Back in 2003, we mentioned an article that compared the entertainment industry to the fashion industry
, noting that even though there was no intellectual property protections over clothing design and copying was rampant, the fashion industry was thriving. This shouldn't come as a surprise, really. After all, without the artificial protectionism, the fashion designers are forced to continually compete by continually innovating and always trying to come out with the latest and greatest design. Even though others copy, there's tremendous value in being the first, or being the "big name" in the industry. The article included this fantastic quote: "Ideas arise, evolve through collaboration, gain currency through exposure, mutate in new directions, and diffuse through imitation. The constant borrowing, repurposing, and transformation of prior work are as integral to creativity in music and film as they are to fashion." In 2005, the NY Times wrote a similar article, but warned that the fashion industry was moving in the wrong direction
, as lazy designers who didn't want to compete and wanted to rest on their laurels had started pushing for new intellectual property over their designs. Late last year, the calls for such protectionism grew even stronger
-- though, the reasoning doesn't make any sense. The entire point of intellectual property protections is to create incentives for a market. If that market is already thriving, why do you need to add new incentives? The real reason is that it's not to provide incentives. It's a way for successful players to keep making money without continuing to innovate -- which is simply bad for society.
The NY Times is taking another look at this issue, this time in a piece written by well-known economist Hal Varian, who points to a recent study that doesn't just note that the fashion industry has thrived without intellectual property protection, but notes that a big part of the reason it has thrived is because of the lack of IP
. In other words, if those pushing for those new IP rights get them, the end result will likely be harmful to the overall fashion industry. Again, this shouldn't be surprising, as removing protectionist policies tends to increase competition and the size of the addressable market, but it's certainly a good example to point to when people insist that things like the music industry wouldn't exist without copyright protection.