Brand Protection Content Moderation Counterfeit Detection Trademark Protection

Eight Types of Content that Marketplaces & Ecommerce Sites Need to Block to be Compliant with the European Digital Services Act

Eight Types of Content that Marketplaces & Ecommerce Sites Need to Block to be Compliant with the European Digital Services Act

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The European Digital Services Act is new legislation which aims to modernise the regulation of online businesses to better protect its citizens from any form of harmful content. The DSA has been designed to have better enforcement of companies to stop content that enables online bullying & harassment, hate speech, disinformation, and the widespread sharing of illicit content, not to mention blocking counterfeiters that list fake and infringing goods.

The terms of the act will apply to all relevant business accessible online within the EU. It’s important to note that this doesn’t just mean businesses that have addresses in the EU, but all worldwide businesses which can be accessed from within the EU.

Marketplaces that allow third parties to sell their own items are considered a high risk for breaching the act. The DSA makes marketplaces and ecommerce sites responsible for the products they list, no matter if it is by a third-party seller or drop-shipper.

So, here are a number of things which marketplaces need to prime themselves to detect and block in order to ensure compliance with this new act.

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8 Things to Detect and Block On Your Marketplace Digital Services Act

1) Use of Trademarked Logos


The unlicensed use of trademarked logos has always been against the law, worldwide, however from the sale of counterfeit goods to independent creators taking artistic licence with protected logos, it is extremely commonplace.

Along with the risk of lawsuits, online marketplaces leave themselves open to litigation under the Digital Services Act if they do not employ practices or technology that can detect and block trademarked logos in third party listings.

2) Counterfeit Goods

Counterfeit detection - Dove beauty bar

Counterfeit goods will be clamped down on under the Digital Services Act, ensuring that consumers will be protected, not just from being conned into buying fakes, but also from potential harm.

There are numerous ways in which counterfeit goods can be detected. Logo detection, text detection and visual search are all computer vision tools that can work to detect logos, markings, specific imagery, product designs, labels, serial numbers and more.

3) Copyright Protected Photography

Product Photography

Whether it’s creative/artistic photography or more commercial images, like product photography, every image is protected from misuse and owned by the original photographer or the person who paid the photographer for their work, such as a brand.

When it comes to marketplaces, this means that sellers need to have permission to use product photography before using it. One could argue that using a professional image of a Nike running shoe when a seller is listing that shoe should imply that they have the right to use it, or at least fair use rights, but that’s not a given. Also, often, counterfeiters will use pro-photography to sell fake goods.

Marketplaces need to therefore police the use of popular photography, at least as a signal for further investigation of a listing/seller.

4) Hate Symbols

Extremist group insignia on tshirts - Capitol hill riot shirts bought online

In recent years, the sale of t-shirts and other merchandise with hate symbols in the form of defaced LGBTQ flags and icons, swastikas and other fascist symbols, and myriad other almost unfathomable images emblazoned on them, has become quite common.

We have seen marketplaces like Etsy being slammed in the media and social media users calling for boycotts against them for not policing their listings better. The availability of such items on these websites does, after all, enable people to illustrate their hateful messages not just on social media but in innocuous moments as they go about their daily business. The widespread availability and easy access to these kinds of items normalises hate speech and helps those with bad intentions to make a fashion statement of it. The onus falls squarely with the businesses operating these online marketplaces to prevent the sale of items with such obviously hateful messages and imagery from being sold on their websites.

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5) Trademarked product designs

Depicting the elements that can be used to authenticate genuine product packaging based on ID and key elements

While tracking the uploading of items featuring protected logos and markings will take an enormous step towards stopping the sale of illegitimate goods on marketplaces, it isn’t always enough. Some counterfeiters will use a well-known product design and simply place an unknown logo on it. Many brands have trademarked the unique qualities of their product designs and they should not be replicated by any other seller.

Some examples of designs your marketplace moderation system should be primed to detect include:

  • The shape and stitching of a Converse Chuck Taylor shoe
  • The square shape and defined neck of a Jack Daniels bourbon bottle
  • The triangular segments of a Toblerone Bar
  • The distinctive shape of Apple Airpods
  • The Coca-Cola Contour Bottle Shape
  • The red soles of a Louboutin shoe
  • The Eames dining chair shape, the patent of which goes all the way back to the 1940s

6) Trademarked slogans

Custom print tshirts Print on demand copyright infringement

From brand slogans like “Just Do It”, to song lyrics like “This sick beat” and even to McEnroe’s infamous cry of “You cannot be serious!”, there are a number of trademarked slogans and phrases that cannot be used for commercial gain unless permission has been granted.

Print-on-demand businesses and marketplaces are great places for designers to sell T-shirts and other merchandise. The trouble is, many of the designs incorporate phrases such as the ones listed above, whether included in an eye-catching design or twisted to make more of a statement (Like “Just Don’t Do It” or “I’m So Not Lovin’ It”.)

While some people see it as innocent fun, the owners of these trademark slogans don’t, and neither do the terms of the Digital Services Act.

7) Copyright protected artwork and imagery

Depicting a t-shirt with copyright and trademark infringing design

Certain types of marketplaces, such as those that operate at large scale from China, have become known for allowing third parties to sell replicas of artwork that is not their own. Oftentimes, popular TV and movie themes (like Stranger Things and Game of Thrones) and famous works of art, will be printed on tshirts or as prints for people to hang in their homes at the smallest fraction of the cost of the original work.

This is something that artists and rights-holders feel they cannot control as it is impossible for them to legally come up against corporate giants. The Digital Services Act will give them the power to fight back, as online marketplaces will now be held accountable for the sale of illegally replicated photography and other artwork.

8) Recognisable Characters

Print on demand copyright infringement

Recognisable characters such as The Simpsons, Spongebob and Mickey Mouse are often replicated in counterfeit goods and third party art designs and sold via online marketplaces.

As with all other elements referenced in this article, under the Digital Services Act, it will be the responsibility of online marketplaces to ensure that copyright protected characters are not appearing on goods sold on their website without licence.

Computer Vision is The Answer

Quite understandably, the task of ensuring that all of this ground is covered can be quite overwhelming. However, it doesn’t need to be. Computer Vision technology is the solution to this seemingly insurmountable task.

There are a number of elements to computer vision that will enable any moderation technology to detect each of these elements, as well as any specific elements your marketplace needs to monitor for. Logo and mark detection, visual search and text detection cover all the ground you need in order to ensure that your marketplace is fully compliant with the Digital Services Act when it comes into effect.

Implementation can be actioned through a simple API, but importantly, some companies don’t want to or need to integrate the results of processed media into their own software. For these companies, they have the option of both Low-Code or No-Code implementations.

Ultimately, even with computer vision technology and following best practices, it will be nearly impossible to catch every infringement, however, a company’s ability to show that they make every effort, using the best technology at hand is often enough to avoid legal repercussions and penalties.

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