Before the internet is was not easy to set up a fradulant photography business. Most serious enquires from prospective clients meant, that the print portfolio was dusted of, an appointment made and a face to face presentation given.
I have no doubt that some people showed clients some finished brochures or magazines that they had not shot but the prints in portfolios were hard to steal. To get good prints you needed to work from original negs or transparencies and it was almost impossible to get access to these if you were not the original shooter.
Now with the web, images can be stolen and offered as examples of a person work very easily. Also with the boom of digital cameras anyone can set themselves up as a photographer and have no real idea what they are doing.
It is obviously illegal to steal images as all images are copyright the moment they are created, but this fact will not stop some people from stealing images and claiming them as their own work to market their business.
Stopping this is not easy. Yes it is illegal but law enforcement is not going to get involved especially if the crime crosses borders. Employing a lawyer is expensive and the chances of reclaiming any costs are slim, as few of the fraudulent businesses have much in the way of assets, for the simple reason they are a fraudulent business.
A more effective way is name and shame and the power of SEO.
stopstealingphotos.com is the highest profile site outing photographic thieves today.
Originaly run as a blog but now with a URL and website it has been outing thieves for nearly two years.
The site and its owner have be successful in disrupting the businesses of fraudulent photographers by creating a web presence that becomes, by the powers of SEO, the number one listing on Google, if any potential client is searching for that company by name, the first result will be the first entry they find.
It would always be better if stealing did not happen, bit it will, and stopstealingphotos.com will be needed to out thieves.