The outrage which has greeted the decision by the United States to keep Hong Kong on its watch list for copyright piracy is unjustified. This is not to say that the authorities here are not working to stamp out piracy, but the plain fact is that, despite tightened laws and stiffer penalties, counterfeit CDs, CD-ROMS and VCDs are widely available. There is no shortage either of the goods or of customers to keep the multi-billion dollar business thriving. Stars and producers who have suffered are indignant. In a wider sphere, Hong Kong's trading relationship with the US is seriously affected. But the inescapable fact is that few people regard such piracy as wrong. To drive home the message that it is simply another form of theft - and just as dishonest in its own way as picking a stranger's pocket - is an uphill battle. Customers who cannot afford the genuine article feel they have no choice but to buy a copy at a fraction of the price. But they often end up with poor quality goods, and the damage done to genuine manufacturers helps to keep their prices up. The point that, were piracy to be eliminated, genuine goods could be sold more cheaply is one which the Intellectual Property Department may stress in trying to persuade schoolchildren to resist the temptation of fake CDs. At the same time, makers of the real things are asking for trouble if they increase prices, and retailers will add to the problem with excessive mark-ups. It will take a concerted effort to weed out the producers and deter the customers before there is any real prospect of stopping the illicit trade. The offence of buying a fake CD may pale in comparison to the crime of running a pirate factory, but a business cannot survive without customers, and those customers have to be made aware that they are joining in an illicit trade.