MindGeek Sex Trafficking Civil Lawsuit

Jane Does 1-50 v. MindGeek S.a.r.l., et al.

Case type: Sexual Violence, Title IX, and Victims’ Rights

Filed in: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

Case No.: 3:20-CV-02440

Case Summary

On December 15, 2020, less than a year after Sanford Heisler Sharp helped secure a $13 million award in civil damages for 22 women who were illegally defrauded and coerced into making pornographic videos for the website GirlsDoPorn.com (“GDP”), 40 GDP victims filed a lawsuit against MindGeek, parent company of the free “tubesite” Pornhub.com, for participating in GDP’s fraudulent scheme and profiting from their videos.

The Complaint was brought under §1595 (“Section 1595”) of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which holds civilly liable “whoever knowingly benefits financially or by receiving anything of value from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act [of sex trafficking.]”

The Complaint alleged that MindGeek, whose Pornhub website is the eighth-most popular website in the United States, made millions of dollars in profit by bringing GDP into its “Content Partner Program” and “ViewShare Program” when it knew, as early as 2009, that GDP’s San Diego-based owner-operators used fraud, coercion and intimidation to lure its subjects into making pornographic videos, including by telling victims that the videos would only be sold as DVDs in foreign countries.

“MindGeek participated in GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture by taking active steps to promote GirlsDoPorn videos, push the GirlsDoPorn brand, spread GirlsDoPorn content throughout its network of pornography websites, and maximize GirlsDoPorn’s subscription sales,” the Complaint said.

Collectively, the plaintiffs’ videos were viewed 700 million times, the Complaint said. MindGeek continued to host and profit from the videos even after victims filed suit against GDP’s owner-operators in 2016. MindGeek only removed the videos in 2019 after the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California filed criminal sex trafficking charges against GDP’s three principals and three others.

Counsel for the plaintiffs in the GirlsDoPorn matter—Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Cara Van Dorn, along with Ed Chapin, John O’Brien, and Brian Holm—represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against MindGeek and its wholly owned subsidiary MG Freesites, LTD., a k a Pornhub.

In October 2021, the Parties reached a mutual resolution to resolve the dispute. The terms are confidential.

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Attorneys Involved in the Case