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A New Tool To Fight Art Forgery And Fraud: Online Bots Trolling The Dark Web

Apr 25, 2017

Nowhere to hide: new tool brings technical firepower to the fight against fraudsters
Water Lilies by Claude Monet (1919). Copies of works by the French Impressionist are often passed off as genuine by criminals. Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art

A new platform launching this month from Art Fraud Insights seeks to clean up the unregulated online art marketplace by hunting down fakes, forgeries and copyright infringement. The Art and Artistic Legacy Protection (AALP) service will work with artists and artist-endowed foundations to scour the darkest corners of the internet for bogus sale listings and unauthorised copies. 

“There is a vast network of highly organised internet sellers that are doing an enormous amount of volume online,” says Colette Loll, the founder of the Washington, DC-based research and forensics firm. Hired by eBay in 2015 to survey art fraud, she estimated that more than 30% of listings on online art marketplaces and e-commerce sites are problematic—and for certain artists, that figure can be as high as 80%.

Loll teamed up with Singapore-based Strategic IP Information, which specialises in policing online intellectual property violations in the luxury, pharmaceutical and entertainment industries. Over the past six months, they have developed proprietary screening software that trawls the web to identify problematic listings on e-commerce sites, mobile apps and social media. When one is found, AALP will alert the client, send cease-and-desist letters to infringers and collaborate with lawyers to seek payment from them.

AALP aims to capitalise on two trends: the growth in online art sales and the expanding influence of artists’ estates and foundations. The online art market—one of the least regulated sectors of the industry—is expected to grow 24% annually, according to a report published last year by insurer Hiscox. At the same time, artists’ foundations are becoming an increasingly significant market force, with aggregate assets of $3.48bn and growing, according to a 2010 study by the Aspen Institute.