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Last updated on: February 8, 2023
One of the most common issues digital content owners and brand owners continue to battle is online image theft. It has become particularly rampant today, where the fruits of success go to those that can go viral, but not necessarily to the ones that deserve the credit. Keeping up with content demands can be a grueling task for many business owners or content creators, but if your copyrighted content is being stolen or leveraged by bad actors then you could be losing revenue.
In addition to the impact on revenue, these forms of copyright infringement, particularly the unauthorized use of product images for businesses that sell their products online, can be really damaging to a brand’s reputation. When customers see your products on a marketplace, that will be the product they expect to arrive at their door upon delivery, not a cheap knockoff or low-quality counterfeit. However, as a result of the unauthorized use of product images, many businesses have to answer to disgruntled “would-be” customers.
Unfortunately, many businesses aren’t equipped to deal with these types of infringements on a wide-scale basis. After all, if you are not actively searching for unauthorized listings that contain your copyrighted photos you may never detect any infringements.
Nonetheless, just because you haven’t been able to detect if your product images have been stolen or that your photos have been copied, that does not mean you aren’t at risk. In this blog, we´ll walk business owners and content creators through the basics of copyright enforcement and how to protect your photos from being copied.
Specifically, we will discuss:
As has been emphasized in previous discussions about copyright protection and intellectual property protection, digital content creators and brand owners possess the rights to their Intellectual Property (IP). As such, it is proper that they are able to enforce their rights as the IP owner, which grants them exclusive use of their original content.
Publishing photos online is primarily a marketing strategy that aims to build your brand identity and establish your presence in the virtual world. If these photos are downloaded and used without your business’s consent, it could result in a loss in revenue, a drop in brand perception, or even a negative impact on your business’s SEO. In cases like these, the time and effort you or your business invested into creating the content can be exploited by bad actors, resulting in a sunk cost for the content creator.
For one, persons guilty of online photo theft may actually be operating fraudulent websites trying to mimic your brand or business for nefarious reasons. This would, of course, confuse your customers and drive away revenue, but more than that these sites could turn loyal customers away from your brand if they happen to be scammed. Even customers that don’t fall victim to this type of scam will likely be less confident buying from a business that doesn’t have an intellectual property strategy that proactively addresses scammers going after their customers.
Another way online photo theft can hurt your brand is the fact that it decreases the value of your work. Needless to say, these photos that you have published online are a result of the conceptualization, creativity, and execution of you or your team. All this time, effort, and hard work are essentially put to waste when you do not work to protect your brand’s photos. It can be very discouraging to a business and its employees if there is not an active strategy in place to ensure others aren’t exploiting their effort.
Essentially, therefore, protecting your photos is equivalent to protecting your brand. As in all other acts of intellectual property protection, protecting your photos works to safeguard the name, value, and people of your business or enterprise.
Perhaps the most popular method in detecting subsequent postings of your original photos, Google’s Search By Image feature, also referred to as Reverse Image Search, is an online photo-detecting tool that is simple and free to use.
In this method, you will simply need to go to images.google.com and then drag the image from your desktop onto the search bar that appears on the page. Thereafter, Google will display all matching and visually similar images that it was able to find on the world wide web.
The downside of this tool is that it does not guarantee accuracy. Those who have tried Google’s Reverse Image Search would know that upon pressing Enter, the system generates hundreds of similar photos, and you have to manually check which photos are actually copies of yours. It also would not be able to detect photos embedded in PDF files, PowerPoint files, and so forth.
Another limitation is that the search results would also yield images that are actually no longer accessible to Internet users, such as pictures that were initially successfully posted but with now-inactive links or in now-inoperative pages. Again, if you are doing a manual check, going through these would take significant time and effort. With this said, it must be noted that Google’s Reverse Image Search is good to try, but cannot be solely relied on by digital content creators or brand owners that want to take protecting their photos seriously.
As has been discussed earlier, image recognition works hand in hand with brand protection technology. In fact, it is a brand protection technology that aims to provide brand owners with a workable tool to detect images, without going through the hassle of manually checking hundreds, sometimes inaccurate, search results.
Red Points’ Image Recognition Software works in many ways a simple Reverse Image Search cannot. For one, it ensures speed and accuracy through its advanced machine-learning technologies. It also is able to provide 24/7 protection, which can automatically detect cases of copyright infringement (your images being copied) and be automated to send takedown requests instantly whenever a case of infringement is detected. Red Points’ bots are part of an advanced image monitoring system that operates continuously monitoring the web for the specific images you’ve requested to be monitored.
Red Points’ technology offers clients the ability to breathe easy knowing that they can detect and quickly report any unauthorized use of their brand’s images. Many brands make a significant investment in their product images or even their content production, for someone to simply copy their photos and pass them off as their own is not something brands take lightly, and for good reason. In many cases of fraud or in various scams online, bad actors will copy a brand’s product images to make their product listing appear to be high quality and authentic. However, the reality is that these bad actors are selling counterfeit products, low-quality knockoffs, or even shipping empty boxes in order to scam buyers out of their money.
As a result of these scams, customers tend to lose faith in your brand; they may become increasingly skeptical of your products’ authenticity or even hold you accountable for the scam. In the end, your brand’s reputation and revenue both take a hit and the bad actor behind the scam has no incentive to stop. So how can Red Points help you put an end to this?
Red Points’ Copyright Infringement Protection is a service for brands that allows them to monitor for the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials and shut them down before any damage can be done to your brand’s reputation or revenue. The monitoring process works by using AI and bot-powered technology that can search thousands of online domains for keywords associated with the photos you do not want to be copied. Following the use of our keyword monitoring technology, the next step is to detect and identify cases of potential infringement.
Red Points’ infringement detection capabilities depend not only on some of the brand protection industry’s most advanced technologies but also on the inputted information that you are able to supply as a brand owner. The more information and documentation you are able to provide about the piece of intellectual property you are hoping to protect, the better Red Points is able to protect it for you and your business.
The detection software identifies potential cases of infringement, whether it be trademark infringement or copyright infringement, and then reports it to you on our brand protection platform. In the image below, you can see these detected cases of potential infringement are reported on our platform if you were to access it yourself.
In the third stage of our process, Red Points’ depends on the brands that use our platform to verify the detected cases of infringement. This step is called “validating” the infringements, which means that brands are able to confirm whether a case of potential infringement really is authentic or not. For instance, there may be cases where our platform may misidentify authorized resellers as potential cases of infringement, in which case it is the brand’s responsibility to validate that these cases are not infringing on your registered intellectual property. Fortunately, Red Points’ platform has an over 90% accuracy rate with validated detections, meaning that at least 9 times out of 10 cases of potential infringement that brands on our platform have validated turn out to be real cases of infringement.
In an attempt to make this process more streamlined for brands, Red Points does include a “prioritization” feature on its platform, which will allow brands to identify infringements that they consider most important and deal with them first, as soon as they are detected. In some cases, brands may consider certain online marketplaces priority, such as Amazon over Alibaba, and this feature allows brands to address infringements on Amazon as soon as they appear while moving infringements on other marketplaces, such as Alibaba, lower on their list of infringements to validate. In the image below, you can see how on our platform brands can define what they consider to be high risk and ensure they are “prioritized” over other potential cases of infringement.
Additionally, brands using Red Points’ platform can further streamline this step in the process by implementing what Red Points calls “custom rules”, which are guidelines defined by the brand which can automatically trigger an enforcement action. For example, if a brand is 100% that they do not conduct business on specific marketplaces, it can create a “custom rule” to automatically enforce any potential infringement detected on those sites, which brings us to the final step in Red Points’ process.
The final step in our process is the enforcement of your registered trademark or copyright. This step initiates the takedown process of the infringement to ensure that it is removed from the internet. Red Points handles this process completely for its clients, ensuring that the proper steps are taken to remove the infringement from whatever platform it has been detected on. Once the process has been initiated on the Red Points portal, the infringement will typically be taken down as soon as the platform concludes its internal investigation, however, if the process results in any further complications, then the enforcement can be escalated to a number of next steps, such as initiating legal action.
As mentioned above, one of the most valuable aspects of Red Points’ services is the data that brands can collect about the infringement trends impacting their business. In order to account for brands that want to have this information concentrated and delivered to them in a more digestible format, Red Points offers brands on its platform data reports that are tailored to the request of each brand. The data in these reports can include any measurement that Red Points tracks, such as the location of infringements, the average time taken to get an infringement taken down, the rate of infringement on various marketplaces, or even the calculated economic impact of infringements that have been enforced.
Finally, in an effort to show brands just how effective their investment in Red Points’ services is, built into our platform is an “Economic Impact” section. The economic impact section features two unique dashboards for brands to reference, the first is a “general dashboard” and the second is an “asset dashboard”.
The purpose of this section on our platform is to ensure that brands can attach a monetary value to the effectiveness of their brand protection strategy.
The general dashboard gives brands the ability to see the estimated total value of all the listings that have been enforced and taken down through the Red Points portal. This dashboard includes an estimated return on investment (ROI) for brands to reference, which Red Points generates using the average prices of your brands’ authentic listings compared to the average listed prices of listings that have been enforced and taken down through our portal.
On the asset dashboard, brands are given the opportunity to take a more detailed view of each asset your brand is using Red Points to protect. In this dashboard, brands can filter through their various assets listed on Red Points, whether they are various trademarks or copyrights, they can see the economic performance of their brand protection efforts. The more granular data presented in this dashboard includes specific information, such as the average value of each infringing listing, the total number of infringing sellers, or the total value of the asset’s infringements.
Online copyright infringement is a serious problem, especially among digital content and revenue owners, but it is not something that you can’t do anything about. While there are plenty of ways your brand can protect itself from having its product photos copied, the key is to take proactive measures to ensure that the problem never gets out of hand.
Talk to our brand protection experts to see how Red Points’ Image Recognition Software can protect your photos and, consequently, protect your business’s reputation and revenue.