Just say no

It is a glaring hypocrisy to bewail high crime rates in South Africa, and then go on smugly selling or buying illegal copies or fake items

These days one can not even mention on bidorbuy a certain three-letter abbreviation relating to hair styling without being asked to produce a stack of documents with all the pedigree details.

Many will welcome a more active approach regarding copyright infringements on the site. Some will find it annoying, and probably not only the people who have profited from selling and buying items associated with big brand names. After all, there is something in the human nature that makes us side with the small guy, and big brand names definitely do not fall into that category. Even people who would never dream of walking out of a shop with an unpaid Chappies bubble gum may find it morally acceptable to avail themselves of someone else’s intellectual property – be it a copyrighted photograph snatched form the Internet, a pirated DVD bought at the roadside, or a counterfeit label watch acquired at a downmarket stall.

And yet, all of that falls under the same category. The category of stealing. That is not some unfair by-product of globalisation, where the big and the powerful of this world make the small and the weak play by their rules. Big brand names did not get big just like that. Indeed, people go to astonishing lengths for the sake of making and maintaining a brand name. There are even reports of someone living with three girlfriends, at the same time! Be honest: would you be prepared to make such a sacrifice?

Seriously, it is a glaring hypocrisy to bewail high crime rates in South Africa – and then go on smugly selling or buying counterfeit, fake, or replica items. Consider this appeal posted by a seller on the bidorbuy forum: “Please people, next time you want to buy a (fake) brand item, don’t just turn a blind eye and think – oh, my single purchase won’t affect the economy. It is millions of people thinking like this that leads to the ruin of economies. Let’s support creators of original products and make it difficult for these thugs to make a living like parasites sucking off of other people’s creativity, sweat and hard work.”

Since not all of us have evolved to the point that makes the threat of punitive measures obsolete, it also helps to remind ourselves that consequences of copyright infringements can be very costly, for both the seller and the buyer.