As the negotiations over the ACTA treaty continue in secret, one of the more frustrating aspects is how defenders of ACTA repeatedly conflate "counterfeit goods" with "copyright infringement." Witness Senator Evan Bayh's nonsensical response
to being asked about ACTA, where it becomes clear quite quickly that he's unfamiliar with the most basic information on the subject. He switches back and forth between counterfeiting and copyright as if they're the same thing, and seems to think that any treaty on the matter must be good.
But, an even more annoying part of all this is the use of fear mongering over "counterfeit goods" as some huge problem that has to be solved, when the evidence increasingly suggests otherwise. The copyright lobbyists are using the cover of some mythical massive counterfeiting problem to push for unnecessary and potentially dangerous copyright law changes, but even the counterfeiting claims are suspect. In the past, we've noted that both the GAO
and the OECD
have noted that the "problem" of counterfeiting has been massively inflated by lobbyists.
And, a new study suggests that even the counterfeit goods that do get sold aren't really a huge problem to the original manufacturers
(thanks to Dave Barnes
for sending this in) -- if there a problem at all. In a study that was actually carried out by a former brand manager at LVMH, it was discovered that people don't view counterfeit goods as a substitute to the real goods. People aren't being tricked -- they know they're buying counterfeits, and others know that they have counterfeit goods as well:
"Consumers are a lot smarter than we may give them credit for -- just because you've got a nice fake doesn't mean you're going to get away with it."
But, even more importantly, it looks like counterfeit products often act as a stepping stone to get people to go forward and buy the original version:
"The counterfeit actually served as a placebo for brand attachment," she said. "People were becoming increasingly attached to the real brand even though they never possessed it at all."
Forty-six percent of the counterfeit-bag owners bought the authentic products within two and a half years, she said. Shoppers were willing to pay $786 for a real luxury bag....
So, for all the reports of "harm" done by counterfeit products, here's a study suggesting that it actually helps build brand loyalty, and appears to often lead to the counterfeit buyer later buying a massively expensive real offering in a relatively short time frame. As some are noting, this suggests that the counterfeit goods act as advertising for the real goods
. These are the sorts of things that would probably be useful to discuss with those negotiating ACTA. If only those discussions weren't all happening behind closed doors due to "national security" issues.