Protecting Your Work - DMCAs, copyright, and more

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing from creators how awful it is when your work gets stolen and spread across the internet without your permission, proper crediting, or even awareness. Patreon often gets asked to step in but this week I learned that a creator has more rights than Patreon does when it comes to copyright enforcement.

In light of that, I had a quick chat with our legal team to discuss some resources we can offer you to help battle this.

  1. We made this DMCA takedown notice template for creators, which you are welcome to use and share widely. Send it to whatever contact info you can find on the site and if they don’t have an email listed, then reach out to the web host.
  2. This is a nifty guide to the basics of a creators rights with copyright
  3. Here’s a pretty great walkthrough of the DMCA process

Next, I have a few questions for you to help guide me as we think about what else we can do to help.

  1. What questions do you have about your rights for your content?
  2. What are your fears or concerns?
  3. What can we do in this forum to help you?
  4. Would having a weekly thread were someone from our legal team comes and answers your questions be of value to you?

Thank you for your time!


What are your fears or concerns?

-I’ve not filed a DMCA for much of my reposted content because in the past, sites stealing patreon content have a history of essentially doxxing some of said creators who filed because apparently some hosting sites forward that info to the site owner using thier hosting to give them a chance to handle it. So I’ve avoided sending them in as I wasn’t sure what info is -actually- needed while some site DMCA forms request you fill out everything which is crappy if it lands in a trolls hands who could do terrible things with the personal information (name, address, phone number etc.)… I would feel more comfortable having a proxy do it so that my private information is not at the hands of crappy people. :frowning:

That’s the only question I can really answer. I’m not sure if patreon can really help with my above concerns.


I say a resonding YES to #4. Not only should the lawyer answer our questions, but perhaps they could provide us with tips so I can be in a proactive, rather than reactive, position. For example:

  • What can I do to protect my content should I have to go to court and prove I own the content?

  • Are there behaviours that patrons exhibit that can clue me in that they’re stealing my content?

  • If I’m a creator not based in the US, how can I bolster my copyright claim in the American court of law so I’m protected?

  • And what can I do to reward the behaviour I want from patrons when they interact with my content rather than punish the behaviour I don’t want? I don’t want to create the Streisand Effect to illuminate a problem if it doesn’t even exist in my community.

Anywho, those are some thoughts.


Well that’s shitty. They steal, you report, then they doxx you? This is why we can’t have nice things :frowning_face:


Yeah :confused:

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Fill a DMCA takedown, and then you get doxxed and target of harassment, plus, your content won’t be taken down because it’s never taken seriously on piracy sites.

If creators has more rights than patreon, even if the content is posted there, there is nothing we can do unless protecting your content on sites like Primeleap, which has tools to identify who leaked it so you can block them from Patreon. And sadly, you cannot share a list of leakers patreon links to warn other creators because it would count as ‘‘doxing’’ even if there is no way to contact them unless they support you.

It would be nice to have extra help with the legal team.


Having a weekly thread for the legal team would be nice~


I have been frustrated that it is so easy for folks to share posts. I don’t think post sharing should be available on any of the paid levels. I have a ton of my Patreon exclusive photos (traceables) shared to Pinterest every month. I know there are ways for folks to work around it but it should not be allowed to be shared directly from Patreon as it is now. It is one of the buttons integrated into the website which is a huge problem. Removing that option seems like a simple way to at least try to protect the artists a little bit. None of the paid level posts should ever be able to get shared.


This is great. I’d be interested in hearing from a lawyer about protecting trademarks. What do I do if someone starts a project with the same name as mine? What if I collaborate with someone on a video but then they claim to be the sole owner? What if someone copies a logo? I’d love some legal tips on protecting a brand.

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Hi folks, as this topic crops up from time to time in the forum, we wanted to share some additional best practices as we’ve observed, augmenting Mindy’s original list. That said, all of you have been working as creators on the Internet for a while and likely have better suggestions and insights than we have for this.

I do also want to say there is work Patreon does behind the scenes, that we can’t always share. Please do know we understand this can be upsetting and disheartening when you’ve worked so hard to build and create and someone pirates it.

Fighting online piracy is a very discouraging and frustrating (not to mention costly) endeavor, but here are a few high level approaches that will help better address, mitigate or succeed in spite of those pesky online pirates.

  • Incentivize patronage by making amazing stuff that’s easy to access at a fair price.
  • Educate fans and patrons on your process, give a little insight into the cost of creating your works. Not like an accounting spreadsheet or anything, but change the perception that online piracy doesn’t hurt artists like yourself.
  • Evaluate how you distribute your creations online. Pirates tend to follow the path of least resistance, so the easier it is to access works, the more likely they’ll end up on a piracy site. * (see note on fair use below)
  • Cooperate with other creators. Piracy sites are seldom scared by individual claims of infringement. There is strength in coordinating the filing of these claims. If the site ignores you, re-organize and do the same thing with the hosting provider.
  • Focus on the main culprit. You’re an independent creator, and likely don’t have a team of people to scour the internet enforcing the rights on your works. Research on this topic tends to find that 10% of the pirate sites screen to 90% of the audience (depending on the niche of the piracy site, this can shift to 1% screen to 99% of the audience).

Here are some things you can continue to do to protect yourselves.

  • If it’s unauthorized use, submit a DMCA takedown notice
    • On Patreon, we have outlined instructions on how to do this for anyone infringing on your content.
    • If it’s not on another platform with no clear copyright claim process, contact and we’ll provide you a DMCA notice and takedown template, just plug in your info and send it to the platform.
  • On Patreon, turn on charge up front
    • Charge up front allows you to charge a patron before they access your content. Many creators have found this to help them with ensuring they are getting remunerated for their work.
  • Really get to know your community
    • The better you know your community, the more likely you’ll have a sense of who is supporting you and why. I know many of you are working to build up new audiences, so this may take some more time on your part. One creator shared that they lock their higher tiers, and only unlock spots once they get to know a patron, so that they are more knowledgeable about who these folks are.
  • Change your pricing tiers and structure
    • Ensure that your pricing tiers and structure best match what your audience demands. You can always sign up for a workshop,, and learn more about adjusting your tiers and benefits so that you’re saving the work that is most involved for the most valued of your fans.
  • Consider limiting your backlog - or the amount of time a piece of art is available
    • Time constraints ensure that you don’t have a giant backlog of content that is available to any patron who signs up. Creators who offer access to everything they’ve ever created can be very attractive to pirates, so we recommend finding a secure place to store your backlog of creative works. Some of our creators have been able to strengthen their community offering limited access or creating higher reward tiers to access entire backlogs of works. Patrons who love your catalogue place a much higher value on accessing your catalogue of works than pirates do, make sure your reward tiers acknowledge that reality.
  • Contact the thief
    • Caveat: this doesn’t always work! However, one of our creators noticed that a nightclub in NY had used one of his illustrations to advertise for an event. He contacted the club, explained what happened, and asked them to stop using his illustration to sell a night at their club. They ended up destroying all their printed flyers.

A few notes on Fair Use:

Copyright law’s balance between creators’ rights and societal benefits is an ongoing effort. The ‘fair use’ of a copyrighted work is still technically a copyright infringement, but one that is considered an acceptable use of the copyrighted work because of the benefits to society. You often hear of the various ‘categories’ of fair use (e.g. parody, commentary, news, criticism, etc…), but in every case, the determination of fair use boils down to balancing these four factors:

  • The Purpose
    • Since copyright only covers the expression of your idea and not the idea itself, this factor looks at whether a use ‘transforms’ the original work enough to add new expressive meaning.
  • Amount
    • The less of the work you use, the more likely the use will be fair. Though, it should be noted that any amount of the work will do if you are found to have used the ‘heart’ of the original work (e.g. you only use one page of a 500 page book, but it’s the climax of the entire book, where the main character dies).
  • Nature
    • What is the nature of the work itself? The dissemination of facts or information is typically given more leeway than using a fictional work such as a play or novel.
  • Effect
    • This deals with the effect your use of the work has on the copyright owner of the underlying work. If you deprive a copyright owner of income, regardless of whether you are competing directly with the original work

I hate to sound like a party pooper, but the person who wrote these recommendations literally knows nothing about how piracy sites reacts to DMCA reports, as I and some people mentioned above, they use your information and post it on public when you do that, then they dox you and create a witch hunt agaisnt you. So the only person ‘‘injured’’ person is the creator who tried to protect their content.

We all do these recommendations, which are the most basic things that every creator do because common sense, and it doesn’t help even a little to fight against piracy.

And this part ‘‘Contact the thief’’ doesn’t even help when the thief does piracy our work with the sole purpose of ‘‘trolling’’ or ‘‘making the creator salty’’, most of these people are pretty much against artists using patreon because they think art should be free and that we are ‘‘greedy bastards’’ :confused: . What do they do with these messages is taking them out of contect and using them against us when they can, that happened to me and they started to call me a scammer.


In our experience, people who leak content really only make up a very, VERY small fraction of the supporter pool. Over the past 12 months Sify and I have been working together, we’ve removed 60 leakers out of 10,000 supporters. Leaks used to be a forgone conclusion, but these days they are much fewer and farther in between for the creators working with us.

The single biggest factor in reducing the amount of work being pirated from our community has been identifying the individual leakers and preventing them from accessing our works in the future. The recent changes Patreon has made in which people can’t use prepaid cards and their payment method can be blocked by the creator have been massive steps forward in combatting this problem. It has enabled us to cut these toxic users out of the community entirely, and that is by far the best solution. Any steps that Patreon can take to give creators the option to prevent anonymous payment methods from being used to pledge to their accounts will do more to combat the issue of pirating than anything else in the above list.

With the 40 creators we work with, we’ve managed to remove a good portion of these leakers from the community, but these 40 are still a very small percentage of the overall creator community. Out of respect for even those who leak, we only contact creators these leakers support within our community, and give them links to the offending Patreon account in private.

It would help immensely if, in the future, Patreon could look into ways to streamline leaker reports by creators, and take action against these individuals in the way of bans. At the very least make some form of trust system for supporters that creators can see and upvote/downvote.

Overall, things are looking up.


All fair feedback – and you’re right, it can totally feel like whack-a-mole. You’re right – this isn’t your lived experience, which is why it’s important to hear from you and learn what it’s been like, so we can continue to think of other ideas.

I’m sorry to hear about your personal experience – that is really awful. It is all contextual too. In the case of contact the thief, it can be a little easier, as it was in the case, a nightclub that stole the art, and the creator was lucky they were willing to listen.


Hi there, I hope you don’t mind me if I continue this thread after a while.
As a photographer / videographer, my concern regarding copyright relies on wether we are always entitled or not, to use the photos / videos on Patreon when they depict people who didn’t sign any kind of contract / legal form with us.
Thank you.

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Hi, this is a great question. And one that could certainly use some clarity.

Essentially, there are two opposing rights in conflict when we’re talking about models in photographs. The photographer, just by snapping the photo, has complete control over copying, distributing, displaying or creating derivative works from that photograph. In other words, the photographer owns the copyrights in that image.

The model, in most states, has what is called a “right of publicity”. You violate a person’s right of publicity when, without permission, you use a photo of a person for your own benefit. This right hinges on whether the use of the photograph is for “editorial” or “commercial” purposes. The “editorial” use of a photo is not considered a use of the person’s image for your own benefit. “Commercial” use is different because the use benefits the photographer, so you need the person’s consent to use their image. If you get a model release signed by the subject, you are free to use the image commercially, i.e., for advertising.

Patreon is a platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid. Because it is a platform that is primarily commercial in nature, it would be safer for a photographer to consider all uses on Patreon to be ‘commercial’ rather than ‘editorial’ and act accordingly.


Will keep in mind. Thank you for the response.

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