NPR asks porn entrepreneur to drop KCRW from hold music

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It was almost a landmark case: NPR vs. The World’s Most Downloaded Woman.

The woman is Danni Ashe, a web-porn entrepreneur whom public TV viewers might remember from Frontline‘s “American Porn” documentary. Her image has been downloaded from her subscription website over 1 billion times, earning her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Her expertise on matters pornographic recently landed her in a Slate article, which let drop that callers to her Los Angeles office who get put on hold hear KCRW, a local NPR affiliate.

Apparently Ashe and her pinup models are bigtime fans of the station. Ashe is even a member. But now her affection for NPR seems to have soured.

The day after the Slate story ran, Ashe says, she received a letter from NPR General Counsel Neal Jackson threatening legal action if she didn’t strip — uh, remove — KCRW from the phone feed. Jackson’s office is the one that riled web geeks around the country in June with an ultimately unsuccessful demand that they get written permission before linking to NPR’s site.

Ashe also reacted indignantly toward NPR’s latest warning.

“Considering the general goal of any radio station is to reach as many people as possible and the extremely limited distribution offered by my telephone switchboard,” Ashe said in a press release. “I’m amazed that anyone at NPR thinks I’m a threat to their network.” She also implied that NPR was singling her out for her profession.

At first, the porn entrepreneur seemed to have a point — don’t lots of businesses do this? Indeed, says NPR spokeswoman Jenny Lawhorn, the practice may be widespread, but “in actuality, it’s not permitted.”

NPR’s contracts with BMI, ASCAP, the Associated Press and other content services don’t cover hold music, Lawhorn says. But a special agreement between NPR and the providers does allow the network’s member stations to play their feeds for callers on hold.

Ashe was singled out only because, unlike other violations, this one happened to come to NPR’s attention, thanks to Slate. “We are not singling out Danni Ashe’s organization,” Lawhorn says. “This is routine stuff.”

For now, Ashe is depriving her callers of NPR. She complied with the order, and a recent caller to her office was stuck listening to a block of ads on Star 98.7, an adult contemporary station.

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