As with any other industry that attracts billions of dollars of potential and actual revenue, influencer marketing has its dirty players. Usually, it takes the form of businesses using a photo an influencer posted on Instagram without their consent.
For Chelsie Petras, an influencer with a modest following of 32,000, it came as a shock when she found out that a brand used a photo of her in an ad with “a quote I hadn’t even said beneath it,” according to a report on CNN Business.
The problem has little to do with someone else using an influencer’s image to share it and offer them exposure, and more to do with profiting off of someone’s likeness without any compensation or consent.
To Mary Orton, an Instagram fashion influencer with over 200 thousand followers, this issue was personal. She founded a startup named Trove Business that gives influencers several tools to assist them in getting their businesses off the ground.
The company recently launched a new product that allows people to upload images or even their entire Instagram accounts to the platform and quickly find other sites that contain the same photo. This is a powerful tool that can eventually help people track down anyone using their likeness without their permission.
“Content is the core of your business. It’s how you make money and pay your bills. If someone is using it, that’s lost revenue,” Orton told CNN Business.
She demonstrated the product by uploading 300 of her photos. The platform returned 25,000 results, many of which were just links to her blog or work she’s done with brands.
However, some of it could be people using her photos to endorse products she has no idea her likeness is being used for. According to CNN Business, one of Orton’s photos was even found on the website of a chamber of commerce organization in Oregon.
Granted, a lot of these images may have been taken by brands that thought they were free stock photos. This could lead to some legal misunderstandings, but that’s why it’s important to communicate with the offending entity.
Having a tool like the one Trove Business offers will help influencers sniff out these offenders and find some way to communicate with them. Copyright infringement is taken seriously by companies like Google, and could result in a site being taken off the index, hurting its potential for revenue if it doesn’t heed the warning.
In the future, as influencer marketing becomes a more popular way for brands to build awareness of their products and services, it’s possible that more nefarious businesses will grow bolder in their attempts to get free marketing material from influencers without their consent.
New solutions will have to be developed to address this issue and make the process of combating copyright infringement simpler even for micro-influencers with very modest followings.