The production and distribution of pornography are economic activities of some importance. The exact size of the economy of pornography and the influence that it plays in political circles are matter of controversy.
In the United States, distribution of pornography changed radically after the 1980s, with videotape and cable television largely displacing X-rated theaters. Video distribution in turn is in the process of being replaced by DVD (and Internet distribution for niche markets). Distribution of pornography is a large industry that involves major entertainment companies such as Time Warner (which profits from pornography through its cable channels, and in-room movies provided by hotel chains).(see Pornography in the United States)
Porn industry in Canada is mainly situated in Montréal, Québec, the third largest porn producing city in the world after Los Angeles and Amsterdam. Canada has previously seen a major court case where writings about child porn were deemed to not be illegal. Certain communities such as Medicine Hat have seen divisive battles where restrictions have been placed on the sale of pornography. In Medicine Hat, Jim Ogston led an unsuccessful battle against the new restrictions for businesses to have the right to sell pornography.
Pornography generates billions of dollars in sales in the United States alone, and economists have suggested that it has now gotten to the point where the outlawing of the industry, which has been tried on many occasions, could have a major negative economic impact upon the country, and a prohibition-style legislated ban might spark a rise in organized crime.
European hardcore pornography is dominated by a few pan-European producers and distributors, the most notable of which is the Private Media Group. Most European countries also have local pornography producers, from Portugal (e.g. Naturalvideo) to Romania (e.g. Floyd-Agency), with varying potentials of competition with international producers. Hungary is a haven for European pornography producers with an ample supply of beautiful and young female performers and liberal pornography laws. Today, József körút neighborhood of Budapest is known as "the porn capital of Europe".
Women in European pornography typically have a so-called "more natural" look than in American pornography, with less emphasis on breast implants.
The once popular style of Euro-chic pornography represented by directors Lasse Braun, Joe d'Amato, and Jean Rollin has lost ground and the Pierre Woodman style of video porn now attracts a larger audience. A few directors like Franco lo Cascio, Mario Salieri, and Alain Payet continue with the "older" cinematographic and dramatic styles that often distinguish European pornography from those of other cultures.
Russia (along with the Ukraine) is a unique source for international porn producers, in that it has plenty of beautiful Caucasian models with relatively low wages, a situation that allows producing low-budget pornography without possible "ethnic" expressions . Most Russian porn is produced in Moscow and in St. Petersburg where the largest adult film producer, SP-Company, is based. Some studios produce both adult pornography and legal child pornography ("lolita art photography"). Much of the pornography is produced for the international internet market. The Russian nationality of the models is emphasised by some porn sites, but in other cases the model may be presented as "European", "American" or even "Latina". Sites that offer predominantly Russian content routinely block access from the Russian segment of the Internet to maintain the privacy of the models.
In the UK, British-made pornography tends to focus on a rough-and-ready semi-amateur look rather than the more stylized look of mainland European pornography. Producers such as Ben Dover concentrate on producing "girl-next-door" or "candid" material. Some British pornography concentrates on sexual fetishism, particularly erotic spanking and rubber fetishism. The advent of the R18 certificate has allowed slightly more hardcore videos to be sold in licensed sex shops such as those in Soho. However, all videos sold legally in the United Kingdom must be passed by the BBFC, and this has restricted the amount of graphic sex that can be depicted, even under the new R18 rating.
The three main producers of pornography in Asia are Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Japan has a large pornography industry (see Pornography in Japan) which features more natural looking women usually wearing little makeup servicing multiple men who tend to be anonymous. Women in some Asian pornography often act as if the sexual act were painful. In Japan, fetish pornography has a great variety, ranging from well-known bukkake to tamakeri. Hong Kong and Thailand produces much print pornography but less video. The men in Thai pornography tend to be younger than in Japanese or American pornography.
In the Islamic World, production of pornography seems to be limited due to social pressure rather than legal regulations. Turkey, with its deeply-rooted secular attitudes towards Islam, is an exception. After a long period of producing Italian-inspired softcore comedies in 1970s, the first hardcore film Öyle Bir Kadin Ki was legally distributed in 1979, followed by many more until the 1980 coup d'état, which strictly prohibited graphic sex in cinema. In the late 1990s, Turkish pornography lived a relatively humble revival, producing cheap material of much lower quality. Contemporary producers of Turkish porn (e.g. Trimax) are centred in Germany, although they still recruit their performers from Turkey.