OnlyFans content creator Deniece “Niece” Waidhofer is suing Thothub, a site that reposts adult content users would usually need to pay to access, for spreading her images without her consent.
The complaint, filed Monday, is also suing internet infrastructure firm Cloudflare for providing services to Thothub, as well as adult websites Chaturbate and BangBros for advertising on Thothub, arguing that advertisements fund the distribution of terabytes of stolen OnlyFans material.
The news could provide some precedent for creators legally challenging sites that steal and profit from their work.
"After being published on Thothub and downloaded by many of its one million-plus members, Waidhofer's published and unpublished works have been widely disseminated across the Internet and seen by millions. This has caused, and continues to cause, personal, reputational, and monetary harm to Waidhofer," the complaint, written by attorney Brett S. Rosenthal from law firm Reese Marketos reads.
Rosenthal filed the suit on behalf of Waidhofer (who goes by Niece on her platforms), a model and OnlyFans creator who also has 1.9 million followers on Instagram. According to the complaint, Waidhofer sells semi-nude content to subscribers via her OnlyFans for $14.99 a month. Her OnlyFans page says “no nudes,” but she sent some semi-nude images to individual users via direct message, according to the complaint.
Both her lingerie modeling photos and nudes have ended up on Thuthub, a site dedicated to re-publishing ordinarily pay-walled content, primarily from subscription-based OnlyFans, as well as Patreon. Thothub also runs a forum where users are encouraged to share material in order to gain access to other sections of the site.
Stolen adult content resold or reposted on sites like Thothub is a huge problem in the adult industry. But as OnlyFans has gained popularity in recent months, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that’s forced people to find work they can do from home, interest in stealing content from the site has spiked. In June, Motherboard uncovered an entire underground market of people mass-scraping content from OnlyFans and other paywalled sites, uploading it illegally to sites like Thothub, and selling OnlyFans scraping services on Discord.
Thothub’s terms of service prohibit uploading stolen works, but its front page features reposted content from well known creators, and even notes which paid platform the content originally appeared on. A description at the bottom of the site says that "thothub.tv is a parody. It provides an automatic stream of content sent in from e-girls. Thothub is the biggest e-girl showcase in the world! Join now and get e-famous!"
Waidhofer and her attorney allege that Thothub has not been responsive to repeated copyright-related takedown requests. The complaint says that Waidhofer flagged the copyrighted material to Thothub multiple times and did not receive a response. Like Pornhub and other adult content sites that host unverified user uploads, Thothub has a DMCA takedown request form on its site where people can allegedly "supply sufficient identification and proof ownership."
Motherboard viewed emails provided by Rosenthal that he claimed Waidhofer sent to Thothub requesting that her material be taken down. One of these examples was detailed and showed that the material had been taken from Waidhofer's Pateron account.
When Motherboard asked Thothub whether it had received any DMCA complaints from Waidhofer, Thothub said it had only received one brief message, and that "We did not receive any valid DMCA request and no valid information for removals on that front page link."
Thothub removed images of Waidhofer after Motherboard contacted the site to verify that Waidhofer made that request.
“We remove on average about 200 entries from the main page and the forums per week and we are constantly in contact with multiple lawyers all over the world to have the illicit material removed, for which we have a dedicated team,” a spokesperson for Thothub told Motherboard.
"No chatter or discussion about removed forum posts, we have the right to remove anything to following copyright/dmca rules," one of the forum's staffers wrote in a forum post laying out the site's rules.
The lawsuit is seeking information from Cloudflare and the advertisers that may be useful in identifying who runs Thothub. It is also hoping the court will force Thothub to stop infringing Waidhofer's copyright, and that she will be awarded damages.
The lawsuit also targets BangBros and Chaturbate, two well-known adult websites that advertise on Thothub. The complaint alleges that without these two companies' financial assistance, Thothub would be unable to function.
When Motherboard reached out to Chaturbate for comment on why they placed ads on Thothub, a spokesperson said that the ads were placed there “without [Chaturbate’s] knowledge by independent third-party advertisers participating in Chaturbate’s referral marketing program.” Advertising on websites that use stolen or unlicensed content is against Chaturbate’s marketing program terms, the spokesperson said. “We immediately reached out to the responsible advertisers and informed them that thothub.tv is not an appropriate site for sending traffic to Chaturbate and asked them to immediately remove any of their CB ads that may be appearing on thothub.tv.”
A BangBros spokesperson told Motherboard that their media buyers weren’t familiar with Thothub, as their ads are placed using a third-party advertising network. “Now that this has been brought to our attention, our marketing department will reach out to the ad network asking this site be put on an exclusion list,” the spokesperson said.
Cloudflare did not respond to requests for comment.
"Today Thothub’s monthly costs likely approach or exceed $100,000 for content hosting and delivery, and Thothub likely has annual hosting and delivery costs of $1 million or more," the complaint reads. "Thothub is only able to bear these costs due to the revenue it derives from advertising. Put differently, absent the financial backing of the Advertiser Defendants, Thothub could not continue to commit acts of infringement with anywhere close to the frequency and scale that it now does. The Advertiser Defendants thus materially contribute to the infringement."
Finally, the lawsuit alleges that Cloudflare is part of the scheme by providing internet infrastructure services to Thothub.
"Cloudflare admits on its website that it has the ability, '[i]n appropriate circumstances [to] disable access to Cloudflare services or terminate the accounts of users determined to be repeat infringers.' But Cloudflare has not implemented a reasonable repeat-infringer policy. Cloudflare does not have reasonably adequate protocols, policies, or metrics for addressing repeat infringement by customers, and it does not take reasonable action after being notified about repeat infringement. Cloudflare apparently has no policy to follow up on infringement notifications to determine whether the infringing content was, in fact, removed from the customer site,'" the complaint reads.
The complaint says that when Waidhofer sent a copyright complaint to Cloudflare, the company forwarded the complaint to Thothub and did not take any action itself.