Piracy affects the business of legitimate retailers. Let’s just consider the example of book and media piracy. Book, CD and DVD piracy is an infringement on the rights of authors, publishing houses and producers.
A few years ago Turkish authorities introduced new regulations to stop the pirating of books, especially textbooks. These new procedures have created extra expense and extra work with the implementation of “bandrols” (hologram stickers). Every legitimate bookstore that does not want to be fined by an inspector has followed procedures and now has a “bandrol” on every book. After all this effort it is disappointing that you still see pirated books being sold on street corners. It is not unusual to still see the illegal booksellers in the streets with pirated books playing cat and mouse with you know who. The battle against pirated books still exists.
When I was in the States recently I was reminded of how frankly children can speak. They can say some of the funniest things. They can be known to speak words of wisdom -- all so innocently. Consider the following story.
Maybe you are familiar with the old TL 1,000,000 bill. It was not unusual to get passed a counterfeit Turkish lira bill in the old days. I remember the first one I got at the bookstore. I decided to frame it and hang it on the wall behind the cash register to deter any one else from trying to pass a fake bill. Just before the large-sized TL 1,000,000 bill went out of circulation I kept one of them as a souvenir to show to folks when I go back to the US. Years ago it was easy for everyone in Turkey to be a millionaire. You used to be able to walk around with millions of Turkish lira in your handbag or even in a plastic bag. One evening I sat in the den of my friend’s home with the kids all gathered around me showing off my old TL 1 million bill. When I showed it to them, one young girl said: “My parents say that Turkey has a problem with money laundering. I think this bill could do with a wash.”
Kids can make us laugh, can’t they? But pirating and money laundering are not laughing matters. Nowadays you find international companies and corporations getting caught red-handed in this criminal activity. It is a global problem.
As the kids inspected the bill I tried to explain to them that money laundering has a different meaning. I explained that the child, Denise, was right that the bill looked grubby; but, I added, it is not about cleanliness. Then I shared how it is really all about illegally obtained money mostly through the drug trade, human trafficking and terrorist groups. I continued by saying that money laundering is conducted by finding ways to channel or pass money surreptitiously through a person or business channels using bank deposits and transfers and maybe even by investments. I realized that a word I had used went over their heads and their faces looked blank. The teacher in me went into mode, and of course, I began to explain the big word -- and asked them to say it with me and repeat it a couple of times so they might remember it. The kids liked the sound of that word. As they repeated the big word, I gave them affirmation, saying: “That’s right! Sur·rep·ti·tious -- say it again!
If you are a visitor to Turkey, you may have noticed that people do inspect their bills. With the use of sophisticated digital printers it is easier for criminals to create higher-quality bad bills, and you the receiver have to know what you are checking to determine if you should accept the money or not. Many shops use a UV machine to check bills or a handheld UV pen. In Turkey it is standard practice, whereas in America people would be afraid of offending the customer.
The same problem is true for many items you can purchase in Turkey. There are genuine and authentic and there are also those that are pirated. Recently, I heard that even some refrigerators are fake! Turkish authorities are also dealing with the problem of counterfeit drugs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the problem of counterfeit drugs is known to exist in both developed and developing countries.
There are no quick fixes. No easy answers. We just need to be aware that things are not necessarily what they appear to be. Be a wise shopper.
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: email@example.com