Counterfeit Sports Collectibles: A National Security Issue?

April 23, 2012

This stuff makes my head explode.

Federal agents raid Patapsco Flea Market

Capping a lengthy investigation into counterfeit and pirated merchandise, including the allegedly illegal use of a major sports apparel trademark, federal Homeland Security Investigations agents on Sunday raided the Patapsco Flea Market and confiscated numerous items being sold there.

Nicole Navas, a public affairs specialist with the Department of Homeland Security, said sports apparel, musical recordings and cosmetics were among the items under scrutiny in the 2 1/2-year-long investigation.

Think about this: a 2 1/2 year-long federal Homeland Security investigation into unlicensed sports merchandise. How exactly is this a national security issue?

The justification for the raid is provided by a Under Armour, a local manufacturer of licensed sports apparel:

“Individuals who produce and sell counterfeit goods harm the American economy. The reality of counterfeiting is that it’s much greater than just buying a knock off item at a discounted price, it’s a multibillion dollar a year problem that undermines corporations.”

Right, but how is this “multibillion dollar a year problem that undermines corporations” a national security problem? Sounds like an industry problem to me. After all, shoplifting is a multibillion dollar a year problem for retailers, but that doesn’t mean Walmart and Target should be allowed to forego the expense of hiring security guards when BATF or DHS agents can handle the work instead.

I already know the industry response. Even though laws exist to protect intellectual property owners from piracy, existing remedies and enforcement tools are expensive and ineffective to stop most violations. In other words, government failure to enforce existing laws is used to justify further expansion of government authority and regulation over the lives of citizens and taxpayers. In what other sphere of human affairs, is abysmal failure and gross incompetence so often rewarded? (I meant this as a rhetorical question, but then I remembered that Keith Olbermann was back on ABC’s This Week.)

Next time you’re at the ballpark, won’t you feel safer knowing that your tax dollars are being spent keeping the world safe from the imminent threat of unlicensed sports apparel? Silly me to think there might be greater threat to our national security than the possibility of sitting next to some stranger at Camden Yards wearing a knockoff Derek Jeter No. 2 jersey.

Meanwhile, next time you visit Baltimore, this could happen to you. Unfortunately, the victim of this horrific assault and thousands of others like him who’ve been brutalized by flash mobs this year (Bush’s fault of course) cannot afford the lobbyists necessary to persuade our elected officials to use government resources for say police protection rather than catering to corporations facing a “multibillion dollar a year piracy problem.”

Or maybe it’s just a matter of priorities in these “difficult economic times.” (Is it racist to say that?) Perhaps an occasional racially-motivated beating/public humiliation is a small price to pay for safeguarding our precious freedom to buy licensed sports apparel industry.

As Patrick Henry so eloquently put it, “Give me overpriced sports memorabilia AND give me Death!”