Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Our Shameless Society

In New York City this summer, my wife and I were walking through China Town with our two younger boys and marveled at the low prices being offered for expensive brand names. I'd heard about extensive counterfeiting, but was shocked to walk into a shop and see the counterfeiting being done in broad daylight. Yes, I know I'm naive! A woman in the back of the shop had been sewing oval D&G labels (Dolce and Gabbana, a hot Italian brand) onto purses. It was like they felt no need to hide their crime. Somehow, my camera accidentally went off while it was down at my side, capturing this shot.



My wife was approached by a woman to see if she'd like to buy one of their purses, with prices around $35 each. My wife said no. "Why not?" Very quietly, trying not to be offensive, my wife simply said, "Well, they're fake." The woman became indignant. In fact, she started yelling at my wife. "Of course they're fake!! You want a real one? You go uptown and pay $300." There was no shame. In fact, there was moral outrage and anger that someone would complain about these products being fakes.

This lack of shame for sin reflects a studied ignorance of right and wrong, coupled with the ubiquitous human sin of pride. Increasingly, we find that sins people should be ashamed of and keep hidden (if they refuse to repent) become "rights" to be trumpeted in public, with angry denunciations of those who question the propriety of the behavior. Those who practice and advocate sin become celebrities and are given platforms to share their message, while those who object are dismissed as intolerant nutcases. It takes more guidance than ever to maintain one's moral bearings in a world where right and wrong are no longer clearly distinct, but blurs on an ever spinning Wheel of Moral Fortune. Designed to look like every option wins, those who play that game will all be bankrupt in the end.

In the warped view of our Shameless Society, wy wife was the sinner for stating the obvious and not choosing to play the game. The following Christmas, of course, was a disappointment: no fake Rolex this year. What, I'm not worth $50?


Bonus photo (click to enlarge):



In the same strip of Chinatown shops was another one, shown above, with the sign, "We Make Name Belts." Not "sell," but "make." (Update: I wondered if they were advertising that they could "make" whatever brand name you wanted - but one commenter explained that they might just be advertising the ability to customize a belt buckle with your name.)

Bonus tip:

Speaking of fakes and counterfeits, how about that US dollar, now backed by little more than hope? The increasing pace of inflation, fueled by reckless printing of vast amounts of new money, is making the dollar worth less and less at a sickening pace. So what do you do? First, get your food storage built up. Wheat prices and nearly all staples have increased sharply and will continue to increase in the long term. Prepare for difficult times now and invest in food that will last. Commodities in general have increased by over 20% over the past year. And it's not going to stop.

Second, get a portion of your savings in silver. Call me crazy, but this is actually a gift to you if you act on this advice, slowly and sanely. Silver was around $7 an ounce 30 months ago when I began recommending it to people. Gold was around $450 an ounce, as I recall. Largely thanks to the steady devaluation of our dollar (and other currencies), coupled with a little increased awareness in the investor community, gold has since climbed to $970 an ounce and silver is at $19.80 an ounce. This may seem like such a sharp increase that it's time to sell rather than buy - and it may be that a 10 to 30% correction could occur in the next 6 months. I sure hope so! And if that happens, buy! But don't count on a large correction. For the long term, it's still cheap at current prices. Silver is the better deal, in my opinion, and is actually rarer than gold in terms of available bullion (it gets used up for industrial purposes, whereas the amount of available gold keeps increasing). So my advice to readers - the dedicated ones who have read all the way to the bottom of this post - take advantage of the currently cheap status of silver and make it a part of your portfolio. Get some of your 401k into a precious metals offering such as the SLV exchange-traded fund and get some of the actual metal stored away in a safe place. Don't count on your stocks and bonds to see you through the inflationary future we are facing.

65 comments:

Tracy Keeney said...

Isaiah 5:20 "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

I remember studying that scripture as a teenager in seminary, but I never realized how blatant it is until I got older. And that's the way it is with ALOT of things.
It's really very sad and disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Tracy beat me to the scripture but that was exactly what came to mind when reading this post. When it comes to right and wrong, we are in Bizarro world right now. Examples are abundant of evil is good and good is evil in our indeed, "shameless" society. P0rn, lying, cheating, stealing, are a few among the many vices now being touted as virtues. Thank Heavens for the Gospel to keep us all anchored in that which will bring lasting happiness.

Scott E.

Anonymous said...

The We Make Name Belt sign is hanging over a bunch of belt buckles. I always thought that those signs meant that they made name belt buckles (you know, belt buckles with the letters in your name cut out) - which they would actually have to make. I never thought it had to do with them saying they had name brand belts. I guess I could be wrong but I think my explanation makes more sense, although I really have no idea. I guess I'll have to check next time I'm in Chinatown.

A funnier picture would have been one of the signs advertising that they make IDs.

Dan said...

Heh, just this last week, shops like that one were raided by police. I guess someone got a little too greedy and the cops moved in. Canal Street has been cleaned out (at least partially) of the fake Gucci bags.

As for investing, I would invest in the Euro right now if I could. There's no need to make a rush on commodities. (I've read plenty of the mad dashes to gold in the 70s, and the price of gold is not anywhere near the same level today as it was back then).

Teranno4x4 said...

Hi Jeff,

"But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." ?

"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."


This is not just a local problem confined to an area in Chinatown NY, it also extends deep into the commerce and business sectors globally. The vein of evil and corruption being perpetrated is on the streets, in commercialism, government and every walk of society. Even those societies that seemingly have it all sorted in their peaceful habitats are having their 'idyll' transformed before their eyes under the branding of 'tourism' as the more wealthy seek for the undisturbed places of natural beauty on the earth.

What is the common focus - money and status and the automatic ability to purchase anything that is desired. It is a very negative infection that has spread through most westernised societies.

Two questions that immediately came to my mind without wanting to offend you or your family in any way (I do not sit in an ivory tower, as I have purchased fake / street traders goods myself previously - but wouldn't do it now) :

Would your wife have purchased the purse if it was an original at $35.00 ?

Why are you suggesting investing for the long term when as Christians, we are expecting Jesus coming soon, as we can see from the verse quoted above in Matthews gospel (ch 24) ?

Otherwise a very strong article, addressing some serious issues.

Teranno4x4

Mormanity said...

Thanks for the comments. Dan, I agree there's no need to make a rush into commodities, and also agree that we are a long way from the rush we saw once before when gold and silver skyrocketed. But that's precisely why now is a good time to move into commodities. When the rush begins - when brokers and financial advisers and local newspapers and your newspaper delivery person are all talking about precious metals and precious metal stocks, that's when it's time to get out fast. We're nowhere close to that.

There's one other difference compared to the last big climb in precious metals prices. In the 80s, the US Government had a billion plus ounces of silver that they could dump on the market to drive the price way down. They now have ZERO. Sold it all. And most Central Banks have surprisingly little real gold. Much of what they have on paper is no longer there, as GATA.org has ably demonstrated. And when the investment community realizes that, gold will skyrocket - and silver will be much stronger. It's more rare than gold in terms of available silver, though the investment community doesn't recognize that yet.

Get a position before the real rush begins. Just my two cents worth.

But food storage is even more important. Wheat - what a great investment!

Mormanity said...

The Euro has done well relative to the US dollar, but it's also a fiat currency that is being inflated at a crazy rate - over 10% a year. The commodities index in Euros has climbed 15% in the past year versus 30% in US dollars - but it's a sign of a weak currency in both cases. Central Banks cannot resist the temptation to create money out of nothing, giving politicians more via a hidden tax that makes all their subjects increasingly impoverished.

Anonymous said...

Awww shucks... phony bags in NYC? Say it ain't so.

The fact that you were shopping for fake bags lends hypocrisy to your blog.

Why didn't you call the police and let them know of this illegal operation? Instead, you blogged about it?

NM said...

Another passage, on top of Tray Keeny's is in Romans 1:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Paul's assessment of his society is still very much present in ours. There is nothing new under the sun; man (being fundamentally evil) always has and will always continue to exercise evil, it seems. Even Jesus said, "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"...

...ouch.

Hugh said...

It would be interesting to see what different cultures use as their criteria for determining what is right and what is wrong. After four months in China at the end of last year, it seemed the criteria for commercially copied goods was "If they're not going to crack down on it, how bad can it be? I'm just trying to make a living." I wonder if others have seen similar experiences with the Chinese, or if other cultures vary drastically from our American criteria of right versus wrong.

Anonymous said...

It's just the same with the Gospel. Don't except the imitations. Those who profess His name and then ask for your money to "forgive" you of your sins. Or those who state they are preachers or pastors of the Living Christ, when there is no unity of faith. Christianity is a shattered mirror with each piece professing to worship Him the correct way, when in fact they are just imitations.

Would it have mattered if she HAD bought the purse, if it was an original? If I sell you my kitchen table for less than the appraised price or the manufactured retail price, does it matter? Terrano it seems that you are trying to make a point, but what is the point? Paying the retail value of the purse? Or paying a discount price? Or are you professing your all too well known wisdom that is would be a sin to do so?

Catherine - said...

I don't get why people even want the purses, personally. They're not very attractive and I'll bet the finish on the counterfeits doesn't hold up well over time. A Filipina friend gave me a non-namebrand handicraft purse from the island of Mindanao which has been serving me well for over two years now.
Fashion is misanthropic. So many people spend way too much time and money on useless, unattractive, and even harmful accessories. Throw out the neckties (linked to glaucoma), the handbags ("hello, come rob me"), the high-heeled shoes (oh, but then the poor foot doctors would go out of business), and claim your freedom to dress for optimal movement, safety, and health.

dave d said...

T4x4,

I know of a family that fully expected the Second Coming of Christ to come as the year rolled over to 2000. They maxed out their credit cards enjoying life beforehand, expecting not to have to pay it back. Now they are swimming in debt. Since "no man knoweth the hour" of His coming, it pays to be prepared to live life during the ups and downs until He does arrive.

kuri said...

Counterfeiting a bag is a "crime" (by definition, since it's illegal), but why is it a "sin"?

Anonymous said...

kuri asks: "Counterfeiting a bag is a "crime" (by definition, since it's illegal), but why is it a "sin"?"


Thou shalt not steal.

kuri said...

Why is it theft? What have the bag counterfeiters taken away from anyone?

Frosome said...

Surely the extortionate pricing of brand labels and the very purchasing of them is sinful. Buying a genuine D&G bag for $300 is nothing but pride and materialism at it's worst.

Anonymous said...

It is a sin because it violates the law of the land. You're lying to customers by presenting a name brand when you know it isn't.

kuri said...

"It is a sin because it violates the law of the land."

Is it always a sin to break the law? Is the law of the land itself never sinful?

"You're lying to customers by presenting a name brand when you know it isn't."

They weren't lying in this case. They openly admitted that the bags were fake. And most customers already know that they're fake anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm from the Philippines and this thing is so commonplace here. No one is surprised, no one complains. Although the law prohibits piracy, it is almost never implemented. It is never illegal to buy pirated stuff though. I think the issue is, if you know it is pirated, would you buy it? Bags, shirts, DVDs, jeans, etc. I even saw "Work and the Glory" DVD (pirated) along the streets of Manila. I got it for less than a dollar. -sherwin

RWW said...

kuri, I've argued the case I think you're trying to make in the comments of past (very similar) posts, if you want to look back. But the short story is: Jeff, like many, makes his living in the "Intellectual Property" world, so don't be too surprised by the weird logic used to defend it.

kuri said...

RWW,
So I guess I shouldn't bother asking if the people who sell luxury products and refuse to allow anyone else to profit from them aren't the real sinners. ;)

Teranno4x4 said...

Dear Anon,

It wouldn't have mattered to me if Jeff's wife had bought a branded D&G purse and paid $35.00 or $300.00 .

The point that I am trying to make is that in Jeff's account the trader was obviously out to market her wares with a passion. It is logical to assume that she was not doiing it from love in her heart for her customers. Also it is logical to assume that she wanted to make some profit in the deal.

How many people do you know that would have a product valued at $300.00 and sell it in a market environment for $35.00 at little more than 10% of it's true value? Even it the goods were stolen, one would expect to pay more from such unscupulous characters.

The point I am making is that the excuse that Jeff's wife made, was very polite under the circumstances that obviously bordered on harrassment and it was probably an honest reply made on the 'spur of the moment'. My question simply was what if the purses were not fake ? Would there have been a different excuse or would money have changed hands to have a nice little 'accessory' .... ?

At both extremes of the commercial fashions, named brands and cheap fakes - I like Catherine's comment and also Kuri's challenge to think about the connection of crime and the sin. China is very much to blame for supporting our commercial world. People literally queueing (60 long sometimes) outside the factories, just waiting for one inside to underperform and be ejected, so that they have the opportunity to fill the vacancy. The pay there is lousy, but still the lure to the cities is too great and pulling the farmers and labourers from their remote villages in search of the filthy lucre. The fact is that the pay is not much greater than they would have earned in their original capacities and yet they still queue!

I feel sorry for the producer's of the copied fakes, as they are trying to step into western culture with their talents. They are just harnessing it in the wrong way, with the focus on the quick easy buck.

I also feel sorry for the manufacturers of all the fashion brands that market exclusively for one end of society's wealthy spectrum, making huge profit margins on minimum sales. Those that 'have' readily buy into this madness for status and recognition. This too is temporary and artificial, with a new 'accessory' warranting a replacement in probably a few weeks.

All in all it is aptly summarised in Ecclesiastes : "All is vanity".

We should all be ashamed for supporting and upholding individuals and a society that is condusive to such a record as this topic has created. Fair goods at fair prices, from factories where there is no exploitation. Where can this be found in the world today?

Teranno4x4

Teranno4x4 said...

Dear Dave D,

Is our focus as Christians looking for the Second Coming, or are we buying into securing our kingdome here on earth ?

Of course it is necessary to harvest for times of famine and not live hand to mouth. But also there is the call to be good stewards of money, family and churchlife, that is not illustrated by the actions of your friends? True Christians or selfish materialists ? If they really believed that Jesus was coming at the time that they stated, then how many of the goods maxed up in their credit cards could they have taken to heaven ? None of them.

Storing up treasures on earth is not a good move, whether in property, investments or businesses. They are likely to take over and dictate one's time so that God is not glorified in one's actions. Remember that God also wants to demonstrate action in one's life. If one has all the bases covered over the long term, where can He perform ?

Spiritual discernment for a healthy balance is absolutely necessary, just as one wouldn't choose to gorge out on 5 Big Macx, just because one had a long road trip ahead of oneself. Just as one wouldn't stick them all in the glove box either to be eaten only when desperate for food. One would plan accurately over the medium term how the 'healthy' meals (not big macx) would be spaced and purchased fresh.

Teranno4x4

Anonymous said...

I always love these blogs. Having my name removed from the church as a 30 year convert because of the criminal acts against my family, friends and I, it always gives me a thrill to see the Mormons worry so about how the rest of the world is doing. If they wanted to stop this or many other criminal activities the could. I think the Mormons like most groups should worry more about their own house rather than always keeping their eye out for evil around the world.

Teranno4x4 said...

Anon 5:42 AM, March 04, 2008,

Maybe you are right about the mormons - I don't know because I am not one.

I keep my house in order, but I also agree with Jeff that the decline of society can also be correllated to personal greed.

Does the word 'covet' come into question here too ?

I would like to know why criminal activity was brought against you, friends and family by your church though ? Sure this is evil, if true.

J said...

Anon @ 5:42

Got caught, didja?

Darion Alexander said...

Jeff and others,

yes, this is terrible that people do this, but there are two ways to view this. On the consumer side, it's a great deal, because the fact that the brand name companies charge such outrageous prices for products made in sweat shops, where the actual employees making these purses and such receive pennies back for their work, we are making a statement that we will not assist them in slavery.

on the flip side, the seller of the fakes understands this and is trying to make a buck. Who knows where that money goes? Does it go to their own families to pay for food and shelter? Drugs? Alcohol? Clothing for their children? Who are we to say where the money goes. Before we are so quick to judge we should try to see it from different points of view.

"He was Anakin...and he was Darth Vader...from a certain point of view."

Get One Free - While Supplies Last said...

Ternno, three comments in a row? Is this going to become another "It's the Teranno Show!" page?

Anonymous said...

Sewing a brand name tag onto a cheap bag you bought somewhere else and trying to pass it off as the real deal isn't lying? You think these people openly admit these are fake bags to every potential customer?

The excuses people will make up...

Mormanity said...

Kuri and RWW, you don't see the problem in falsely using someone's brand identity?

So I don't waste time explaining and arguing for things you may already understand, let me check where are. Common ground, you know? So let me know if you think any of the following is wrong:

A) Making $20 counterfeit bills and using them at Taco Bell.

B) Using counterfeit $20 bills that I know are fake but others are willing to accept as legitimate.

C) Selling brand name prescription drugs that were actually made by someone other than the listed pharmaceutical company, yet are probably just as good.

D) Selling fake prescription drugs that are actually just placebos.

E) Selling an oil painting that actually belongs to my neighbor (I borrowed from his home while he was sleeping).

F) Selling a print of my neighbor's amazing oil painting that he made for his private enjoyment - one that I photographed while he was sleeping.

G) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a skilled counterfeiter, one that fools many experts.

H) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a clumsy counterfeiter, one who fools only very naive customers.

I) Making and selling unauthorized DVD reproductions of a major Hollywood new release that cost $40 million to produce.

J) Making and selling unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo.

K) Making and giving away unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo, contrary to the will of the musician and his producers.

L) Publishing your neighbor's Social Security Number, birthdate, mother's maiden name, and name of the bank where she has her checking account.

I suspect that at least a couple of these will get a solid thumbs down vote from you, which is good - but I'm not sure. So which ones do you disapprove of?

Mormanity said...

I fear that a couple of you don't see the problem in falsely using someone's brand identity.

So I don't waste time explaining and arguing for things you may already understand, let me check where are. Common ground, you know? So let me know if you think any of the following is wrong:

A) Making $20 counterfeit bills and using them at Taco Bell.

B) Using counterfeit $20 bills that I know are fake but others are willing to accept as legitimate.

C) Selling brand name prescription drugs that were actually made by someone other than the listed pharmaceutical company, yet are probably just as good.

D) Selling fake prescription drugs that are actually just placebos.

E) Selling an oil painting that actually belongs to my neighbor (I borrowed from his home while he was sleeping).

F) Selling a print of my neighbor's amazing oil painting that he made for his private enjoyment - one that I photographed while he was sleeping.

G) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a skilled counterfeiter, one that fools many experts.

H) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a clumsy counterfeiter, one who fools only very naive customers.

I) Making and selling unauthorized DVD reproductions of a major Hollywood new release that cost $40 million to produce.

J) Making and selling unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo.

K) Making and giving away unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo, contrary to the will of the musician and his producers.

L) Publishing your neighbor's Social Security Number, birthdate, mother's maiden name, and name of the bank where she has her checking account.

I suspect that at least a couple of these will get a solid thumbs down vote from you, which is good - but I'm not sure. So which ones do you disapprove of?

If you disapprove of all or nearly all, then we have some good common ground. If not, we may need to address some fundamental issues. To facilitate that, I'll need just a bit of information pertaining to your personal identity (SSN, bank account info, driver's license number, date of birth, mother's maiden name, basic account info and passwords, etc. - just for security purposes, you know).

Mormanity said...

Oh, a couple more:

M) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is much smarter than me.

N) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is not much smarter than me.

O) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is a total moron.

P) Giving a speech that I claim I wrote myself when most of it has been secretly borrowed from an obscure speech someone else gave.

Roxy said...

Jeff, I couldn't help but chuckle because of the name you gave the LDS rapper. Iced Mo..lol...too funny!

But in all seriousness, I do understand what you've been trying to explain. My family used to buy unauthorized DVDs becuase obviously they are cheaper and they still do.

I've tryed to explain to them why I think it's wrong, but they just don't seem to understand. Maybe I'll show them this blog:)

I live next to Newark in New Jersey and downtown on a busy street they sell alot of things you would need and want; from clothes, shoes, jewelry, cds, dvds, and I can go on and on. The problem is almost everything that they are selling on the sidewalks are fake.

I can buy all those things at a cheaper price and know that it's not counterfeit. I always keep my eye out for the items that are on sale. Its really so much simple that way. I don't mind waiting until it is on sale either. I rather enjoy my shopping days without having that guilty feeling. But thats just me.

Most of the time you get a better deal too. Buy one get the other free or half off and so on and so forth. But that is just my opnion.

kuri said...

"Sewing a brand name tag onto a cheap bag you bought somewhere else and trying to pass it off as the real deal isn't lying?"

It's a real bag with real letters on it, sold at a reasonable price to people who can't afford the "real" bags anyway. Who exactly is hurt by it?

"You think these people openly admit these are fake bags to every potential customer?"

The fact that they don't try to hide it was kind of the point of the post, wasn't it?

kuri said...

"Kuri and RWW, you don't see the problem in falsely using someone's brand identity?"

In the case of luxury goods, it's a noble act of subversion.

A) Making $20 counterfeit bills and using them at Taco Bell.
Since Taco Bell is poisoning the world with its "food," this is another noble act of subversion.

B) Using counterfeit $20 bills that I know are fake but others are willing to accept as legitimate.
Depends where you use them.

C) Selling brand name prescription drugs that were actually made by someone other than the listed pharmaceutical company, yet are probably just as good.
"Just as good" or "probably just as good"?

D) Selling fake prescription drugs that are actually just placebos.
You mean like SSRIs?

E) Selling an oil painting that actually belongs to my neighbor (I borrowed from his home while he was sleeping).
That's theft -- you take his painting and he doesn't have it anymore.

F) Selling a print of my neighbor's amazing oil painting that he made for his private enjoyment - one that I photographed while he was sleeping.
Using a person's stuff without permission is uncool.

G) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a skilled counterfeiter, one that fools many experts.
If you never say it's a Van Gogh, no problem.

H) Selling a Van Gogh "original" that I know was made by a clumsy counterfeiter, one who fools only very naive customers.
Ditto.

I) Making and selling unauthorized DVD reproductions of a major Hollywood new release that cost $40 million to produce.
Profiting off artists without permission is uncool.

J) Making and selling unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo.
Ditto.

K) Making and giving away unauthorized CDs burned from a friend's CD of that hot new LDS rapper, Iced Mo, contrary to the will of the musician and his producers.
Not a problem.

L) Publishing your neighbor's Social Security Number, birthdate, mother's maiden name, and name of the bank where she has her checking account.
There's no legitimate reason to do that.

kuri said...

M) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is much smarter than me.
Bad -- it prevents you from learning.

N) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is not much smarter than me.
Ditto.

O) Copying answers during a college exam from a person sitting next to me who is a total moron.
Ditto.

P) Giving a speech that I claim I wrote myself when most of it has been secretly borrowed from an obscure speech someone else gave.
That would be quite bad. OTOH, giving a speech while making no particular claims about having written it when much of it was borrowed from a friend's speech with his express permission and forgetting to credit him until reminded of it is slightly bad. One should always give credit where due.

Mormanity said...

So Kuri, you agree that "Using a person's stuff without permission is uncool." So what about brands? Suppose I sell my entire Howard Stern Celebrity Skeet collection and start a business selling "Mormanity" hot dogs and they become very popular, thanks to all the work I put into building the brand, including tons of advertising, expensive art work for my packaging, buying celebrity endorsements ($20k to LDS rapper Iced Mo to say, "Yo, Mormanity, That's My Main Dawg!"). People get in line to buy Mormanity Dogs. And then you come along and cash in on my work and name, repackaging trashy hot dogs as Mormanity Dogs in my packaging and with my logos. You sell them for half the price cause you've got no overhead, no advertising budget, no trademarks to pay for, no artists to pay, no celebrities to pay for - just pure profit. Harm done? Yes - people start talking about the pieces of bone and hair they found in their grisly (fake) Mormanity hot dog. People who would have bought my hot dogs buy yours at half the price, and I may end up going out of business because I couldn't compete against the fakes and can't repair the harm to my brand's reputation as well from the fakes. You are stealing my intellectual assets: the brand name I have developed at great expense, the trademark I have paid for and registered to show that I don't want people using my stuff without my permission, the unique style of packaging that took a lot of work and expense to develop. You come along and steal all that - art and a brand name and trademarks that I created, my stuff - and claim it is a noble subversion because my hot dogs are too expensive.

How can you say it is wrong to use a person's stuff without permission, and not recognize that using a brand name, using unique art work someone else developed, using music they created, using software they created, without their permission, is theft?

My good friend Iced Mo says: You steal my man's dawgs, and you gotta mess wid me.

The moral: I never should have sold that Howard Stern Celebrity Skeet collection.

Mormanity said...

I'm glad you like the name Iced Mo, and am sure you'll love the music. I hope you will buy a ton of his CDs - one for each counterfeiter in your life. Can't wait for the Website IcedMo.com to come out. For now, it's just being parked at his favorite LDS site. But stay tuned.

kuri said...

"You come along and steal all that - art and a brand name and trademarks that I created, my stuff - and claim it is a noble subversion because my hot dogs are too expensive."

Yup. You're ripping people off with your $300 hot dogs that have little if any intrinsic value above that of $3 dogs, you're contributing to a culture of brazen luxury while millions starve, you're inciting envy in people who can't afford them -- the list of evil things you're doing goes on and on. People like you destroy entire civilizations. You deserve to be driven out of business.

colleeeen said...

um, kuri - with his big, brand-name hot dog empire, he's probably also helping to supply other people with jobs. advertising jobs, office support jobs, distribution jobs, retail jobs... the list goes on.

the $35 purses are sewn in sweatshops. i guarantee you. the $300 purses are generally sewn in Italy or at least places with slightly better labor laws. you people who buy the cheapest stuff possible are the problem - the pollution from the manufacture of the cheap PVC vinyl, the pollution from the nasty, filthy ships that bring the counterfeit goods overseas from Asia (which is notorious for hosting gross polluter ships), the cargo containers from Asia that just keep getting stacked up here with absolutely no plan for what to do with them once they're emptied...

it's people like YOU that do damage to civilization. if you're too cheap to but quality goods made by respectable companies, or too proud to buy secondhand quality goods, then YOU are the one who is inflicting harm. your provocative revolutionary "subversion" is just an excuse to go on doing thoughtless harm. try being a REAL subversive - put your money where your mouth is. i hope that you're being provocative just for the thrill of it, ad that you don't seriously mean that selectively supporting ethically, legally run businesses "ruins civilizations."

kuri said...

Save the planet -- consume conspicuously! lol

kuri said...

Oh, and by the way.

colleeeen said...

save the planet - consume ethically.

i'm not saying you have to buy a flashy $1500 fendi purse. that's ridiculous. but for heaven's sake, buy a purse that was made ethically and won't fall apart in a year. if you want to say that buying quality = conspicuous consumption then that's your issue. but don't dress up counterfeiting as some sort of noble effort to undermine the bourgeoisie. you're doing all the same harm.

and thanks for the link. that's extra-depressing. oh well, i was never going to buy Dolce & Gabbana anyway and i wasn't exactly holding them up as a shining example of ethics. I prefer secondhand, or supporting companies that manufacture goods in my own country (less pollution and energy waste that way) or who make sincere attempts to minimize their impact.

please go ahead and mock my valid points with more pithy one-liners. then please think beyond your rhetoric.

kuri said...

If you're like most women in developed countries, you already have many more bags than you can possibly wear out in your lifetime. The only "ethical" way to consume in that situation is to not buy any more bags. Otherwise, you're just part of the problem.

Andrew Miller said...

Jeff,

I just wanted to point out that the last 4-5 links on your "other blogs" links don't seem to work (at least with firefox?)

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Real letters on a real bag? That's the best you got? So because nobody is hurt, it's perfectly fine? Lying is fine if no one suffers?

They slap a brand name on that bag, claim it is made by such when it isn't, that's lying. There's no fancy explanation, it's lying. Plus, if everyone knows the bags are fake, why slap that brand name on it in the first place? For kicks?

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with someone making handbags and selling them on the street for a cheap price; I have no problem with that at all. However, when they sew on brand names in order to sell them, that's where the problem is. If everyone knows they're fake, then they should have no problem removing the name brand and just selling them like they are. They shouldn't have to resort to dishonest practices.

kuri said...

I still don't see why it's a lie if they're not trying to deceive anyone. They don't claim it's a D&G bag, they just claim it's a bag with a label that says "D&G." Which it is.

Mormanity said...

So Kuri, are you saying that it's up to you to decide when you think something is too expensive and thus can be ripped off?

I didn't say I was charging $300 for Mormanity hot dogs. But they would probably cost more than the lowest quality versions counterfeiters might use. You're saying it's ethical to rip off my brand and my business because you think I'm making too much money? That's crooked.

So one day, if I decide you are asking way too much for the publishing rights for your movie, book, or paintings, can I rip it off and feel noble?

Kuri, step back and think about this issue. You're advocating theft as some kind of right, as noble subversion. When it's just theft.

Mormanity said...

And Kuri, the fact that the sellers of the purses don't try to hide the fact that they are fake doesn't mean that there isn't lying and deception. The value to the user is the appearance of an expensive, trendy purse or other article. The buyer knows it's fake, but the lie is in the image created by the good. The buyer and the seller are both participants in a lie and an act of theft that truly is at the expense of the rightful owner of the brand.

If I sell you a counterfeit $20 for $5, you and I both know it's fake - but if I'm going to use that bill for my gain in public, then you aren't exonerated. It's theft.

RWW said...

Sorry I've been away for a few days, out of town and short on time. I would just like to note that on the question of intellectual property, I'm less interested in what is right and wrong than what should be legal and illegal. Clearly that's not the same thing -- at least, I hope we're clear on the fact that many or most things that are wrong should nevertheless be legal.

As a great man (who happened to be a Prophet but wasn't speaking as such at the time) once said,

An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so?

Suppose I start making socks with a nice little RWW logo on the side, and they really catch on and bring me a lot of income. But then some guy down the street decides to make lower-quality "RWW" look-alike socks for people that want to be like the cool kids. Do I have the right to take my gun and demand that he stop, at the threat of force?

Of course, if that other guy has somehow fooled his customers into thinking they were buying RWW socks, they have the right to demand recompense.

The government does not have any right beyond those of its citizens. If you believe it does, then there's no further room for discourse because we disagree fundamentally. On the other hand, you may believe that I have the right to threaten my neighbor with a gun for copying my ideas; I don't share that belief, but at least it wouldn't be such a basic, irreconcilable disagreement.

kuri said...

"So Kuri, are you saying that it's up to you to decide when you think something is too expensive and thus can be ripped off?"

No, because A) D&G isn't actually being ripped off and B) I'm only saying they deserve to have their brand undermined anyway.

"You're saying it's ethical to rip off my brand and my business because you think I'm making too much money? That's crooked."

I'm saying it's much more crooked for a company to incite greed and pride in order to sell useless products at grossly inflated prices the way D&G does. And I think it's ironic, not crooked, when that greed and selfishness comes back and bites companies like D&G in the butt. And I think it's crooked that companies like that can bring the power of the state to bear in an attempt to protect them from reaping what they sow.

"You're advocating theft as some kind of right, as noble subversion."

Subverting companies like D&G through any means short of injuring living beings is noble. That would include theft, if anything were actually being stolen from them.

kuri said...

"...the lie is in the image created by the good."

Exactly. D&G has created the lie that its bags are worth thousands of dollars.

"The buyer and the seller are both participants in a lie and an act of theft that truly is at the expense of the rightful owner of the brand."

If the buyer and seller are participants in a lie, they're participants in a lie that D&G has created. Since D&G -- people and companies like them -- have money, they have the power to get their lies protected by law and given pretty names like "intellectual property rights." But all they're really doing is saying, "It's our lie, not yours, and we're not gonna share it."

Mormanity said...

Kuri, are you saying that if you don't like the price someone is asking for their property, you can call it a "lie" and steal it?? I'm really troubled by this worldview. Start a business someday and let me know how things go. And let me know when you're about to sell your car or home, so I can decide if I think your price is some kind of lie. PLease reconsider.

RWW, you've given a strawman example that doesn't fly. Look back to my hotdog example for a more realistic case. IP law is intended to reflect actual property rights in the manner you described. I'm not an attorney, but I would suggest that for trademarks and tradedress, the Lanham Act indeed focuses on the issue of confusion. Just putting a D&G on a label is probaly not going to cause confusion. But when everything is done to make it look just like the D&G product - font, color, size, type of metal, type of purse, etc., to create confusion in the minds of others, then we have a problem.

Mormanity said...

Regarding the Lanham Act, here is some of the text of the law:

§ 1114. Remedies; infringement; innocent infringement by printers and publishers

(1) Any person who shall, without the consent of the registrant—
(a) use in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive; or
(b) reproduce, counterfeit, copy, or colorably imitate a registered mark and apply such reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation to labels, signs, prints, packages, wrappers, receptacles or advertisements intended to be used in commerce upon or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of goods or services on or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive,
shall be liable in a civil action by the registrant for the remedies hereinafter provided. Under subsection (b) hereof, the registrant shall not be entitled to recover profits or damages unless the acts have been committed with knowledge that such imitation is intended to be used to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.

So in your scenario, it would seem that just having "RWW" on a sock isn't a violation of the law - assuming you obtained trademark registration for your mark - unless it is done in a way that is clearly intended to deceive or confuse others.

D&G on a purse in, say, Comic Sans font and on a blue denim patch would not confuse or deceive. But complete reproductions of their purses and labels do confuse and deceive - which is why people want to buy them who know they are fakes, and why some people buy them who aren't smart enough to know they are fakes. And whether you are deceived or just looking for a cheap way to deceive others yourself, the use of D&G's registered marks and designs is a morally wrong act of theft against them, whether I like them or not, whether I think they are charging too much or not, whether I think they have good labor practices or not.

Mormanity said...

Kuri said: "Subverting companies like D&G through any means short of injuring living beings is noble. That would include theft, if anything were actually being stolen from them."

I'm just in shock. You propose anarchy. Anything goes as long as you can find some reason you don't like a company or another person, as long as you maintain the fiction that you haven't "injured living persons" - as if stealing and the economic harm it causes to employees, owners, stockholders, partners, suppliers, and their families is acceptable because it's just a company you're ripping off, not "living persons." Kuri, theft is wrong whether it's robbing a little old lady on the street or the shop she owns or the company her husband works for. People are injured - even if we don't like the people and their products.

RWW said...

So in your scenario, it would seem that just having "RWW" on a sock isn't a violation of the law... unless it is done in a way that is clearly intended to deceive or confuse others.

If I wasn't clear, in my scenario, the guy down the street is making socks that look exactly like the ones I designed that have become so popular. Now, do I have the right to arm myself and threaten him in order to make him stop?

RWW said...

Also, although it should be clear, in my scenario (just as in real life), the other guy isn't fooling his customers.

Mormanity said...

If the other guy ISN'T trying to deceive his customer, and there is no clear basis for confusion, then I don't think you would have any cause to consider stopping him, though what he is doing isn't very neighborly. And as I understand it, the law (Lanham Act, etc.) would not give you any right to take action, either. The law does not give you the right to stop him. The law requires that there be deceptive intent and a basis for causing confusion in the minds of potential customers, as I understand it. Further, even if there was the potential for confusion, the law does not provide protection for that which is generic, part of the public domain, trivial, etc. If they are ordinary socks with an ordinary embroidered initials that are part of the public domain, it's unlikely that you would have been able to get a trademark in the first place and have a case for unique, proprietary mark. Depends on the details. But trademark or not, if there's no confusion and intent to deceive or confuse, there's no case. The law in this area is based on the very type of personal rights you talk about.

Let's clarify things by making your example less trivial. Instead of just common initials, what if what you are selling involves creative artwork that you came up with. Perhaps you have an embroidered graphic of a painting you created and it provides a distinctive, uniques, and beautiful aesthetic element to your socks. Now if your neighbor takes your artwork and deceptively reproduces it on his socks and sells them as if they were your RWW Artistic Series Style Socks, and this causes others to think they are your socks, then you'd have a right to march down the street and ask him to stop. Wouldn't you?

Your artwork, your creation, your brand, and someone is selling it as if it's from you. Customers are deceived and your work and investment is being stolen, turning into a big loss on your books while he profits from your work and sacrifice. Would you really put up with that? Or would you, like kuri, celebrate the theft of your work as "noble subversion" and congratulate your deceptive competitor for helping the little guy get cool socks at a price that is less of a "lie"?

If you had a Website and someone copied one of your Webpages completely and posted it as their own and used it to generate traffic and revenue for themselves, wouldn't you be ticked? That's happened to me several times, and I've been ticked. I don't see that gives me any right to march around with a gun as you state in your strawman example, but I did ask them to stop. And in some cases, I have asked their providers to remove my material when it was clearly stolen. I usually grant permission to people who ask for the rights to use portions of my stuff and even some photos, but I am ticked when it is taken and used improperly.

RWW said...

Now if your neighbor takes your artwork and deceptively reproduces it on his socks and sells them as if they were your RWW Artistic Series Style Socks, and this causes others to think they are your socks, then you'd have a right to march down the street and ask him to stop. Wouldn't you?

If he is deceiving his customers, they have a right to compensation for the fraud. And I, of course, have a right to point it out to them.


Customers are deceived and your work and investment is being stolen, turning into a big loss on your books while he profits from your work and sacrifice.

It's a loss to me only if, had the customers known, they would have purchased the socks from me.


If you had a Website and someone copied one of your Webpages completely and posted it as their own and used it to generate traffic and revenue for themselves, wouldn't you be ticked? That's happened to me several times, and I've been ticked. I don't see that gives me any right to march around with a gun as you state in your strawman example...

I've noticed that you like to use that word, but you don't seem to know what it means. Do you, or do you not, support trademark laws? And are those not enforced by the police? And if I don't comply with them, will guns not be drawn on me?

I mentioned the hypothetical gun only to make it clear that I wasn't simply asking the other guy to stop, but demanding it under threat of force. As Ezra Taft Benson said (again, not speaking as Prophet), "I realize that when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the police -- the government -- to take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessary -- yes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jail -- to overcome such resistance."

Incidentally, the answer to your question is yes, I'd be upset because that's tacky. Just as I'd be upset if someone stole my joke, or told a story that happened to me as if it had happened to them, etc. If their provider had a policy against it, I'd inform them of the violation.

RWW said...

(By the way, I'd like it if you wouldn't conflate me with kuri, who seems to be a raving anticapitalist.)

Mormanity said...

Sorry, RWW! I guess I did group you with kuri after your sympathetic response to him: "kuri, I've argued the case I think you're trying to make . . . Jeff, like many, makes his living in the "Intellectual Property" world, so don't be too surprised by the weird logic used to defend it."

So I assumed you were lined up with, trying to make the same case. But there are differences, I agree.

RWW, I used the word strawman because you took an extreme example where IP laws might not even apply (an ordinary sock with some initials on it - may be too generic and trivial for protection), and then took it to the extreme of marching in with guns in response to a very mild and probably legal act of copying. RWW, there are plenty of laws that we have and enforce without having to march into people's homes with guns. Laws against illegal parking, laws against disturbing the peace with blaring music at 3 am, etc. These are handled with a fine or a phone call. You can contrive a case where a person resists the law and throws punches at a police officer and forces an armed confrontation, but that's not a direct result of having a law against illegal parking.

I agree with much that President Benson has written about the Constitution and law, and strongly share concerns about government getting too big and too involved with too much of our lives - but protecting property rights is one of the few areas where government has a role to play, and that must include tangible property like a car as well as intangible property like the text of a book, the graphics of a unique painting, a song we record, and unique, non-trivial brand.

Do you have any idea how much creative work and expense goes into creating a successful brand? The concept testing, the registrations, the regulatory issues, the supply chain issues, the brand image development, the artwork, the packaging, the test markets, the revisions and refinements, the launch, the advertising, the pains and sorrows of the marketplace - and then after all that, after you have found a winning path and have a chance of getting some return on your investment to build a unique product and brand image, some crook comes along and makes a counterfeit product that takes all your work and sweat and investment and seizes it for himself, confusing customers into thinking they are buying your great product when in fact they are getting something else.

The harm that is done is far more than just the fact that some of the crook's customers might have bought your product. By selling a cheaper, inferior product, he dilutes the value of your brand. Your name and reputation are held hostage by him.

Recently a major toothpaste brand suffered a painful setback when a Chinese knock-off of the brand (a look-alike product with the same brand name and logo but with some tell-tale typos on the packaging) was found to contain poison. Guess what that did to sales of the legitimate brand owner's product? Substantial harm was done.

If I have developed the Mormanity brand of hot dogs and sell them for $6 a pack, that may be too expensive for some people who just aren't going to buy my product, but wish they could. Then when a crook sells a counterfeit Mormanity brand for $2, a lot of people buy them. They never would have bought mine at $6. Any harm done to me? Yes, absolutely. The value of my brand is diluted. The reputation is hurt. And people who I could have reached with a temporary promotion - $3 off coupons, for example - will not be outside the scope of my potential customer base. And people who paid $6 will feel unhappy. All of this hurts. The unique brand I've developed is one that I should be able to benefit from as I see fit. If I want to lower the price to $2 and reach more customers, that's my call. No one else has the right to take all the investment and work and creative artwork I've put into the brand to steal it for themselves and profit from it. They can sell "Mormon Based" hotdogs, or "Mormon Humanity" hotdogs, but if they duplicate my packaging and appearance to create confusion in the minds of consumers, they are stealing my property just as much as if they walked into my living room and took photos of the artwork I have created for my use and sold them to others, or if they picked up my laptop and took it home for their own.

There was a time when intellectual property had no protection, when anybody could knock off anyone else's product without penalty. They call that time the Dark Ages, and many scholars have noted that the lack of intellectual property rights was a key factor limiting economic and social progress in that era. Property rights, both for tangible and intangible creations, are essential for a successful economy.

You have called the logic of intellectual property rights "weird." Though I agree with you on a number of principles, I strongly disagree with that one.

Now out of curiosity, could I ask where you are in life? Are you running a business? In school? etc. Might help me better appreciate the paradigm gap between us.

RWW said...

Ideally, consistent principles, rather than my life situation, inform my opinions. This is certainly true in this case. I think we've each said our part and I'll try to stick to more uplifting threads in the future.

Mormanity said...

OK, that sounds fair! This certainly was a departure from the uplifting - but some temptations are hard for me to resist.