Irresponsible Study Claims Counterfeiting Is A Good Thing

An adviser to the British Home Office has co-written a study claiming that counterfeit designer goods aren’t really that bad for the fashion industry, The Daily Mail reports. In fact, the study claims, counterfeit goods have less of a financial impact on the rag trade than we previously thought, and that selling fake Louis Vuitton Speedy 25s on the side of the road is really a good thing:

Professor David Wall, who co-authored the report and advises the [British] government on crime, said the real cost to the luxury goods industry could be one-fifth of previously calculated figures.
‘It’s probably even less,’ he said yesterday. ‘There is also evidence that it actually helps the brands, by quickening the fashion cycle and raising brand awareness.’
He added: ‘We should be focusing on the trade in counterfeit drugs, dodgy aircraft parts and other stuff that really causes public harm.

But that misguided pronouncement takes for granted that counterfeiting is an honest business that operates within the bounds of other legitimate enterprises. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The reason that counterfeiting is called counterfeiting is because it’s illegal, and for Wall or anyone else to say that it’s not as illegal as, say, the international trafficking of drugs, smacks highly of stupidity and snobbery.

Just because someone sells a low-rent copy of a high-end bag does not mean he or she is a nice person who’s interested in getting fashion on the cheap. It means he or she is engaged in a criminal activity that largely relies on child labor and seedy customs officials who are on the take. Making fake bags is just as bad as making fake currency, and it does serious damage to a multibillion dollar global industry that shoulders its fair share of our world’s economy. Why counterfeiting in fashion should be taken any less seriously than counterfeiting in the pharmaceutical industry, we’ll never understand.

In fact, when the good people at Harper’s Bazaar hosted a panel on anti-counterfeiting measures in May, they found that the business of counterfeiting supports terrorism, takes money away from hardworking people and can even be hazardous to your skin — a L’Oreal employee at the panel said we probably wouldn’t want to know what was in knockoff cosmetics.

To wit, industry insiders told The Daily Mail that counterfeiting really is bad for business:

A spokesman for Louis Vuitton said: ‘The sale of counterfeit goods is a serious offence whose revenue funds criminal organisations at the expense of consumers, companies and governments.’
A spokesman for Burberry said: ‘Counterfeiting is taken extremely seriously. Where a case is proved, Burberry will always push for the maximum penalty.’
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) insisted that far from making consumers happy faking fashion goods was ‘not a victimless crime’.
‘Businesses, individuals, and the public purse all suffer as a result of such activities,’ said a spokesman.

And we’re inclined to agree with comments like that from people who actually know something about the fashion industry. Wall himself has an impressive CV and has written a long list of books about crime and the Internet, but we were hard pressed to find evidence that he could tell Chanel from Chloe. So we’re gonna stick with the camp that says fake fashion really is a bad thing.

[The Daily Mail via NYMag]

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