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    Voyeurism gains new cyber-ground

    A Tampa-based company soon will train 24-hour Web cameras on women in Gainesville.

    By NATALIE BAUGHMAN

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 12, 2000


    A Tampa-based company soon will launch a Web site that will let users watch four Gainesville women 24 hours a day -- as they eat, sleep, watch TV and even shower.

    After Feb. 1, viewers will be able to log on to www.girlsofgainesville.com, which is run by E&C Ventures Inc., and watch everything the women do, day and night.

    The tapes will not be edited. That means activities such as taking showers and changing clothes will be captured on tape and transmitted to the Internet. The only restriction is that the women are not allowed to have sex on camera.

    The voyeuristic nature of sites such as this one already has sparked controversy around the Tampa Bay area. Entertainment Network Inc., a company that produces two similar Web sites -- Voyeur Dorm and Dude Dorm, has come under scrutiny for what city officials perceive as starting adult businesses in residential neighborhoods.

    In January, the city of Tampa rejected Voyeur Dorm's application for a business license. Entertainment Network later sued in U.S. District Court. The case is pending, and the city has not been able to restrict the business' operation in the meantime.

    Dude Dorm in Pinellas Park has operated without a license since February. Bruce Hammil, vice president for Entertainment Network Inc., has argued that the real business is in downtown Tampa, where the computer server is located, and the company should not have to obtain licenses for the individual homes.

    Jason Simmons, a Gainesville city planner, said the city has no zoning laws that regulate voyeur Web sites. He said there are no known voyeur sites operating in Gainesville. City officials will address the issue when it arises.

    But Chad Thomas DeRigo, 25, said the controversy is one of morality, not zoning.

    "People may not like the idea of broadcasting nude people on the Internet, so they try to block it through zoning," he said. "Really, the businesses have no impact on the neighborhoods and don't cause a problem at all."

    DeRigo also said people should not automatically make the association between voyeur sites and adult entertainment. Girls of Gainesville is not meant to be a pornography site, he said. It's meant to be a documentary that allows others to live vicariously through the women on the site.

    DeRigo began selecting the women at a contest Nov. 15. About 25 women auditioned for the show. A panel of judges chose eight finalists, based on their dance performances and responses to judges' questions.

    The finalists are between the ages of 18 and 25 and have been enrolled at the University of Florida at one point during the past few years.

    Women's pictures, video clips and biographies have been posted on the site. The public will be able to vote online for the woman of their choice. The four winners are set to be announced Jan. 1.

    The four women, presumably strangers, will move into a house together somewhere in Alachua County. DeRigo declined to release the address. They will not be filmed for the first month they live together. Live broadcasts will begin Feb. 1, after they have had a chance to get acquainted.

    While appearing on the Web site, the women will receive free tuition, free rent and a $200 weekly salary. Interested viewers will pay a monthly fee to see the women online and to talk to them through a chat room. The company has not yet set the fee amount.

    DeRigo did not disclose the amount of money he expects to make. Both Voyeur Dorm and Dude Dorm have been profitable. The two owners of Entertainment Network have said they each make more than $1-million per year for the programs.

    DeRigo said he most likely will be successful because the type of entertainment offered on the voyeur sites is the kind that people want.

    "I've followed the entertainment industry closely for the past couple of years, and I know people are sick of the scripted soap operas they have been seeing on TV," he said. "They are more intrigued by people's everyday lives."

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