OnlyFans Will Make You Pay To See Your Stolen Work

OnlyFans Will Make You Pay To See Your Stolen Work

Recently, I had an issue with OnlyFans. While I don’t feel it’s right to disclose the details of that particular case to preserve privacy, I uncovered a much bigger issue. Boiled down, if your work is stolen, you will have to pay to see it and stop it from being used unlawfully.

Ah, OnlyFans. It is a great website for various content creators with various content. The business idea of the website is fantastic, and I applaud the creators of the business. They entered the market at a high point (COVID) and ended up becoming a very profitable enterprise. Riding the new wave of the porn (let’s face it) industry, they made a great business model that has been copied a few times already. 

OnlyFans is a commercial site, which comes as no surprise to anyone aware of what the platform does: sells images. This is no different than putting your photos up on Shutterstock and selling a license to them. The way OnlyFans describes it is that you give them a license to sell imagery. As I said, legally, it is not that different from Shutterstock. Content-wise, well, you will find better images on Shutterstock, in my opinion.

Numbers Are Impressive

There are over a million creators on OnlyFans and 120 million users. That’s a lot of people, a lot of transactions, and consequently, a lot of money exchanged. The revenue reported by March 2021 was $3 billion. OnlyFans says that they pay out over $200 million a month to creators. I think that for a website that is essentially Instagram with a paywall and a nonexistent nudity policy, the figures are impressive. Achieving them is not an easy task. Luckily, there is an audience that will gladly pay for some tasteful, and not so tasteful, content on websites such as OnlyFans. 

How Do You Uncover That Your Images Were Stolen by OnlyFans Creators?

The short answer is that there is no easy way to uncover that your images were stolen by an OnlyFans creator. The problem lies in the paywall, which restricts users from viewing potentially stolen imagery. In one way or another, this is basically the covert sale of stolen images, similar to the black market. Unfortunately, this means a few unfortunate things to photographers behind these images: their work is making models and OnlyFans money, but they’re not getting a share. 

Because it’s hidden, this can be going on for years without anyone noticing. What is worse, for particularly large creators, it could be making thousands of dollars. Thousands, that frankly, you should have a share of. 

Popular platforms used to uncover unlawful usage of images are useless against OnlyFans, again because of the paywall. There is no way to get around that paywall for anyone who isn’t a) OnlyFans staff b) a creator posting stolen work. Let’s examine and see whether any of these two would be interested in protecting photographers from having their work stolen. OnlyFans staff are, as it seems to me, committed to helping photographers recover stolen imagery. But that comes with a caveat: only if they are notified. People have reported having no problem having stolen work removed and the user investigated. The problem is that someone has to find out about the misuse of their images. As for you, b) the creator, well, if they’re stealing it, they would have to be fairly talented to uncover it themselves. Although this has also happened. Someone posted stolen content publicly and then directed their audience to buy (that exact content) on OnlyFans. Ambassador of logic right there. 

Doesn’t the Model Own the Image and Have the Right To Sell It?

The copyright to images is owned by you. The moment you take a photo, it is yours. Nobody else is entitled to your copyrighted work. As for the model, they don’t own a single pixel of your file. They are free to take pictures of themselves in the mirror and post online all they want. If a team, including the photographers, has worked on an image, the photographer owns the file. It is a whole different topic on who owns the makeup idea, and who owns the styling idea. The bottom line is that you, the photographer, own the full copyright to the picture and decide where it goes. 

What Should Be Discussed Before the Shoot?

Before the shoot, you must discuss where the images will be used. If you want, even sign a usage contract for this. The crew must be clear on what they can and can't do. As well as that, you should agree on further usage such as re-licensing of the photos. Your team must be aware of how the work will be used and what will happen if the images will be sold to a third party. It also must be discussed what the team can and can't do with the photographs.

There Is Nothing You Can Do To Uncover That Your Work Has Been Stolen and Is Being Sold by OnlyFans

Nothing can be done. There is no way to check if your work has been stolen on OnlyFans besides paying for a subscription. Getting a refund on the latter because of trying to uncover stolen work is also impossible. The feedback you get is that their fee is non-refundable. This practically means either losing money due to your images being stolen or losing money because of subscribing to the "creator" on OnlyFans. Unfortunately, either way, you are losing money with no real way to recover it. OnlyFans has also not offered a refund on the money a creator possibly could've lost due to their work being sold without permission. 

Message to OnlyFans 

It is with great disappointment that I have to write that there is no way to see if the content was stolen by your users. There is no way, besides paying a fee that is non-refundable and sending a DMCA takedown notice. OnlyFans, implement a way for photographers to view if their work has been stolen by finding a match to images they want to check. Alternatively, refund the creators who had to pay out their own pocket to send takedown notices. Not only are creators losing money due to their work being commercialized, but also they have to pay for a website they would rather not be on. 

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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Is it even worth worrying? I mean, yes someone use your work, but as soon as it shows up outside these crapy platforms and you discover it, last one to steal your work will be the one to pay for it.

Yes it is worth because the posters could be making tons of money with your photos on OF already.

Yep, found my photos on OnlyFans as well. Quite disappointed.

Posted by who? The model or a random person?


Good thing I don't have to worry about that, since I haven't done nude photography yet.

The only way to get rid of this nightmare is to aim higher. Collect proof in general within a photographers association and sue OnlyFans for being a platform supporting IP-theft. It'll take time, and lots of effords - but it'll be the only way of getting them to implement procedures.

Yes, it's a crappy way to treat people but sometimes it's the cost of doing business. If your images are being used Commercially and violate your Intellectual Property, document their use and pursue them through legal system. I've had two IP cases and the Attorneys didn't get paid till a settlement was reached.

As a photographer myself, I have perhaps an unpopular view on this subject. In photographs of people I believe the copyright should be shared equally between the photographer and those in the photo. I believe the "photographer has exclusive copyright" has far too often been used unethically to cheat subjects out of money they have a right to. One glaring example being Chloë des Lysses who was never paid for any of the modeling she did.

The reality is that no one is going to OnlyFans to see a specific photographers work, they want to see the model, anyone could have taken the photo. Without the model, the photographer is nothing. That is not acknowledged by far too many photographers.

When I photograph someone I have then sign a short contract which explains that we both share copyright equally. My only stipulation being that I am credited as the photographer.

David I have to think further about your comment but my initial reaction is you might be right about a copyright share.

What do you do if the subject of the image uses them for Commercial purposes? Our rates are determined by usage and licensing is the core of our businesses. It's one thing for the subject/model to put the images in their portfolio or Agency website but what about actual Commercial use? As the creator of images, I am required to manage the actual use of those images.

I absolutely believe that the model should be able to use images of themselves for commercial purposes. It is their image after all. Yes the photographer took the picture but the inherent value is the subject of the photograph, not who took the image. There is no requirement for the photographer to be the manager of the images they take of models, that is a fallacy perpetuated by photographers. There is absolutely no reason the model can not also manage the use of images of themselves. In fact they should be a part of managing those images. Anything less is blatant exploitation of the model for the sole benefit of the photographer and that's simply wrong.

Depends on what you call models. The ones we use are not super stars, just accessories to sell products.

In the case being discussed in the article the model is the product being sold. Not giving them an equal share of the profits and equal rights to use the photo as they choose is unethical exploitation of the model.

You make some interesting points. One other thing I'd like to add is that the vast majority of photographers, if they set up an OnlyFans with photos of models they have photographed, wouldn't get any paying subscribers. The guys who subscribe to models pages on there do it because it offers interaction with the model. There's almost an infinite amount of nude images available online for free.

What about celebrities? Should Actors be able to use the images taken on set for multi million dollar movies that they were paid for to act in? What about hired talent for commercial work? Should someone posing in a Coca Cola ad be able to sell the same image as Coke because they are in them? What about your wedding clients? Should they be able to sell their photos to commercial businesses and leave you out of the mix?

I kind of understand the model having some rights but not more than 30-50% and def not 100%.

"It is their image after all. Yes the photographer took the picture but the inherent value is the subject of the photograph, not who took the image."

No, the inherent value is in the photograph, the model and and the photographer on their own have nothing, each contribute to the work..
Are you suggesting that both parties have equal right to marketing the photographs to any and everyone? Would they split any money made or would the each get the all the proceeds from what ever deals they made with whatever clients?

Yes I am suggesting both the model and the photographer have equal rights to the use of the photograph. The model should be able to use photos of themselves as they choose. The model should share equally in any royalty payments the photographer receives as well.

Should all parties involved in those shoots get the same right? I mean make up artist, assistant if any, even down to the clothing and accessory brands, etc.

I think those folks could be considered work for hire contractors. Get hired, do the job and move on...although if the MUA is doing something way out of the ordinary they may have a copyright claim on the makeup look they created...

So if the photographer or model independently licenses/sells the photo for $1000, would they each get $500?
Should it be an equal split?
Maybe whoever came up with the concept should get a 60:40 split?

David Fortini you have a very limited understanding how Copyright and Commercial licensing work in this country. Unless contractually stipulated, there is no 50/50 of profits.

Apply your logic to the music recording industry. Do the musicians AND the recording Producer get even split of song licensing? No. Of course not.

when it comes to money and copyright issues. It really should be up to both parties. The photographer and model.

I try to open account, I'm the author, portraits and boudoir photos, and after a few days I receive this mail>
Your account has not been approved.
We are unable to accept your recent application for the following reason(s):

1. Your current account is set up to distribute content of another person which violates our Terms of Service and cannot be verified.
Every Creator is the owner of their own content and must have access to their account at all times. Our relationship is with Content Creator, not an agent/ agency or any individuals not related to Content. We advise Content Creators to make accounts for personal use to upload their own content and interact with Fans directly through their OnlyFans accounts

Ha this is totally hypocritical. The model can use images she likely doesn't own the copyright of but a photographer cannot open an account that he most likely owns the copyright to (and hopefully has a model release). If there are model releases needed for photographers, models should have photography releases.

"OnlyFans, implement a way for photographers to view if their work has been stolen by finding a match to images they want to check."


As a software developer with an interest in IP law and a photography hobby, I would wholeheartedly support this suggestion.

Image matching technology like this exists. It's not exactly trivial, but there are well-documented implementations available and several commercial services which provide precisely this functionality. Providing this capability seems like the bare minimum of due diligence for a company like OnlyFans.

OnlyFans is a vital platform for the many creators who are not stealing IP. I wouldn't want to see OnlyFans disappeared from the Internet. However I also understand the need to protect the IP of artists.

It is also in the interest of the legitimate creators on their platform who do not want their content to be stolen and re-sold by another "creator".

This would be analogous to YouTube's ability to flag videos that use protected music without a license. Many other platforms provide a similar capability to protect the misuse of IP. Sometimes those automated protections are not perfect, but it's a good first step.