(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but there is a world of difference between flattery, creepy stalking and straight-out theft.
Earlier this week, eagle-eyed Trade Me-users spotted a site that not only had a similar web address to Trade Me, it also looked a whole lot like the real thing: not just similar colours and layout, but an exact replica of the official Trade Me layout, including (gasp) Kev the kiwi running across the top of the page.
I’m not going to give the address for this dodgy site for three reasons: it uses a web design stolen from another site, it also seems to be selling nothing but fake designer goods and finally, if the site-owners are happy to steal layouts and handbag designs there’s a good chance they’d happily steal your money, too.
It looks like Trade Me might have waved a well-deserved big stick because as of today, the site has a message saying it is now under construction. While that is a good thing, unfortunately, it’s not enough of a good thing: no doubt the site will be back up and running soon, ready to take money from the foolish and naive.
I’ve had the piracy debate many times and the excuse always seems to be pretty similar, whether it’s movies, software or designer handbags: the big-name companies that make them are greedy because to produce their high-end goodies costs just a fraction of the exorbitant price they sell them for.
That may be so, but it’s also a very blinkered view of the world. In the case of software, there are months, sometimes years, of development and testing before the final product is ready for the world. Surely the makers have every right to recover those costs? With movies and music, it’s not just the cost of pressing a disc, it’s the cost of actors, producers, directors, costumes, catering, marketing and much more.
For designer goods, you’re getting something that relies on its quality to make it stand out from the crowd. And those big-name designers who come up with the ideas for the major design houses don’t come cheap. Sure, you can get a cheap and nasty Louis Vuitton knockoff for $50 but why the hell would you want one? Unless you’re keen to support the sweatshop labour used to produce the things?
Besides, wouldn’t you rather have the real thing? Trust me, you can tell the difference.