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.