David D'Amato, the subject of Kiwi-made hit documentary Tickled, has died.
His obituary was published in the New York Times on Saturday (NZ time). He died on March 13, the cause at this stage unknown.
In a statement, Tickled directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve said Mr D'Amato had "been a part of our lives for around three years now - a very unusual three years".
"Despite the various lawsuits he brought against us, this news is something that brings us no joy, and has hit us pretty hard."
The film alleges Mr D'Amato, over the course of a couple of decades, tricked young men into making fetish tickling videos.
"It is… clear he had certain troubles, and those are troubles that we hoped he would come to terms with at some point," said Farrier and Reeve.
"While making Tickled we always thought it was important to portray David D'Amato not just as an online bully, but as a person. That is why the closing minutes of Tickled are so important to us - an insight into D'Amato, the person.
"Ultimately we'll never know all the things that made David the man he was. Like all of us, he was complex and complicated.
"So we ask you to keep in mind that while David appears to have lived a fairly solitary life, he did have friends and family members. We ask that in comments online, and out there in the real world, you treat this information, and this man's passing, with respect."
Tickled screened at the prestigious Sundance festival, and was later picked up by HBO and Magnolia Pictures. It received critical acclaim, was long-listed for an Academy Award and currently has a 94 percent 'fresh' rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes.
Mr D'Amato was 55.
Previous to making Tickled, Farrier was a reporter with 3 News, which later became part of Newshub.