Twenty-two women have won $US13 ($19) million in a years-long lawsuit alleging a predatory scheme by GirlsDoPorn, a site that hosts purportedly one-time pornographic videos featuring “amateur” college-age women and teen girls. The women provided evidence that the company lured them into shoots under false pretences, intimidated and coerced them into performing, and shared the images online without their consent. They sued a total of 13 affiliated businesses and individuals, including owner Michael Pratt, actor Andre Garcia, and videographer Matthew Wolfe.
In a four-month trial, anonymous women testified that GirlsDoPorn flew them to San Diego hotels for “modelling” gigs. After they arrived, they said, the group gave them drugs and alcohol and hurried them to sign opaquely-worded contracts without telling them the name of their site, promising them that their videos would only be distributed on DVDs to private clients in New Zealand and Australia.
Within weeks, clips appeared on the GirlsDoPorn homepage and sites like PornHub, and they were doxxed. The plaintiffs believe, in part, that the site itself helped disseminate their identities to acquaintances, employers, friends, and family in order to help the video go viral; GirlsDoPorn owner Michael J. Pratt briefly owned PornWikiLeaks, where their information was posted.
Several testified that they’d asked to stop mid-shoot and were refused. One defendant alleged that she’d asked not to go through with the shoot at all, but the company threatened to withhold her hotel reservation and plane ticket home, knowing she couldn’t afford to pay for them herself.
In October of last year, the Daily Beast reported on a motion in which their attorney claimed to have interviewed 100 women with similar stories of fraud and coercion by GirlsDoPorn, and over a dozen accused actor Andre Garcia of sexual assault.
The parties stipulated that the company made over $US1 ($1.5) million on the performers’ collective work. The company concealed their assets, and Pratt, who collects 100% of the profits from GirlsDoPorn, filed for bankruptcy; in a profile, the Daily Beast quoted texts submitted in evidence, saying: “As soon as I bankrupt the business…they [the plaintiffs] are fucked.” As Courthouse News reported in October of last year, at least one woman testified that she was paid half of the promised $US5,000 ($7,161) because she “looked old.” She was 22 at the time of filming.
In the verdict, San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright wrote that the contracts were “invalid and unenforceable–part and parcel of Defendants’ fraudulent scheme.” Enright found clear and convincing evidence that the syndicate acted in malice, oppression or fraud, writing:
“Collectively, they have experienced severe harassment, emotional and psychological trauma, and reputational harm; lost jobs, academic and professional opportunities, and family and personal relationships; and had their lives derailed and uprooted. They have become pariahs in their communities. Several Plaintiffs have become suicidal.”
GirlsDoPorn continued to show total indifference throughout the trial, even uploading a new video involving one Jane Doe who claimed that she was not made aware of the lawsuit when she shot the video in August.
The women won a total of $US9.45 ($14) million in compensatory damages, $US3.3 ($5) million in punitive damages, and copyrights to their videos. GirlsDoPorn has been ordered to remove their videos from the internet. Pratt has fled the country and has been charged with additional counts of producing child pornography and child sex trafficking for coercing a 16-year-old into producing a video despite full knowledge of her age.
The site is, unfortunately, still live.