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Calif. porn film company is fined $78,000 for condom policy, other workplace safety violations

SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco pornography company that specializes in films featuring scenes of dominance and submission was fined more than $78,000 this week by state safety officials for maintaining dangerous workplace conditions, among them allowing performers to have sex on camera without using condoms.

Cybernet Entertainment, the parent company of Internet porn producer Kink.com, argued that many of its performers prefer not to use condoms and that the fine announced Friday is the result of a long-running campaign by those who oppose the adult film industry.

"The fines are excessive and, we believe, politically motivated," Cybernet founder Peter Acworth said in a statement. "The complaints which prompted the inspection were not made by actual employees, but by outside groups with a long history of opposition to adult film. We'll be appealing the decision."

Records show that the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Cybernet for a number of violations after an inspection last August. The largest part of the fine — $75,000 of it — targeted Cybernet's policy allowing its performers to choose whether or not to use condoms.

CalOSHA spokesman Peter Melton said there had been several complaints against Kink.com last year, and he described the fine as "significant."

The inspection was prompted by a formal complaint filed against Kink.com by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-headquartered advocacy group.

Previously, AHF Foundation successfully lobbied for condom requirements on porn sets in the city of Los Angeles and later for all of LA County in 2012.

The group has remained a driving force behind the regulations, successfully defending the county measure in court when the county declined to, reporting suspected violations to government officials, and suing companies who try to move parts of their productions outside the area.

"We're all for sensible regulation that protects performers," Mike Stabile, a spokesman for Kink.com, said in response to the foundation's complaints, "but this essentially amounts to a moral crusade. It's a solution in search of a problem."

The foundation filed the complaints after two Kink.com performers who were romantically involved tested HIV-positive last year.

The company said testing determined that the performers contracted the infection in their private lives rather than on set.

For the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, whether the performers contracted HIV on set or in their private lives is of little consequence.

"That's neither here nor there," foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea said, "because OSHA requires that condoms be used."

"An HIV test is not a form of prevention," he added.

Earlier this month, another Bay Area adult film company, Treasure Island Media, lost its appeal of a similar OSHA citation and was fined close to $9,000.

Last September, California lawmakers voted down a bill that would have required porn actors to use condoms during filming, but CalOSHA rules require companies to minimize employees' exposure to blood and other potentially infectious bodily fluids.

The last confirmed on-set HIV infection was in 2004, after which the adult film industry adopted testing of all active performers biweekly for a range of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, hepatitis and HIV.

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