Whether fake Ferraris or sham aspirin, it’s important not to lose sight of counterfeiting’s true victims

March 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

At the fifth annual Harper’s Bazaar Anti-counterfeiting Summit in May 2009, attendees were abuzz about a particular item parked outside the Hearst Tower. Roped off and resting on a green carpet on 8th Avenue was a dazzling piece of automotive craftsmanship: a 1967 Ferrari P4.

Finished in that famous shade of red, the car was the vision of a true artisan, the perfect blend of engineering and elegance. It was the kind of vehicle you imagine cutting corners along the Amalfi Coast or snaking along the roads of the Tuscan countryside.

As it’s rumored that only one completely original version of the car still exists, it was a rare experience for car buffs and casual observers strolling between 56th and 57th streets. But because this beauty was part of the Anti-counterfeiting Summit, where everyone attending was committed to ending the sale of fake goods, the auto had to be flawed in some way.

There were comments about the hubcaps and the windscreen being counterfeit. The more refined eyes were able to detect a pair of phony wipers and sham taillights, but identified by themselves, these components only represented a fraction of a larger problem – the entire vehicle was fake. From the steering wheel to the tailpipe, there wasn’t an authentic piece of Ferrari engineering in the car.

When you think about what it took to build the fraud-o-mobile, it’s both striking and depressing. The project required a huge amount of time and effort, but it wasn’t the kind of sacrifice that should be admired or rewarded.

It isn’t flattery. It’s forgery. It’s the difference between a healthy relationship and a parasitic one.

As the Faux-rari shows us, counterfeiting continues to seep into every nook of the marketplace, including the realms we thought were too complicated to fake. By pushing their wares, the sham peddlers drain the life force of authentic craftspeople. They are able to do so not only because they are motivated and sinister, but because of the large appetite for cheap versions of coveted brands.

If we increase our understanding of the counterfeiting epidemic, we can reduce the appetite for sham goods. No matter how innocent it may seem, buying a fake just isn’t an option when you understand what’s required to produce it.

Don’t confuse the end product with what’s truly at stake. It’s an easy misstep to rank the dangers of certain counterfeit goods. While a bogus handbag might not seem as big a deal as a fake pill that contains none of its advertised active ingredients, we need to remember that this only considers the consumer’s point of view.

What about those who are truly abused by counterfeiting: humans forced to work in despicable conditions and children sold into these jobs who are later mangled by faulty machinery or broken by neglect?

We need to reorient ourselves. Let’s think less about what purchasing a fake does for us and, instead, consider the people hurt by these purchases. The consequences are bigger than a passing desire to find cheaper versions of things we love.

When human rights and creative vision are threatened, the stakes are just too high to obscure what’s really at stake.

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