Music, fashion losing the counterfeit battle

Music, fashion losing the counterfeit battle

New York: The entertainment and fashion industries are losing battles against pirated media and fake designer clothing, according to a report showing the number of US adults buying such goods rose 4% this year.

Illegal copies of songs, films, footwear and other items were purchased at least once in the past 12 months by 22% of adults, according to the study released by the US Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. The “steadily rising" figure compares with a rate of 18% last year and 13% in 2005, says the report.

The report, based on a Gallup survey of about 4,300 people, shows “consumers still don’t understand the broader implications of piracy," Chamber of Commerce IP director Caroline Joiner said in a phone interview. “They still think it’s a victimless crime."

Industry trade groups and government agencies have been trying to curtail piracy and counterfeiting though legal action and education, claiming such behavior costs the global economy billions of dollars each year. The chamber’s study suggests those efforts are having limited impact, at least among US adults.

The list of items acquired illegally was topped by pirated songs, with the number of adults who admitted to downloading them rising from 5.1% in 2005 to 9% this year, according to the study. The average offender downloaded 17 songs in the past year, it said.

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents US record labels, in the past four years has sued about 26,000 people who download music illegally, claiming pirated music costs the US economy $12.5 billion every year. Although piracy is rising, the recording association believes its legal campaign has made a difference.

“We’re not satisfied with the impact we’ve made so far, but had we done nothing, the situation would be exponentially worse," association spokesman Jonathan Lamy said, adding that piracy hasn’t been growing as fast as Internet access and capacity.

Pirated music was followed in the survey by counterfeit clothing, footwear and bags bearing phony designer trademarks, with the percentage of adults who buy such goods rising from 3.3% in 2005 to 6.2% in the past year.

Nike Inc., the world’s biggest shoe maker, is one of many apparel companies trying to stop sales of counterfeits. The company’s director of global issues, Vada Manager, said the results of the study prove that changing consumer habits is a slow process.

“We’ve always said a combination of prolonged education and enforcement is needed to get at the root of the issue," Manager said in a phone interview. “If this survey is done four or five years from now you’ll see more impact from education."

Pirated movies, downloaded from the Internet or bought on street corners, were the third-most-popular category of illegal purchases. The number of adults who admitted to buying such movies during the past year nearly doubled from 3.3% in 2006 to 6.2% this year, according to the study.

Almost 90% of those surveyed said they believed it should remain illegal to buy counterfeit products, meaning about 12% of US adults buy such goods even though they believe it’s wrong to do so.