New bill would fine buyers of counterfeit items

April 26, 2011 2:25:49 PM PDT
For years now, Canal Street in Chinatown has been able to hold its own in the line-up of New York City tourist attractions. The draw here: counterfeit luxury goods at bargain prices.

"New York City's the Mecca. Everybody comes here," one person said.


Because periodic police crack downs on vendors haven't seemed to slow the demand for the fakes.

The New York City councilwoman who represents the area is proposing a new law aimed at consumers.

"Buying counterfeit is a crime and it's time we get serious about tackling this demand for fake goods," Council member Margaret Chin said.

Chin's bill would make knowingly buying items with counterfeit trademarks a class 'A' misdemeanor. The penalty: a fine of up to one thousand dollars and/or one year in jail.

Under this new law police would have to catch you actually buying the fake merchandise. Some suggest that makes the law extremely difficult to enforce.

Many insist the focus should be on the vendors, but black-market goods cost the city an estimated billion dollars a year in tax revenue. There are those applauding the proposed crackdown.

"It's long overdue to be at least talked about. You know, that it's not just the seller. They wouldn't have any business if there weren't the buyers," tour guide Cortland Jessup said.

Supporters also dismiss concerns that tourists won't come to the area without the allure of cheap knock-offs and fakes.

"Who says that our community needs to have counterfeits? We can make equally good with the talent here in the city," Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership said.