Hood says counterfeit items hurting economy, placing public in danger

JACKSON – Attorney General Jim Hood says he has created the nation’s first Intellectual Property Theft Task Force because the sale of counterfeit products hurts both the economy and consumers.
Hood officially announced the formation of the task force and Operation Knock Out Knock-Offs at a press conference in his Sillers Building office. With him were local law enforcement officials and national representatives of groups combating the production and sale of counterfeit products.
“It is a type of theft that costs American and Mississippi businesses dearly on the economic front and injures consumers,” Hood said in prepared remarks.
Mississippi recently became the first state to receive a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to help form the task force in past weeks, which is also the first of its kind in the nation.
Hood said fighting product piracy is difficult because it can take many different shapes. For instance, music and movies are downloaded illegally from the Internet, and many counterfeit goods are sold at flea markets.
In tracking the illegal music downloads, Hood said his office will employ some of the same technology it uses to arrest and convict people who pull child pornography from the Internet.
People downloading more than $100 worth of music illegally can be convicted of a felony and receive up to five years in prison.
He said part of the mission of the task force, which is being formed in his office with the help of local law enforcement, will be educational: letting people know they are violating the law by downloading free music, and alerting them to the dangers of some counterfeit products, such as inferior drugs or faulty Christmas lights that might be a fire hazard.
Carlos Linares, with the Recording Industry Association of America, said the music industry loses $1.6 billion in revenue per year because of pirated music, and governments from the national to local levels lose $422 million in taxes.
Hood said he has met songwriters who struggle to make a living because they lose royalties on their music when it is pirated.
Bob Barchiesi, president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, said counterfeiting and piracy “are killing the U.S. industry with death by a thousand cuts. … Make no mistake about it, counterfeiting and piracy are jobs-killers.”
The business community is aligned with Hood on the effort because the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, which comprises a broad section of business groups, estimates that counterfeiting and piracy cost the U.S. economy up to $250 billion annually and 750,000 jobs.
The task force in recent weeks already has worked with the Tupelo Police Department on two arrests – one for the alleged sale of counterfeit purses, sunglasses and other items, and the other for the alleged sale of about 80 pieces of fraudulent merchandise.
Hood’s office will be sending out letters to local law enforcement seeking cooperation in combating counterfeiting and piracy. His office also plans to conduct regional training sessions.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal