Intellectual property theft is a crime that ranges from downloading pirated music and movies to purchasing counterfeit bags and jewelry to ordering “bargain” drugs from an online pharmaceutical company. The FBI says that intellectual property theft is, “robbing people of their ideas, inventions, and creative expressions.” Some of these ideas took years to find investors, to design, and to properly test to ensure consumer safety. While buying cheap, counterfeit goods might seem like a victimless crime, the effects of intellectual property theft have far reaching consequences.
According to ABC News reports, counterfeiting has become a one-trillion-dollar industry globally, and this has deprived governments of much needed tax revenue. The United States alone loses 250 billion dollars a year to various types of intellectual property theft, which results in the loss of 750,000 jobs nationally. In the music industry, the people who suffer the most from pirating are neither the musicians nor the companies. Instead, low- or mid-level employees, like song writers and sound designers, are left without a job because of sales that are lost to illegal downloads.
Intellectual property crimes can also fund more dangerous crimes and crime syndicates. BJA says that small counterfeit crimes, such as DVD pirating, generate cash for professional and semi-professional crime syndicates. Gangs often use counterfeit sales to fund other enterprises, such as drug smuggling, which leads to more violent crimes. Counterfeit sales can also fund terrorist networks or can be used to bribe government officials who overlook their use of child labor in factories.
Health and safety concerns also arise with counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. When ABC News tested fake makeup with the label of a popular brand, it found that lead levels were five times higher and copper levels were 20 times higher than allowed by the FDA, along with elements that cause cancer. Other counterfeit “bargain” drugs sold online or from dealers were found to be made of ground bricks, wax, and other harmful, indigestible materials. Counterfeit products that are not tested or regulated from baby bottles to kitchen appliances can be dangerous to the health of everyone who uses them.
For further information, make sure to check out the intellectual property campaign materials and resources at National Crime Prevention Council’s website at www.ncpc.org/topics/intellectual-property-theft. Join NCPC in educating the public on the consequences of intellectual property theft and counterfeit goods. Help us ensure that criminals do not profit from this crime.