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Program Illicit: The Dark Trade

  • 1. Have a whole-class discussion.
    Provide each student with a copy of the worksheet Supply Chain for Music CDs. As a class, discuss the questions in the column labeled “Stage.”

    2. Have students complete the worksheet.
    Using the Teachers Guide, lead a class discussion about the different stages in the supply chain for a legal music CD and a pirated music CD. Have students write details on their worksheets as you discuss them.

    3. Have students reflect on what they learned.
    Ask: Why are counterfeiting and piracy bad for both businesses and consumers? Explain to students that the growing problems of counterfeiting and piracy threaten businesses and consumers in nearly every region of the world. Illegal products deceive the consumer and displace legitimate sales. In this music CD example, the illegal profits generated by these highly sophisticated operations come at the expense of the artists, songwriters, retailers, record labels, and many others whose creative energies make music possible.

    4. Present the following information to students.
    Tell students that they can check for the following to know if a CD has been pirated:

    • The packaging has blurry graphics, weak color, or bad color.
    • The package or disc has misspelled words.
    • The price is often way below retail value.
    • You’re not buying it in a store, but at a flea market, from a street vendor, at a swap meet, or in a concert parking lot.
    • The record label is missing or it’s a company you’ve never heard of.
    • It has cheaply made insert cards, often without liner notes or multiple folds.
    • The sound quality is poor.

    Ask students if they have encountered any of the above. If they have, have them describe the experience to the class. Tell students that, if they have been the victim of counterfeiters or modern-day pirates, they can report it at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

    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:

    • describe the supply chain for legal and illegal music CDs
    • explain why counterfeiting and piracy are bad for businesses and consumers
    • identify pirated CDs and their characteristics

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Discussions
    • Hands-on learning

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    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

    • Pencils
    • Pens

    Required Technology

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

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    Supply chains consist of a network of people and activities that help move a product from inception to consumption by the end user. However, counterfeit and pirated goods have infiltrated supply chains and present serious problems for legitimate businesses.

    Prior Knowledge

    • None

    Recommended Prior Activities

    • None


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    consumer Noun

    person who uses a good or service.

    distribute Verb

    to divide and spread out materials.

    manufacture Verb

    to make or produce a good, usually for sale.

    supply Verb

    to provide a good or service.

    supply chain Noun

    processes involved in the production or manufacture of a good or service.

    For Further Exploration



U.S. Chamber of Commerce