New Solutions From ARTtrust: Preventing Fraudulent and Unauthorized Use of Fine Art Photography and Artwork

Modern scanning, editing, and printing technology has made it easier than ever to copy an image or piece of art and reproduce it – speaking from personal experience, it can be quite difficult to know which is the original, and which is the copy!

And, of course, we’ve all heard reports and stories about unauthorized use, copying, and outright fraud involving a photographer’s or artist’s work.

The immediate impact is straightforward: money-out-of-your-pocket theft.

But what about the loss of credibility for the artist/photographer – and the reduction in value of a limited edition? Uncertainty about the provenance or number of pieces in the market quickly erodes the value of work already sold – and of course, work that is still on the market.

A company called ARTtrust has created a new, unique solution for these problems – one that helps users to identify and verify authorized work, discourages theft, prevents unauthorized copying, stops “limited” edition over-runs, and more.  ARTtrust makes it possible to provide a unique identity to each print in an edition or to each unique work, whether lithography, serigraphy, design, sculpture, etc.

ARTtrust is an identification and verification system that can be used by individuals, galleries, curators, collectors, museums, and others – the ARTtrust system is easy to understand and implement, and is as nearly perfect a security solution for art and phtography as exists today. ARTtrust provides for control by the artist, owner, authorized organization, or delegated curator or printmaker. Founder and CEO Philippe Serenon likes to say that “ARTtrust is simple, precise, secure, accessible, and authentic”. ARTtrust’s international partners include HP, Innova, Canson, Hahnemuhle, and others.

The ARTtrust system includes:

– A set of three unique identification tags, provided in a set, that cannot be duplicated. One tag is affixed to the artwork or print, another to the Certificate of Authenticity, and the third to the owner’s or printmaker’s file copy or BAT. (more on this later). The tags cannot be removed intact – any tampering destroys the tag. Each set of tags in unique to the individual piece of art.
ARTtrust Bubble Tags

– Each item that is tagged is registered via the ARTtrust online system. A digital image is uploaded, and the unique identification tags are linked to this image. The record can be accessed online by authorized users or a potential customer, providing quick and accurate validation of the item.

– The owner, authorized user, or delegate of the artist can print a pre-formatted Certificate of Authenticity (COA) to accompany the work. The tag on the art work or photograph can be matched to the tag on the COA via the ARTtrust database. Another certificate can be printed for use as a file or reference copy – this carries the third tag.

The technology at the core of the ARTtrust system is the Bubble Tag. This is a 3-D polymer tag which has a one-of-a-kind pattern of bubbles embedded in it. Each Bubble Tag is as unique as a fingerprint, virtually impossible to duplicate. (ARTtrust freely admits that they can’t do it – and they believe no one else can, either.)

The Bubble Tag Compared to Online Record

ARTtrust also provides an on-line gallery for its customers – whether they are individuals or organizations. The gallery includes a digital image, the serial number of the ARTtrust tag assigned to the work, and an image that can be compared to the ARTtrust tag.

An ARTtrust Image Gallery

If you click on one of the images, you’ll see this:

Image with identifying Bubble Tag

Anyone who is interested in buying or exhibiting a print can visit the ARTtrust website, find the online record*, view the bubble tag for verification (compare the tag image on screen to the tag on the artwork – and match the ID numbers), and review additional details about the print, such as availability and pricing.  (*One can enter the serial number on a tag, and easily retrieve the record of the work connected with that tag.)

Interestingly, there is also an iPhone application which can read an ARTtrust tag and provide verification on the spot! You can download the iPhone app on the iTunes App Store – just search for i-ARTtrust.

Here’s a link to the ARTtrust web site – the front page is shown below.

ARTtrust Web Site

Now photographers and artists, individuals and organizations have an independent, secure resource that helps them control and market their work, preserve value, prevent fraud and theft – and it is accessible online almost anywhere in the world.

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Disclosure: I have in the past acted as a consultant and beta tester to ARTtrust and some of its business partners. I received no compensation for writing this blog post.

Tracking Ownership of Fine Art Prints and Preventing Fraudulent Copies

Earlier this year I wrote about Certificates of Authenticity, and how they add value to fine art prints. There is an additional tool available, called the ARTtrust solution that can help track and verify the authenticity and ownership of each print.

Read more in my article on the HP Pro Photo Blog.



Pricing and Services, Fine Art Reproduction

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it costs to create a reproduction of one’s artwork – oil, acrylic, watercolor – whichever is appropriate. Some call it giclée printing, others archival pigment printing, etc.

I did a bit of research on the web among 15 print service providers and found out a few interesting things:

  • Very few print service providers (fine art or giclée printers) charge only by the print, without ancillary charges
  • Most charge for digital capture of your artwork – and use a wide range of technologies, ranging from large format scanners
    to digital cameras.
  • Some will charge a setup fee – in other words, a fee for preparing the image for print.
  • Some charge for proofs, certificates of authenticity, require a minimum order, copying to a CD, and other things.
  • Generally, they provide good info on media types and printing technology in use.
  • Generally, all are using technology that provides a final print of archival quality.

In the end, I found that there is a very wide range in services provided, materials used, charges for setup, computer time, printing, and minimum orders.

Here’s the bottom line for a 20×24 inch reproduction:

  • About half  the sites I visited charge a “setup fee”, the range is $40 to $100. Other sites do not mention this.
  • The charge for digital or scanned capture of flat artwork (camera or scan) is $45-150, if this service is provided.
  • The price for a single print on fine art paper ranges from $55 to 170. 
  • The average charge for computer time/Photoshop time is $50 per 30 minutes. This seems pretty consistent.
  • Total cost to the artist (excluding additional computer time) ranges from 130 to a high of 300. I excluded one provider from the research whose total charge exceeded $500.

As you can see, the price you get depends on how the print service provider has structured their business, service fees, and other factors. There is a  correlation in a limited number of cases between high-tech gear in use and high-level pricing. This is a limited sample, and your mileage WILL vary.

Based on the figures I have in hand right now, prices published by these companies will range from $200 to $300 for the first print, and there may be incremental charges for additional prints,   for archiving a reference print, storing digital files, or other services. After that, pricing/print appears to range from $60-100/individual print. No doubt there are other companies whose services, quality, and pricing differ.

I expect that some people will take issue with these figures. Just think of this as a starting point for your own research, do your homework, and you’ll do just fine. There’s plenty of good people out there doing this work.

 

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