Home Technology Devastated by his image being posted to a porn site, this founder hit on an AI startup idea

Devastated by his image being posted to a porn site, this founder hit on an AI startup idea

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Devastated by his image being posted to a porn site, this founder hit on an AI startup idea

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Realising that a former partner had, unbeknownst to him, put previously private, intimate videos of them onto a porn site, tech founder Dan Purcell felt devastated. He resolved to come up with a solution to help prevent such violations happening again. His Ceartas startup has now raised $4.5 million in a Seed round from European VC Earlybird, as well as Upside VC, a fund established by The Sidemen, the YouTube influencer group.

Ceartas DMCA, was founded in 2021 by Purcell (CEO) and Jonny Smyth (CTO), to apply AI to brand protection and anti-piracy services for content creators and brands.

It does this by de-indexing content and automatically issuing legal notices for pirated content.

Leveraging it’s own proprietary AI platform, the company scans digital platforms to identify and eliminate unauthorised content, including deepfakes.

The platform claims to significantly the problematic content’s visibility on Google by 98%. It also claims to be able to tackle deepfakes.

Based out of Dublin and Berlin, the company plans to open an office in Los Angeles office and ha now signed partnerships with platforms such as OnlyFans and Fanfix, (a content monetization platform for creators),

Over a call, Purcell told me: “I was dating a girl who was in the tech industry, and she asked me if I wanted to make some personal videos with her. About four or five years later, they all ended up on the internet, and I was the last one to find out,” he told me. “My then girlfriend slide her phone across the counter to me with the videos on the phone. It was pretty horrible.”

He looked into services that could help but most were aimed at large enterprises rather than creators.

“There wasn’t really anything out there to help individuals. So being an engineer, I built something myself… It will then send a legal copyright notice under the DMCA. So that’s how it started us inception back in 2020. A year later, the content creator economy was booming and the app took off.”

He told me that right now it’s aimed at YouTubers and Instagramers, but “as we move into enterprise we will be facilitating the service to take care of physical goods, such as counterfeit merchandise. We’ve used the content creators to build out that model, essentially, build up a data set.”

“Our service is fully automated. It’s powered by AI. And when we look at the Google transparency reports, which I believe was forwarded over to you, you can see [other platforms] have a much lower success rate overall. This can put the content creator into a difficult legal situation because you can get into trouble by sending the wrong DMCA notices.

He added that the firm has a provisional patent on the model as it doesn’t rely on any third party technology.

As well as working with influencer like the Sidemen, they are also working with physical goods brands that put their content onto social media.

The startup chose to work with Earlybird, said Purcell, because it had been pro-actively looking for a company in this brand protection space. : “We didn’t actually go out and pitch them they actually found us.. They’d been researching this since 2019. And they couldn’t find anybody who could scale it monetize it.. So when we pitched them, they pitched us back. We really felt that these guys understood the problem, because they’re very technical and data focused.

Andre Retterath, Partner at Earlybird Venture Capital, added in a statement: “Across media and the entertainment industry, individuals and enterprises alike are facing unprecedented piracy challenges… Training modern AI large language models (LLM) also opened the floodgates for the use and dissemination of unauthorised content.”

However, Ceartas is not the only player in this space. It has four main competitors in the brand protection space:

Rulta is a platform for protecting digital content and brand copyright infringements, which is used by Twitch, OnlyFans, Twitter/X and Patreon, among others. BranditScan is another which offers similar services.

In the B2B brand protection space space, Red Points out of Barcelona has raised $106.6 million, while Vobile, which caters to large enterprises in movies and TV content, has raised $181.6M.

All companies which submit DMCA notices, especially to Google, are publicly identified and scored based on the accuracy of the removal. This information is part of a public repository called the Google Transparency Report, and also the Lumen Database. On Google Web (they don’t score image removals), Ceartas is listed as attaing 90 to 100% of URLs delisted.

On Google’s transparency index, Rulta is at 63%, BranditScan at 54%, Red Points at 31%, and Vobile at 42%.

These numbers suggest that the AI-driven approach is likely to take over from older de-listing methods in the near future.

Ceartas’ claim is that it automates the de-listing process and can identify deepfakes quickly.

Purcell said: “We’ve essentially built out our own dataset using ML. The AI is contextually aware… The AI will go look at the page. It’ll use things like optical character recognition to look at watermarks, face recognition… are people leaving disparaging comments or sexualized comments. If it’s above 90%, it will automatically send a legal notice. If it’s under 90%. It goes to a copyright specialist for a manual review….The legal notices are written by lawyers. We work with a law firm in LA called Morrison Cooper.”

The recent funding round also draws backing from new angels: Thomas Hesse (former President of Sony Music), Andrej Henkler (10x Founders), Michele Attisani & Niccolo Maisto (Faceit), and Ryan Morrison (Evolved Talent/Morrisson Cooper), among others from the gaming, content creation, music, and television sectors.

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