restitution Friday in the human trafficking case against GirlsDoPorn actor Andre Garcia, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison this past summer for his yearslong leadership role in the trafficking scheme.

“I think everything appears in order,” the George W. Bush appointee said during the brief hearing Friday, approving the motion orally and instructing attorneys with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to file a proposed order for her to sign.

Sammartino’s omnibus order grants the video rights to 402 GirlsDoPorn victims, who can now seek takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against websites that continue to allow pirated versions of the flicks to be republished on their websites.

The college-aged women were duped into filming porn flicks for GirlsDoPorn based on the representation the videos would be published on DVDs and sold overseas. But the films were posted on GirlsDoPorn’s subscription website, with video clips, trailers and occasional full-length videos posted on free “tube” sites such as PornHub, one of the most visited websites in the world.

It’s a historic step for the women who have been seeking justice against their traffickers since a civil contract fraud case was filed against GirlsDoPorn and its owners and operators in San Diego Superior Court in 2016.

Following a months-long civil trial, Judge Kevin Enright awarded 22 Jane Does $13 million in damages as well as the rights to their videos.

But Sammartino’s order Friday is a linchpin in the quest for justice for GirlsDoPorn victims: It awards the video rights to all known victims who filmed with GirlsDoPorn, not just the Does listed in the civil contract fraud case or those who sought restitution from Garcia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Foster told Courthouse News after the hearing.

“I think we all recognize Mr. Garcia is not a wealthy man; what is driving this is the rights to the videos,” Foster said. “Four hundred and two victims is significantly larger than the victims listed in the cases. They now have the ability, without filing a civil suit, to seek take down orders.”

Brian Holm, one of the Does’ attorneys in the civil fraud case, told Courthouse News Sammartino’s order Friday will finally force websites including Google, Bing, Yahoo and similar search engines to scrub their websites of pirated GirlsDoPorn videos that continue to resurface daily and impact victims’ lives.

“This order is so encompassing and wide-ranging, there shouldn’t be any question the person asking for the takedown is a victim,” Holm said. “Most sites at this point shouldn’t mess with any GirlsDoPorn content, since it is now a copyright issue.”

Holm said some of his clients had been previously successful in using Judge Enright’s order from January 2020 to get their videos taken down, only for the videos to resurface and show up in Google search results.

He said they will now use Judge Sammartino’s order to ask videos on Google to be deindexed.

“Every video is the result of a sex trafficking scheme and shouldn’t be showing up in search results. It’s sad it takes the copyrights, as opposed to their status as a victim of sex trafficking, to get the videos taken down,” Holm said.

Sammartino’s order Friday also granted $907,000 in restitution to 23 of Garcia’s victims to cover medical and mental health care and other costs. GirlsDoPorn’s gross income — estimated to be nearly $17 million — was also ordered as restitution.

The list of redacted victims seeking medical and mental health restitution Friday was a tad longer than the 17 victims previously indicated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In October, Sammartino postponed giving the green light to the proposed restitution, raising concerns regarding the discrepancy between the number of victims seeking payment and the dozens of women who testified during Garcia’s sentencing hearing.

And more victims continue to come forward.

Foster orally amended the restitution request during the court hearing as additional victims came forward this week. She said two previously identified and one newly identified victim were seeking minimal amounts adding up to about $1,200.

Sammartino indicated those victims could also receive a restitution award.

Garcia’s attorney Jan Ronis indicated his client — who was not present during the court hearing — was unable to review the order because he was being “shipped from institution to institution.”

Sammartino is expected file a signed order finalizing the restitution within the coming days.

Additional victims of GirlsDoPorn were encouraged to contact the San Diego FBI at (858) 320-1800.

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Categories / Criminal, Entertainment, Media, National

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