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It's possible that there is an alias of "cp -i" but then "-f" would override "-i". another possibliity is that you are writting to write-protected files and the system needs your confirmation. For the first case "cp -rf" should work fine (I simply bypass aliases by backslash eg "\cp -r"). For the second case, I'm not sure.
Redirecting or even piping the output of "yes" into a cp -i command is a way, as jschiwal said. However, you might also consider to choose to a more advanced tool, like rsync (just an example, it might suit you or not for your purpose).