Early in my career, I went to a job interview at a New York-based photo agency. The owner sat me down and asked me if I would help him run films from fashion shows to the nearest photo lab.
"You see," he said, " we process images of each cloth on the runway and send it to cloth manufacturers who would like to make copies."
"Is that legal?" I said.
"Sure," he replied. "we don't make copies, they do. Plus, clothes don't have copyrights."
I was silent.
"These guys have copies of the clothes in stores before the actual designers who presented them on the runway." "They pay us well to get those images."
Needless to say, I didn't take the job. But the story stood with me. Mostly because, when I talked about this to other people, including some in the fashion industry, everyone seemed familiar with the process. Designers weren't happy, but they couldn't do much about it.
Images are still being used to make copies of fashion brands
Fast forward to today, and those photographers are now long gone. But images are still being used to make copies of fashion brands. Since everything is now available online, for free, and within minutes of the shows, it is even cheaper and faster.
Photography's symbiotic relationship with counterfeiting is not just limited to the fashion industry.
As commerce moves online, products move via images. Unlike brick and mortar, where customers get to see, touch, and interact with the product they will purchase, the online experience happens entirely via photographs of the product. Online, people shop via images of the product they want to buy, not the actual product. And while those photos can be of the real product, the item they will receive will be a counterfeit.
All counterfeiters need to do is go to the brand's website, download the images of the product they copied, and post them on their website. That's it. It's that simple.
Consumers are easily duped into thinking they are buying the genuine item - after all, the image is real - but will instead receive a cheaper copy. And like our example of the fashion show photos, brands know about it but let it happen. The reasons? The scope of the issue and the lack of tools to combat it.
Block the unauthorized usage of photographs
Block the unauthorized usage of photographs and dramatically reduce the ability for fake products to be sold as real ones.
Once brands take control of their product images via usage monitoring, they can quickly and easily uncover and close down grey markets and counterfeited resellers. They can weaponize their pictures so that if counterfeiters use their product photos, they can use those same images to track them down, identify them, and shut them down.
In other words, photographs can become the most potent tool of the brand protection manager, while remaining the marketers best friend. They can help consumers connect with a brands' product line while protecting them from forgery and cheap imitation.