Illustration by Cupcake Creature

A horde of pirates is undermining Patreon’s financial structure, reposting paywalled pornographic images on an illicit website for free. The makers of these images are furious that internet denizens are putting their livelihoods in jeopardy to score free porn.

Yiff.Party has been around since July, 2015, but has picked up speed exponentially in recent weeks. How it works is simple. Users or bots subscribe to Patreon creators’ accounts, allowing them access to content that’s restricted to patrons who pay. After scraping that content, the users or bots upload it onto Yiff.Party’s feed, where it’s accessible to everyone with just a few clicks. In the span of 24 hours yesterday, Yiff.Party’s admin says users uploaded over 3,000 posts. Those posts mostly contain porn, both live-action and furry (“yiff” is a reference to furry sex), but all sorts of artists have been affected.

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Yiff.Party’s front page

A half dozen Patreon creators I interviewed say they’re frustrated and angry. Art noveau artist Alice, who makes $230 a month and estimates she relies on Patreon for a quarter of her income, says she feels “absolutely shattered” after seeing her content reposted onto Yiff.Party. She noticed it on Tuesday, when a pledge to her account came up as fraudulent. A user in late December, she later discovered, had “copied my entire feed, including all of my public posts, all of my private posts, comments on those private posts, privately shared links” and more onto Yiff.Party. And that was just the beginning.

“Now that they have my feed and username in their database,” Alice said in an e-mail, “their site detects whenever I create a new post, public or private, and notifies its users.” Now on Yiff.Party, anyone can access it without paying dues to Alice.

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When Alice contracted Patreon about it, she, like others, said she was told to file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request to defend her content. It’s a lengthy and labor-intensive process. Patreon users who say they filed DMCA takedown requests against Yiff.Party say they were ignored.

A furry porn artist who goes by Kadath says that Yiff.Party has stolen his and his friends’ content for years. He makes $3,600 off Patreon per month. To defend against pirates, Kadath started vetting all of his pledgers, which he says was a lot of work. Scrubbing his subscribers looking for anonymous users with no icons, numbers for usernames, hotmail usernames takes time out of his day he could spend making more art. He has routinely made less money than he anticipated because subscriptions tied to Yiff.Party pirates were charged back or fraudulent.

Yiff.Party was originally an experiment, its admin, who wouldn’t give his name, told me over e-mail. It blew up on 8chan’s furry message board. “The site’s mission is simply to make paid Patreon content available for free,” he told me. “We’re not out to get creators or make them lose income.” He just wanted to explore a way to bypass paywalls, he said. When asked whether his website hurts Patreon creators’ ability to make a living, Yiff.Party’s admin said he’s not really sure.

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He added that Yiff.Party is accepting donations because he has a full-time job and works on the site in his spare time.

Kadath’s entry on Yiff.Party

In mid-2016, Patreon introduced a “charge upfront” feature that charged new patrons moments after they pledged. That was an issue for Yiff.Party. Earlier last year, they launched a feature that lets users who are already pledged to Patreon accounts share paywalled content. Users give Yiff.Party their login credentials and Yiff.Party’s importer service automatically scrapes posts they have access to. On 8chan’s /furry forum, users request specific posts or creators from one another.

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Yiff.Party has been around for over two years, so why hasn’t it been taken down? A Patreon spokesperson did not answer that question when I posed it, but said in an e-mail, “We think this is awful, and our operations, product, and engineering teams are heads down taking both legal and technical action to block this theft,” adding, “We won’t accept this kind of behavior from the bad actors of the internet, and will vigorously fight on behalf of our creators to protect their art.”

When I posed that question to Yiff.Party’s admin, he said that most creators “are relatively small so they’re unable to take legal action against me.”

Adri, another furry artist, is hurt less by the financial impact of Yiff.Party than what it means for his profession. “Knowing that people out there would rather pirate my work than spare $10 or even $1 to support me making more work hurts a lot,” he said. “It makes a lot harder to feel like what I do is worth the time and effort.”