NYC Arrests Stop Dead Chinese From Infringing

from the who's-being-harmed-here dept

While all too often we see people lump in "counterfeiting" with "copyright infringement" -- despite vast differences between the two -- there are some similar issues around each. One key one is how the consumer products and the luxury goods industry massively overstate the "losses" from such activities. The second issue is that there have been multiple studies that suggest many counterfeit good purchases are not substitutes at all. That is, the people buying them know full well that they're counterfeit. No one is being "tricked," and no one is being "harmed." In fact, counterfeit purchases are often aspirational, and studies have shown that people who buy counterfeits very often buy the real product at a later date. That suggests counterfeit sales can actually help the primary company in some cases (certainly not all).

But, now let's take this to an even more extreme situation. Police in Manhattan recently arrested a shopworker in Chinatown for selling certain "counterfeit" items, "including Louis Vuitton and Burberry handbags." Except... this wasn't just a case of selling cheaper versions of the real things, this was a case where the items were supposed to be fakes. That's because they were being sold at Fook On Sing Funeral Supplies, and they were cardboard objects designed specifically for traditional Chinese funerals, where it's customary to burn certain items as "symbolic gifts to the deceased." Rather than burn real goods, it's become a tradition to burn cardboard versions of the real goods.

So here's a simple question: how are these luxury companies being "harmed" here. No one could possibly "confuse" these cardboard versions for the real thing. There's no likelihood of confusion at all. The whole reason they're being bought is because they're cardboard fakes. I'm guessing that Louis Vuitton and Burberry would claim that this could hurt their licensing business or reputation or something, but I can't see how that makes any sense at all either. The whole thing just seems to be yet another case of these companies and law enforcement completely overreacting... and appearing culturally insensitive on top of that.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    fb39ca4 (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:06am

    This is just sad...

    A waste of time and resources that could be better put towards going after violent criminals.

     

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  2.  
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    Dave, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:08am

    from the who's-being-harmed-here dept

    I think there is no question of who is being harmed. It's the dead chinese relatives who are expecting to get some good "too bad you're dead" gifts and end up with cheap cardboard knock offs!

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:10am

    Re: This is just sad...

    Violent criminals are a symptom of an ill society, the resources would be better spent on education and alleviating poverty.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:14am

    And here I thought that "intellectual property" couldn't get any weirder and/or more complicated.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: This is just sad...

    Violent criminals are a symptom of an ill society


    Violent criminals are a symptom of rap music.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    Apparently, even the dead should now pay for the privilege of dying.

    Bizzaro world indeed

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:22am

    If I were dead and the only things my relatives sent me were cheap cardboard knock-offs, I'd be pretty upset. No, I wouldn't expect as much stuff as ancient Egyptian pharaohs got, but cardboard?? Really?

     

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  8.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:23am

    This still makes me ill to think about.

    But hey LV and Burberry now have uncovered a new market, they can put out cardboard copies of their products for half the price and corner the market on funeral supplies.

    *Insert snarky comment about how you'd think they'd care more about their sweatshop workers*

     

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  9.  
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    Hulser (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    So here's a simple question: how are these luxury companies being "harmed" here.

    I'm not saying that I agree with the tactics being used, but I can think of a way that the Luis Vuitton is being harmed. One could argue that even a moron in a hurry, seeing a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag, might reasonably assume that LV had authorized that product. "Don't be silly! LV would never sell cardboard cutouts to be used in funerals!" Exactly. And that's the harm to LV. They could be perceived as being part of an odd, if not morbid business practice.

    So, the fact that a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag is a kind of counterfeit is irrelevent. It's not about people being confused into thinking that a cutout is a real handbag. It's about people being confused about the use of a company trademark on a product in such a way as to imply endorsement by the company.

    Again, I don't think that any time should have gone into arresting funeral home employees. I'm just saying that on the Batshit-Crazy-Things-Done-By-Big-Companies-To-Protect-IP scale, this one ranks on the lower end.

     

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  10.  
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    crade (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Uh oh,

    Now even the fake paper luxury items for the qingming festival are getting replaced by virtual fake paper luxury items burned virtually on the internet!
    http://www1.china.org.cn/english/Life/164572.htm

    The plot thickens!

     

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  11.  
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    hmm (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    every sale

    every sale of a cardboard handbag is a lost sale.

    What? you didn't know that most spirits return to earth for unfinished business which is purchasing accessories for the afterlife? shame on you...shame on you all!

    I work out that due to this evil infringement there is $500 billion in lost handbag sales.

    I therefore propose a "handbag tax" which will tax everyone $5/month. To make this completely fair the tax will be levied on a 'per-hand' basis, so if you have 2 hands you pay $10/month but if you're lucky enough to have had both arms torn off by a bear then you pay nothing!

    I can't say fairer than that.

    Also there will be mass lawsuits. because handbags don't have IP addresses we can't use that, BUT (and it's a big but) the owners have REAL addresses. We shall compile a list of everyone who has an 'actual address' and offer to settle out of court for $2500.

    Once again this is 100% fair because the homeless will benefit by not being targetted for our shakedown (sorry court-based business model) so what could be fairer?

     

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  12.  
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    Beta (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    You've got the scope wrong. The dead Chinese relatives are harmed, in that from now in they'll get (cardboard effigies of) handbags less prestigious than Louis Vuitton and Burberry.

     

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  13.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    Trolling is a symptom of violent mental problems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    Re:

    Ignoring that cardboard is much more environmentally friendly, why spend shitloads of money with the dead when there are so many living that are in dire need of basic resources for surviving? That's one example where cultural traditions have adapted to the times. The Chinese are doing it right here.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    Maybe the logos on those cardboard cutouts should be blurred, like people's faces on Cheaters who didn't sign releases.

     

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  16.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:41am

    The IP holders probably have a technically correct argument. However, this is a classic case where bad things happen when lawyers are allowed to dictate business decisions.

     

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  17.  
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    Onnala (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:42am

    Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    It gets better though. Even if it isn't ligit and the company doesn't want something like that on the market, this is getting into the religious spectrum. Where things that are normally not allowed, can happen. Think about it this way, during prohibition, there were still vineyards making wine, a few, for the catholic church. Specifically used during their religious practice.

    So by extension... We will leave that question open.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:43am

    Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    Having just now learned of this cultural funerary practice, I would be inclined to think more highly of LV and Burberry for filling a niche demand, not "OMG, trademark infringement harming luxury goods companies!" And it's a sort of advertising as well: these folks thought so highly of these brands that they wanted to take them, however symbolically, into the great hereafter with them.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:46am

    Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    You are looking at it backwards. Seeing a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag at a Chinese funeral supply store, it would never occur to me that Luis Vuitton had anything to do with it.

     

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  20.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    ....they were cardboard objects designed specifically for traditional Chinese funerals, where it's customary to burn certain items as "symbolic gifts to the deceased." Rather than burn real goods, it's become a tradition to burn cardboard versions of the real goods.

    If they burned the real gifts then the EPA would be all over them for polluting the air with toxins and carcinogens and sue them for the HAZMAT clean-up.

     

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  21.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    The better question to ask is did LV & Burberry put them up to this or was this just NY cracking down on anything seen as infringing.

    It could be that LV & Burberry were completely aware of this and had not done anything about it because they aren't being hurt by something with such a tiny niche market that a majority of their customers would never come across, and those that did would be thankful to be able to give appropriate gifts to the deceased.

     

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  22.  
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    cc (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Fook the police.

     

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  23.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    And since the RIAA promotes rap music they create violent criminals and are, in turn, destroying society.

    Just prolonging the logic. =]

     

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  24.  
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    Hulser (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    I would be inclined to think more highly of LV and Burberry for filling a niche demand

    You might think that way, but to the kind of hyper-brand-aware executive who supports insane IP maximalism, any association with your product to death would be -- no pun intented -- brand suicide.

     

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  25.  
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    Hulser (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    Seeing a cardboard cutout of a LV handbag at a Chinese funeral supply store, it would never occur to me that Luis Vuitton had anything to do with it.

    I don't doubt what you're saying is true. My point is that there are plenty of other people out there that would think so, most probably people who aren't aware of the extremes that companies go to to "protect" their brand. It'd be interesting to see some real polling on this.

     

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  26.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re:

    >>The better question to ask is did LV & Burberry put them up to this or was this just NY cracking down on anything seen as infringing.

    I still consider the IP holders responsible. They are the ones who convinced the police to spend lots and lots of taxpayer money to enforce their private IP rights. If I whip a pit bull into a killing frenzy and turn it loose, then I am responsible for the consequences.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:05am

    Re:

    I would think that LV and Burberrys' marketing teams would see that this culture values their products over their competitors products. Kinda makes you wonder who's handbags the living members of this culture purchase?



    Also, isn't this part of the fashion industry, where the knockoffs are supporting the market for the high end stuff? This seems to be against the grain.



    Trademark can be used in many ways, one has to get the spin right. This isn't gonna help.

     

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  28.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:07am

    Re: every sale

    You're crazy. That's not fair at all. I propose a simple extra tax on funeral ceremonies and related goods; coffins, burial plots, cremation services, etc. The funds from this will be handled by a new collection society.

     

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  29.  
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    OC, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Now that you mention it...

    I never looked too closely at it before but after reading this I did... And my bag is actually just a piece of cardboard! That explains why I'm always losing my keys.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Funny enough, it is a little bit culturally insensitive to even sell the stuff to start with. It's a tacky commercial take on a traditional (and important) part of the way Chinese people mourn their dead and look out for them.

    the idea is to burn money so that it can reach them in "heaven", so they can have a good, comfortable after life. burning fake Gucci bags isn't exactly the tradition. It's just hucksterism in a material world.

    if the brand name logos are on the stuff, it isn't really a question of pirated goods, as much as use of trademarks and logos without permission, and implying that the companies support this stuff.

    Once again, Mike misses the point and tries to slam everyone except the real criminals.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    Up next the Department of the Treasury going after them for counterfeiting currency. The burning of fake money is also a part of this ceremony.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPWhIvQ2Q-U

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Getefix, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    My Cardboard Computer

    I hope that when my relatives burn my cardboard computer they don't put a crummy My-ghost-soft operating system on it, I'd much rather have U-boo-ntu installed.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    Your mom has violent mental problems.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    My name is Trolly McTrollerson and I approve this message.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Rich, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Re:

    I went to the afterlife and all I got was this cheap cardboard knock-off!

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Rich, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    Wow, you've insulted Mike AND someone's religion in one fell swoop. Good trolling, asshat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    xs (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    Don't talk about things you don't understand. It's indeed part of Chinese tradition to burn paper replicas during funeral. In the old days, they burn paper houses, paper horses and paper servants. Although LV bags are a recent addition, the tradition is very old.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    violent programs are totally mental. Like your mom.

     

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  39.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Be an honor

    It should be an honor, if anything, for those companies, that cardboard facsimiles of such items are being burned in honor of the deceased person. It symbolizes that such goods were important to that person, meaning it could serve as an impetus for the loved ones to go out and buy Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and other products, if only in honor of said deceased person. Basically, not only is this unproductive behavior by the companies, this is counterproductive.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Confusion over use of trademark, not over real or fake

    They need to fire that guy. ;)

    Trademarks are meant to protect the public first, so I agree with your polling suggestion below - who would think badly of the brand whether those cardboard copies are legit or not?

     

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  41.  
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    Your mom, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    like mother like child!

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Sorry, been to a few chinese funerals, never seem anyone burning LV bags.

    I should also point out that the title of the post is wrong, the dead people aren't infringing. It's the living that are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Hulser (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Be an honor

    It should be an honor, if anything, for those companies, that cardboard facsimiles of such items are being burned in honor of the deceased person.

    Louis Vuitton: What is this "honor" of which you speak? And more importantly, how do we monetize it?

     

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  44.  
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    Prashanth (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Be an honor

    That was pretty funny. What I meant to say was that it should be good for the company in terms of expanding business that the loved ones of the deceased are probably going to end up buying more real Louis Vuitton/Burberry/whatever goods upon seeing how important said goods were to said deceased person, in addition for it being an honor for said company. Still, LOL.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    No, no, no, rap music is a symptom of violent criminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    Re:

    It's the intentions that count.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: This is just sad...

    Not always some kinds of trolling actually help other keep a sharp mind because it encourages people to think and be sure of what they are saying.

    Some people come here to troll and think that taking the MAFIAA side is good, they could get some laughs out of it, but what they are really doing is training people to come up with responses hard questions since the trolls will most likely zero in on the hard questions of the debate.

    If they keep repeating and getting the same answers over and over again chances are that more people will see those same Q&A and be knowledgeable about it being more able to make up their own minds about the subject.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 27th, 2011 @ 2:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So from your tiny sample you have decided that this never happens.

    You understand there is life that happens outside of your bubble right?

    That even if you never saw it that there are people killed for shoes, watches, sunglasses, etc. every day.
    Because you have never seen it happen in the number of times you walked down the street does not mean it does not happen.

    There are many cultural differences around the world, and because you were asked to attend a funeral does not mean you were invited to all of the things the family did. That some things are done privately so that judgmental self centered people do not bother them about things they do not understand.

    And I can tell you knew you were on shaky ground, you tried to correct grammar rather than attempt to support your statement any more.

     

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  49.  
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    DogBreath, Aug 27th, 2011 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: every sale

    (some will say this is in bad taste, but it had to be said by someone)

    You forgot to add the new scam collection society's slogan, "It's for the dead children"

    Since the dead can't sue (but they sure can still vote), the new scam collection society will never have to pay anyone, and will just "hold on" to the money until the dead return one day to collect... or not.

     

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  50.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 28th, 2011 @ 4:50pm

    Counterfeit

    We've had the same thing come up in counterfeit currency investigations. Asian merchants copy real money and use it to burn at funerals. They're terrible copies and easily distinguishable from real currency but it still gets out into circulation anyway.

    We keep trying to tell these folks that they can't just copy money, that's is a serious crime, etc., but they don't listen.

     

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  51.  
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    mhenriday (profile), Aug 30th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Dead Chinese don't infringe

    Nothing odd here, Mike ; merely yet another attempt to extend US jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of the physical United States - now to the Chinese spirit world. Since the Chinese government may well regard this region as part of its own territory or, at the very least, a core interest, the Pentagon will of course have to beef up its bloated budget by a couple of extra thousand million USD (which the US economy can well afford) in order to meet the potential threat to its full-spectrum dominance....

    Henri

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    Confuse Individual, Sep 3rd, 2011 @ 5:39pm

    As I am half chinese myself, I got a bit more indept of the culture aspect of things... and of course I understand the value of 'copyright' as wel. But I doubt that those whoes follow the traditions would buy the real brand names goods and burn them as offerings. Honestly I doubt the owners of the said brands would bother with producing cardboard versios.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    hmm (profile), Sep 9th, 2011 @ 8:43am

    reverse it then

    They say that compromise makes the world go around.

    So with that in mind, I propose the following:

    The chinese have to buy GENUINE products.
    We burn LV and Burberry to the ground.

    (possibly throwing in a few RIAA execs, although I'm not sure if thats possible because shit doesn't burn)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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