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Counterfeit Products and Sociological Theories of Crime

Introduction

There has been an increase in crimes across the world and in various social entities. This has attracted new research attention and raised many concerns among researchers. For the last two decades, counterfeit products in Canada have increased significantly despite the changes made on the relevant policies. This paper discusses the crime of trading in counterfeit products from a sociological perspective. It focuses on the recent research findings on the crime especially those associated with the offenders. Throughout the discussion, the offenders are assumed to be the consumers who purchase the counterfeit products willingly. The paper will attempt to employ sociological theories such as strain theory, social learning theory and control theory to analyze various aspects of counterfeiting.

Introduction

There has been an increase in crimes across the world and in various social entities. This has attracted new research attention and raised many concerns among researchers. For the last two decades, counterfeit products in Canada have increased significantly despite the changes made on the relevant policies. This paper discusses the crime of trading in counterfeit products from a sociological perspective. It focuses on the recent research findings on the crime especially those associated with the offenders. Throughout the discussion, the offenders are assumed to be the consumers who purchase the counterfeit products willingly. The paper will attempt to employ sociological theories such as strain theory, social learning theory and control theory to analyze various aspects of counterfeiting.

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According to control theory of sociology, all people have desires and wants that are easily accomplished through criminal activities than legal channels (Nelson & The University of Arizona, 2007). They engage in criminal activities because of the manacles or controls put in place. Canadian government has continuously been pushed to implement stern regulatory controls on counterfeit goods (The Canadian Ant-Counterfeiting Network, 2007). As a result, counterfeiters have sought those channels that avoid the controls. The shift from old methods of channeling their criminal activities to online environment is one way of evading the regulatory controls. Counterfeiters feel that the government is ‘watching’ for them and allowing the crime. The more there are alternative means of conducting counterfeit business, the more the consumers become recruited. Those consumers who can access the internet are freer to engage in counterfeiting than others.

Motivation to engage in counterfeiting

Considering the positioning of the trading in counterfeit products within everyday routines and the evolving realization that trading is another social activity, the buying of these products seems to incline more to an already established trading practice than a trend explained by criminology (Marcketti & Shelley, 2009). Phau and Dix (2009) maintain that cost is the major motivation to buy counterfeit products across all categories of goods. Most of the offenders believe that legal products are overpriced. In particular, people from the lowest income category will likely buy counterfeit products when compared with higher income earners. Another motivation identified is value generated, although it is associated with specific categories of products such as music and films. The success of building demand for repeatedly renewing goods is a key motivator. For instance, the desire to watch a film the moment it comes out is a strong motivation to buy counterfeit DVDs.

The motivation to engage in counterfeit business is well explained by strain theory of sociology. The theory suggests that individuals who go through strain are likely to engage in criminal activities when they become distressed (Mooney, 2011, pp.112-113). While stress may surface from the failure to attain various goals, it is sturdily related to the failure to attain money and status. Therefore, a strong motivating factor to engage in crime is money. Likewise, Canadian citizens with low income are likely to buy counterfeit products in order to achieve status and respect from higher income earners. Moreover, the value of products sought by all consumers in the country compels the low income earners to opt for counterfeit goods. It goes with the saying that poor people always view counterfeit goods as the easiest way to attain social status.

Conclusion

The increasing rate of counterfeit crimes has attracted a large pool of researchers from various fields including sociology. The behaviors associated with counterfeiting vary across demographical variables of age, gender and status. Younger Canadians and males are likely to engage more in the practice than old people and females according to social learning theory. Control theory explains how the counterfeiters respond to legal controls and confirms the findings suggesting the increasing use of public channels to get counterfeit products. They are motivated by the cost and value derived from counterfeiting as explained by the strain theory of sociology.

References

Akers, R. L. & Jensen, G. F. (2007). Social learning theory and the explanation of crime. Brooklyn, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Carpenter, J. M. & Lear, K. (2011). Consumer attitudes toward counterfeit fashion products: Does gender matter? Journal of Textile and Apparel technology and Management, 7(1), 1-16.

Condry, I. (2004). Cultures of music piracy: An ethnographic comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(3), 343-363.

saac, B. & Osmond, C. (2006). The need for reform in Canada to address intellectual property crime. Web.

Marcketti, S. B. & Shelley, M. C. (2009). Consumer concern, knowledge and attitudes towards counterfeit apparel products. International Journal of Consumer studies, 33(3), 327-337.

Mooney, L. A. (2011). Understanding social problems. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.

Nelson, S. M. & The University of Arizona. (2007). Offender crime perspectives: A study in affect control theory. Cambridge, UK: ProQuest.

Phau, I & Dix, S. (2009). Consumers’ willingness to knowingly purchase counterfeit products. Direct Marketing: An International Journal, 3(4), 262-281.

Rutter, J. & Bryce, J. (2008). The consumption of counterfeit goods: ‘Here be pirate?’ Sociology, 42(6), 1146-1170.

The Canadian Ant-Counterfeiting Network. (2007). Report on counterfeiting and piracy in Canada: A road map for change. Web.