“Would You Risk Her Life?”

The Toronto Star has been the home of several columns I've written over the past year that focus on counterfeiting and the need for a bit of perspective (overblown claims column, misleading RCMP data column).  I'm grateful for that venue and the paper's support for varying perspectives on the issue.  Over the weekend, the paper published a different perspective – a full, special section devoted to counterfeiting.

The section (which can be accessed via the conventional site or a cool, page turning technology) appears to have a single sponsor – the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network – as there are only three ads in the section, all from the CACN.  Those three ads are titled Would You Risk Her Life?, Counterfeit Products Fund Organized Crime, and Counterfeiting and Piracy Are a Rip-Off.  The articles expand on these themes as readers are told that:

  • Canada is a laughingstock internationally because of our weak anti-countefeiting laws
  • Canada ranks with Vietnam, Guatemala, and Thailand when it comes to harbouring criminals who rip off intellectual property
  • Counterfeiters are taking over world commerce
  • The facts seem irrefutable – while Canada is a small player in the international film industry, our country accounts for a disproportionately large share of the piracy problem
  • There have been no reports of deaths, but it could happen
  • “We are sacrificing the future of favour of $5 DVDs and $20 designer purses” (CRIA's Graham Henderson)
  • Counterfeiting has reached crisis proportions

Moreover, the articles claim that venture capital investment declines can be attributed to counterfeiting and that it is leading to lost sales, lost jobs, and lost tax revenues.  If you haven't seen it, I try to put these claims into perspective in this video.

Update:  The Torontoist provides an interesting contrast from the same day's paper. 


  1. Jerke Wadde says:

    I saw this section in Saturday’s paper, pointed it to my wife and said “hey look, they have a section for counterfeiters” and just laughed it off.

  2. Great…
    And my plan was to move to Canada if the ‘pubs take over the house, senate and white house again. Where am I supposed to go now? I thought it was the true north, FREE and strong??

  3. Century of Fakers says:

    Michael: What I don’t understand from your continued coverage of this subject is why these organizations and companies would push this agenda if there isn’t some truth to their claims? What benefit would it be to them to spend thousands of dollars lobbying their position if this problem doesn’t exist? Please explain.
    Oh, and explain how a Hamilton, Ont. pharmacy gave patients counterfeit heart medication if, as you say, counterfeiting isn\’t really a problem.

  4. @Century of Fakers

    I have never seen Michael claim that counterfeiting doesn’t exist. What he has said is:
    – the numbers that the industry throws around are highly suspect (for a number of reasons)
    – counterfeit DVDs are not the same problem as counterfeit pharmaceuticals
    – the proposed solution will likely not help
    – the proposed solution will likely have a negative impact to consumer rights in other areas.

  5. Serves them right!!
    I read something similar recently by the head of Gillette stating that most of the Gillette products including razor blades found on eBay are fake & are \”hurting the reputation of his company\”!
    All these multinational companies are moving their manufacturing from North America to China putting thousands of people out of work in the process to save money.
    Now they want OUR tax dollars to help them fight counterfeiting?
    THAT is the price you pay when you move your manufacturing to a country where corruption is rampant and rules are secondary in the quest for the almighty dollar!
    Suck it up, it\’s the price you pay, this wouldn\’t happen if your products were made in North America!!

  6. Michael Geist says:

    Responding to Century of Fakers
    Century of Fakers,

    Stacy provided a good response, but to build on it, I’ve never said counterfeiting is a non-issue. I’ve instead emphasized the need for perspective and the need to prioritize the real concerns associated with the issue. As I told a House of Commons committee, that means placing health and safety concerns above silly claims that fake handbags will lead to our economic ruin. It also means obtaining real data, rather than throwing out numbers that have no empirical basis.

    As for the Hamilton incident, yes, there have been a couple of terrible events. That said, bad drug interactions and misdiagnoses lead to far more deaths each year than does this issue. If we are going to prioritize health and safety, surely we should emphasize those issues that have the biggest negative impact and counterfeiting isn’t even close to being near the top.

    With regard to the benefits of lobbying for this, I would think it fairly obvious. First, it leads to expenditure of public funds for enforcement rather than private funds (ie. taxpayers pay for private benefits). Second, the emphasis on counterfeiting is quite clearly correlated to other legal reforms (see ACTA) that have nothing to do with counterfeiting but get attention under this broad umbrella.


  7. Martin Laplante says:

    I thought I would give the section a fair chance. Some of those articles are written by real journalists. But when I got to the one entitled “Hollywood films gold for modern-day pirates”, I gave up. “The facts seem irrefutable” says the article. It then proceeds to make self contradictory claims, which only seem irrefutable because the journalist never bothered to ask anyone to refute them, and not even to point out that previous issues of the same newspaper contained a different view of the facts.

    It talks about local police being helpless prior to the new law, and gives examples of how local police are now acting, but as far as I can tell the examples cited are under the old law. The Peel Police “Project Hollywood” that resulted in all those charges started long before the new federal law was there.

  8. Mickey Hickey says:

    Barriers to trade
    There are issues surrounding Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114 (CVMSS114) and its uses as a non tariff barrier to trade that irritates a good many Canadian car buyers. The forums on Red Flag Deals – Automotive Hot Deals, and search forums “import canada” hash it out in detail. Essentially the auto manufacturers (with some exceptions) are denying essential documentation to private importers and Transport Canada in order to protect their Canadian dealers from price competition.
    In a nutshell: CMVSS114 accepted FMVSS114 (US) and the equivalent European standard up until Sept 01 2007. In a process which began in 2003 (liberal era) CMVSS114 was amended and rewritten to incorporate an United Nations Safety Standard which was estimated to add $32 to the cost of each car. CMVSS114 is now being used by Auto Manufacturers to add $4,000 to $40,000 to the cost of each new car sold in Canada. The CMVSS114 can be amended by Order in Council to accept the existing FMVSS114 (US) and eliminate the non tariff trade barrier thereby causing Can/US prices for autos to narrow. This is quite clear cut and the cost to Canadians in one month is far more than the Gucci/Prada/Chanel would be over a century.