Counterfeit Culture in Indonesia and How It is Thrives

Is it an unavoidable? or can we overcome this condition?

Copyright disclaimer: I do not own this image.

Indonesia is well known for its rich and contrasting culture from its various ethnic groups. Despite the infamous and various traditional culture of Indonesia. For Indonesian itself, there lays before our eyes a culture we knew yet choose to ignore, it is the culture of counterfeit.

Back in August last year, Highsnobiety posted an article regarding the counterfeit culture in Seoul fashion world, followed by another post about fake streetwear in Russia on February. But in Indonesia, I believe that counterfeit goods are not only on the fashion item but also in many other sectors. The thriving of counterfeit culture proven by how easy we can find such similar market of Seoul’s Dongdaemun on many regions around Indonesia.

Talking about counterfeiting means that we ought to understand why and how it happened. Let’s just say, its origin and history. Counterfeiting is not a new business, we can find any evidence of it, the famous one from ancient civilization is the counterfeit coins. Thus, it’s a well-known problem, and if we look back in history, where the trademarks exist counterfeiting soon follows.

In modern days, this activities thrived for the rise of consumerism. Consumerism drive people to buy things they don’t need just so they can conform to the society. Our society is so familiar with the certain brand, from apparel to electronics. So name it, Vans, Supreme, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Apple. Thence with consumerism, we tend to conform, regardless of our various economic condition. Prosperous one manages to get the originals, while one who can’t afford purchase the knockoffs instead.

What is the impact of Counterfeit Goods?

If you are thinking that by buying some copycat product so you can score a fresh look and not hurting anybody, then you are totally wrong. Counterfeiting activities impacts on a very broad scope, much farther than the average customer is likely to know. According to International Trademark Association (INTA), globally in 2013 counterfeiting and piracy caused 2.6 million employment losses and for its growing activities by 2022, it projected to caused 5.4 million employment losses and US$4.2 trillion worth of global impact. Meanwhile in Indonesia, according to Indonesia Anti-Counterfeiting Society, in 2014, as counterfeit product circulates around the market, it caused a loss worth Rp.65,1 trillion (US$4,82 billion) on the national economy.

If you are thinking that it was too excessive, let me give you a further yet simple elaboration. Counterfeit goods are made by copying the existing product of certain brand. These goods are produced by unregistered makers so it’s difficult to make sure where the profits end up. Moreover, counterfeiting also violates the copyrights, in other words, it breaks the law, so it is considered as illegitimate economic activity. Therefore, it has a wider social and economic impacts on displaced economic activity, investment, public fiscal losses and criminal enforcement.

But how possibly this culture stand in Indonesia in the first place?

As we discussed about consumerism before, we will discuss about circumstances in Indonesia. Indonesia is a developing country and the fourth largest population in the world. A large population is always representing a large market. And as a developing country with large population and a visible gap in people’s economic ability (and of course by the rise of consumerism), those factors make Indonesia also has a large number of population that can’t afford a genuine product for its high price.

In Indonesia, counterfeiting is regulated in Law Number 15 in 2001 regarding Trademarks. The criminal provisions upon this issue are explained in Chapter 14, consisting of Article 90–95. Despite that first five articles explain the sanction and fines upon the issue, for example as Article 90 explains;

Whosoever deliberately and without right uses a mark which is similar in its entirety to a registered mark of another party for the same kind of goods and/or services produced and/or traded shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum period of 5 (five) years and/or a fine of a maximum amount of Rp. 1,000,000,000.00 (one billion rupiahs).

Nevertheless, the Article 95 states that;

The criminal offense referred to in Article 90, Article 91, Article 92, Article 93, and Article 94 shall constitute complaint in crimes.

Thus, the status of complaint in crimes in the law upon counterfeiting issue makes this law can only be processed if the right owner files a lawsuit and sue the perpetrators. Whereas most of the counterfeited goods came from various brand around the world with minimum supervision on every country, including Indonesia. Thence, it will cause the law enforcement process on this issue stumbled by this status. However, this law doesn’t criminalize the buyer whether they are aware or not that the product they are purchasing original or not.

Therefore, this will create a vicious cycle, as long as society demands us to a certain condition, the demands of certain counterfeit goods will always be there, and by the weak law enforcement, some parties will fulfill that demands by manufacturing the counterfeit goods itself

How Can We Overcome this Condition?

We’re frequently arguing over this condition. Whether it is right or wrong to purchase a counterfeit product. Some would say that it is totally wrong to do so. On the contrary, few might say, it isn’t totally wrong due to our unequal economic condition. This argument also supported by another false assumption that famous brand wouldn’t get any impact for their enormous profit.

Well, basically this is the root of such vicious cycle I’ve previously mentioned.

By justifying this situation, we are indirectly shaped our society to accept such a wrong demeanor. It’s totally correct that the inequality of our economy is one of many factors that stimulate this culture. But, we ought to consider other factors such as people awareness towards trademarks and law. Regarding the unequal economic condition, instead of producing-selling-purchasing counterfeit goods, people can create their own brand or let the products let it unbranded.

So regarding the solution about this issue, we shouldn’t always put pressure towards the government and the law enforcer regarding. For the government already provides us the law that regulates this issue. The law itself also consider the socio-economic condition, for it does not criminalize the purchasing of counterfeit goods, but only towards the production and sales of such products.

So the answer will be education and awareness. Education will shape people’s mind and how they think, therefore make people understand why they shouldn’t purchase or sell counterfeit goods. With education, people will know counterfeiting is much a bigger problem than they used to know. People will understand by involving in this culture they are helping other people violating the law. And all of this will lead to an awareness that we shouldn’t involve in this culture, and by that, we are helping the law enforcement as we are respecting the right owners and also ourselves.

Thank You

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