1. Introduce the concepts of counterfeiting and piracy.
Explain to students that the global economy depends on the creation and distribution of intellectual property (IP) to grow. But more and more, the economy suffers from IP theft, or counterfeiting and piracy. As global trade increases and technology advances, fake products such as clothing and accessories, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, auto parts, software, music, films, and everything in between are making their way to markets around the world. Ask: Do you own any counterfeit or pirated goods?

2. Have students analyze a map of counterfeiting and piracy.
Have students use their geographic skills to analyze a map of the illegal trade problem. As a class, go to the Live Counterfeiting Seizure Map for 2012. Look at the legend, which breaks down the types of goods that were seized. Ask:

  • Is there a pattern? What is it?
  • Does the trade in counterfeit goods impact specific countries or regions? How?
  • What do you think about the role and meaning of intellectual property in a world where information is instantly and equally accessible across the globe?
  • How does piracy and/or counterfeiting impact you directly?
  • Would you purchase counterfeit and/or pirated products? Why or why not?
  • Would you download pirated movies or music? Why or why not?
  • If people stopped buying fake products, would people stop selling them because there would be no profit?
  • What do you think should be done to stop counterfeiting and piracy?

If time allows, compare and contrast this year’s map to the maps of previous years to see what has changed.

3. Have students write about counterfeiting and piracy by creating a campaign against them.
As a class, read through some of the pages on the Illicit website together. Then have each student develop a campaign against counterfeiting and piracy by doing the following:

  • Create a list of the top ten reasons people should not buy counterfeit or pirated products.
  • Develop a slogan that captures your anti-piracy and counterfeiting message in one easy-to-remember phrase.
  • Write an article on the economic or consumer health and safety threats of counterfeiting and piracy.
  • Translate what you’ve learned about counterfeiting and piracy into a fact sheet alerting others to the problem. Add graphics for impact.


4. Have students publish or present their work.
Have students share their work with others by publishing and displaying their writing and images, or orally presenting their campaign to the class.

Extending the Learning

If possible, have students watch the National Geographic film Illicit: The Dark Trade. An excerpt of the film is provided in this activity. Go to the PBS website to find out where you can get the full DVD.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • define
  • identify patterns of counterfeiting and piracy on a world map
  • explain how IP theft impacts their lives
  • create a campaign against IP theft

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Hands-on learning
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 11:  The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface

Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics

  • Standard 3: Allocation of Goods and Services:  Different methods can be used to allocate goods and services. People acting individually or collectively through government, must choose which methods to use to allocate different kinds of goods and services.

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, Projector, Speakers
  • Plug-Ins: Flash

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction

Background Information

In today’s global marketplace, intellectual property (IP) is important. Under IP laws, creations of the mind—such as inventions, songs, stories, or logos—are considered assets just like one’s home or car. Thieves steal this property from individuals and manufacture billions of dollars worth of counterfeit merchandise. Nearly every industry, from software to toys to pharmaceuticals, is being affected.

Prior Knowledge

  • None

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None


intellectual property

material created by creative thought that is protected by trademark or copyright.


illegal use or reproduction of a copyrighted work of art or intellectual property.