A Sept. 4 Travel article suggested that readers go to Canal Street in New York to buy counterfeit designer merchandise. The article recommended that "Canal Street bargain hunters" visit designers' stores or check their merchandise online beforehand so as not to inadvertently purchase a counterfeit item that is not in the designer's line. Of course, such a fashion faux pas would be embarrassing for one trying to fool friends with the fake that he or she is hoping to pass off as the real thing. The article mentions that some of the items sold on Canal Street are stolen -- like the Cartier tank watch offered for sale by the vendor whose cousin "stole it from the UPS truck."
The article doesn't mention that buying counterfeit goods (CDs, DVDs, software, clothing, jewelry, handbags, etc.) supports a black-market economy that uses child labor and defective and often dangerous materials, and that deprives government of the tax revenue that legitimate businesses pay. Every dollar that a person puts into the hands of a street vendor selling counterfeit goods goes directly into his pocket. And money paid to vendors -- largely cash -- is known to profit organized criminals and terrorists. After all, these are no mom-and-pop operations we're talking about. These are sophisticated, criminal business organizations manufacturing goods abroad, shipping and distributing them into the United States, and selling them across the land through well-organized channels.
The global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods makes up about 7 percent of all global trade and costs legitimate rights-holders billions of dollars a year. Also, demand for counterfeit merchandise fuels the supply. The counterfeiters' success on our streets empowers and encourages them to create and distribute more dangerous products, such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, auto and airplane parts, batteries and baby food.
Surely there are better attractions to visit in New York and better places to spend one's hard-earned money.
-- Sherri L. Schornstein
The writer is a senior assistant U.S. attorney in the computer hacking and intellectual property unit at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District.