There was an interesting story this morning on NPR about a lawsuit filed by Ray Teller of the Penn and Teller magic duo. He had registered the copyright for a magic trick (called Shadows) back in 1983, however another magician has misappropriated the secret and is not only using it on stage but offering to sell the secret of the trick to anyone willing to pay 3,000 dollars. Teller has filed a suit in US federal court to stop him.
Apparently even magicians can’t make copyright thieves disappear…
Counterfeiting has increased 10,000 percent in the last 20 years, roughly along the same timeline as the rise of both the internet and overseas manufacturing. Some shocking figures about counterfeit products from the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (www.iacc.org):
- Since 1982, the global trade in illegitimate goods has increased from $5.5 billion to approximately $600 billion annually.
- Approximately 5%-7% of the world trade is in counterfeit goods.
- Counterfeit products cost U.S. businesses $200 billion to $250 billion annually.
- U.S. companies suffer $9 billion in trade losses due to international copyright (IP) piracy.
- Counterfeit merchandise is directly responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs.
- The Food and Drug Administration estimates that counterfeit drugs account for 10% of all drugs sold in the United States.
- The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 2% of the 26 million airline parts installed each year are counterfeit, which equals approximately 520,000 parts.
- Hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide are known to have resulted from the use of counterfeit drugs, however the actual number may be many times that.
How is it possible that the counterfeit trade is heading toward a trillion dollars? Unfortunately the answer is relatively simple – demand. Consumers want cheaper goods, suppliers are willing to cut corners and all are willing to turn a blind eye to the problems that they are responsible for creating when they deal in counterfeits. Everyone laments the rampant copyright theft in today’s world but then they knowingly buy knock off purses, fake Rolexes and download music without paying for it. Every purchase or download perpetuates the problem.
It may seem like an insurmountable problem but every person can do their part. We decided long ago not to participate - we do not buy knock-offs or bootlegs, we do not download music that we did not pay for, we do not swap tunes with our friends and we do not understand how anyone who is in, or wants to be in, a business like licensing can justify doing it either. Our personal refusal may not stop that factory owner from stealing more designs, but someday everybody’s might…