WASHINGTON — Federal authorities, in conjunction with the National Crime Prevention Council, launched a public education campaign at the White House on Tuesday aimed at combating counterfeit and pirated goods.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Through a series of TV public services announcements, radio and print advertisements, and online videos and social media tools, the initiative seeks to raise public awareness about the negative and dangerous consequences of intellectual property theft through counterfeiting and pirating, which often funds gang-related activity and organized crime, and hurts trademark and copyright holders.

“We’re seeing an alarming rise in IP crimes — illegal activities that can not only devastate individual lives and legitimate businesses, but undermine our nation’s financial stability and prosperity,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “For far too long, the sale of counterfeit, defective and dangerous goods has been perceived as business as usual. But these and other IP crimes can destroy jobs, suppress innovation, and jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. In some cases, these activities are used to fund dangerous and even violent criminal enterprises and organized crime networks. And they present a significant and growing threat to our nation’s economic and national security.”

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He warned consumers to exercise caution and good judgment when purchasing products online. “To put it simply: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Holder said.

The new campaign includes an MTV Network-produced TV spot titled “Premonition” that illustrates how IP theft funds gangs and other criminal activities. A second online video, titled “It Hurts,” demonstrates how intellectual property theft is comparable to stealing. The campaign also includes materials that will be shown on social media tools — videos, podcasts and Web banners.

“These public service announcements will raise awareness about the ways in which members of the public can help us to more effectively prevent and combat these crimes, protect potential victims and bring criminals to justice,” Holder said. “And, with holiday shopping season now upon us, this information could hardly be hitting the airwaves at a more appropriate time.”

The campaign comes on the heels of a coordinated federal effort announced on Cyber Monday, in which authorities seized 150 Web site domains distributing counterfeit products, ranging from sports jerseys to well-known accessories and footwear brands.

Intellectual property theft costs U.S. businesses an estimated $200 billion to $250 billion, annually, said Rebecca Blank, acting deputy secretary of the Commerce Department.

“I spend a lot time talking to businesses — small businesses, large businesses, businesses in all sorts of industries,” Blank said. “When I ask them what their challenges are out there in the marketplace, again and again they come back to the issue of intellectual property theft.”

Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said the campaign would help U.S. apparel brands and retailers that have invested millions of dollars in fighting counterfeiting.

“I firmly believe that, much like the drug trade, if we educate consumers about the economic and public health risks of purchasing fake goods, we can significantly reduce the public desire for counterfeit products,” Burke said.