Judge sides with artist in porn case

A judge has ruled that showing artwork inside this Aquinnah house during filming of porn was a copyright infringement. - Gabrielle Mannino

A woman whose house was used by a video production company to shoot multiple pornographic films has won a partial victory in the case.

Leah Bassett filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 alleging that her Aquinnah house was used by the production company to film porn over a seven-month period.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the defendants — Monica Jensen, Jon Blitt, Mile High Distribution Inc., Joshua Spafford, April Carter, Gamma Entertainment, William Gray, and Fiore J. Barbini — infringed on the copyright of artwork created by Bassett that are “clearly visible” in the movies. Bassett is a professional artist, and several of her works of art were on the wall in the background of the sex scenes.

According to the ruling, Bassett’s copyrighted work appears in each of 10 films with titles like “Gay Massage House” and “Schoolboy Fantasies 2” for at least 30 seconds.

Judge Patti Saris issued a summary judgment in favor of Bassett’s copyright claim, which requires her to now produce an expert report within 30 days “to determine the appropriate measure of works that appear in each film for a greater than de minimis capacity.” De minimis is a Latin term used in law to indicate a trivial amount.

Once the report is submitted, the defendants will have 30 days to conduct expert depositions, the ruling states. 

John Taylor, the attorney representing Bassett, declined to comment while the case is pending.

In the original filing, Bassett alleges the home was rented from Oct. 4, 2014 to May 15, 2015. At one point, Monica Jensen, who is also named in the suit and goes by the porn name Nica Noelle, sublet the house from Spafford without the homeowner’s blessing, according to court documents.

Bassett also alleges breach of contract, and trespass, among other claims.

A jury trial in the case is set to begin Feb. 1 in U.S. District Court in Boston.