Tool Launched for Scrubbing Fake Artworks Sold on the Darknet

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So far as online sale grows, so do the possibilities of being on the receiving end of a con. A new tool, however, has been launched by Art Fraud Insight, a consultancy located in Washington DC. The Art and Artistic Legacy Protection (AALP) service was launched this month with a purpose of identifying fake artworks that are sold on the dark web market like Hansa market. It is also able to identify the very people behind those illegitimate activities.

Artists and artist-endowed foundations will also be able to use it to flush the dark webs of unauthorized and fake copies as well as fictitious sale listings.“I have received numerous calls from artists who have seen fakes of their works offered online, and had no recourse. It’s maddening to a creative person who knows their work is being copied and sold as original,” Colette Loll, founder of Art Fraud Insights, tells reporters. “I also do get calls every week from victims who have made a bad online purchase that they regretted. My largest online victim to date spent over $200,000 on a fake Jackson Pollock he was certain was original.”

“I have received numerous calls from artists who have seen fakes of their works offered online, and had no recourse. It’s maddening to a creative person who knows their work is being copied and sold as original,” Colette Loll, founder of Art Fraud Insights, tells reporters. “I also do get calls every week from victims who have made a bad online purchase that they regretted. My largest online victim to date spent over $200,000 on a fake Jackson Pollock he was certain was original.”

In 2015, the founder of the Washington, DC-based forensics and research firm, Colette Loll, did a study on art fraud and she estimated after her findings that, more than 30% of listings on online art marketplaces are dubious. Thus they were erroneously marked as either “authentic” or “original”.

She continued by stating that, for some artists, that number can rise as high as 80%. Also, over 60% required more clarification. This was as a result of false information provided or lack of facts to support the claim of “original work”.

All this work was done after she was contracted by one of the giants in online shopping

“There is a vast network of highly organized internet sellers that are doing an enormous amount of volume online,” She later added.

Loll and Singapore firm Strategic IP Information, which has a speciality in protecting online intellectual property violations in the opulence, pharmaceutical, and entertainment industries, entered into a partnership which led to the creation of the AALP.

During the past six months, the duo developed the proprietary software that screens the web to identify listings that seem suspicious or problematic, on various e-commerce sites, social media and also mobile apps. As expected, when one appears, AALP sends an alert to the client, then a cease-and-desist letter to the transgressor. In a case where a fraudulent transaction had already taken place, AALP contacts the buyer and collaborates with a lawyer to seek a refund.

The AALP elaborated in a statement provided that fake counterfeit dealers can also evade. In cases, when the service spots some, “they often auto re-listed in high volume, or simply changed their Seller IDs. Many jumped between multiple e-commerce sites and marketplaces.” The AALP’s goals generally focus on the increase in sales of online arts and helping artists’ estates and foundations.

A report published last year by one insurance company revealed that the online art market which happens to be one of the least regulated sectors of the industry is expected to experience a 24% increase yearly. In 2010, a study by an institute described the artists’ estates and foundations to be an increasingly important market power with assets the sum of $3.48 billion and still growing.

Scanning the darknet is popular now so AALP is out to find all the fake works thereby helps in prevent a loss in profit through licensing.

The AALP commented, “Art will continue to be digitized and offered on the Internet, but questions of permission, of payment, of public and private rights are at issue and remain largely unresolved. For artist-endowed foundations, built on the legacies of individual artists, these issues of intellectual property are demanding and immediate.”

Although numerous companies are in place to protect the copyright of artists’, only a few have the technical know-how or ability to search the dark web for potentially stolen works.

“Criminals hide in the back room—but we can get into that area.” Said Bharat Kapoor, the chief operating officer of Strategic IP Information.

Loll though admits that, every approach has its limit. She stated that eliminating breaches and violation can be like a game of “whack-a-mole”. Just as you think you have made progress with a listing, another one emerges. In addition, some foundations are more into expanding access; one foundation last year made a fair-use policy that encourages scholars, artists’ and others to openly reproduce images of the artists’ work (although it still charges for commercial use).

But, says Loll, for foundations that “generate a significant part of their annual revenue from licensing”, the problem can only get worse because online fraud “is not going away”.

She also stated that some sellers are awful, “We kept seeing the same woman showing up—she was Photoshopped holding 500 different pictures,” she said.

But other too are much difficult to identify, such as doctored certificates of authenticity.

According to the findings of Loll, sellers located in certain areas such as southern Spain, Eastern Europe, Costa Rica should be more alert. She continued by saying, the segments that are more vulnerable in the market are drawings between $500 and $25,000; paintings between $1,000 and $5,000; and prints between $5,000 and $15,000.

If you want to purchase an online work by Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Keith Haring, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claude Monet, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Pablo Picasso, you should do some extra research first, as they are the most common targets for fraudsters.

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