Fashion Designers Hope That Michelle Obama Gets Them Copyright On Clothing Design

from the comes-from-all-directions... dept

While there are plenty of legitimate worries that the Obama administration is way too influenced by copyright maximalists, who knew that the battle for ridiculous new copyright laws would start involving the First Lady as well? For years, the fashion industry has been a shining example of an industry where innovation and competition thrives, despite no ability to copyright designs and widespread copying of those designs. However, what's resulted is a more dynamic and more creative marketplace that has actually increased output and helped enlarge the market. In fact, repeated studies have shown that it's this lack of intellectual property protection that has made the industry so successful, and that implementing restrictions would actually harm the industry. That's because the rampant copying has done many good things:
  • It helps permeate new designs into the market much faster.
  • It creates a defacto market segmentation between "originals" and copies, which actually has increased the value of having an original brand name design.
  • It encourages more innovation because designers know that they need to keep coming out with new works to stay on top, rather than relying on their old designs.
And it's working. The fashion market is highly competitive, very robust, and very, very creative. So it makes no sense at all that anyone should want to add new IP into that market. The purpose of copyright is to encourage new content creation, and anyone would be hard pressed to say that the fashion industry isn't quite good at constantly churning out tons of new designs. And yet... as with so many case studies about intellectual property, those who are on top often want increased IP protection, not to encourage the creation of new content, but to stamp out competitors and be able to slow down innovation and rest on their laurels.

In other words, the leaders in highly competitive markets often implicitly recognize that IP protection does exactly the opposite of its intended purpose: and they want that. It helps lock them into a leadership position by easing competition, and slowing down the pace at which they need to innovate. So, it should be no surprise that over the years, some top fashion designers have pushed hard for Congress to create a new copyright for fashion designs, despite the total lack of evidence of any need (and, in fact, lots of evidence to the contrary). NY Senator Chuck Schumer has been a big supporter of such a damaging idea, but it hasn't gone anywhere to date.

Yet, now we find out that many top designers, who have designed dresses for the First Lady, Michelle Obama, are hoping to enlist her help in supporting such legislation. They're apparently excited that Michelle Obama is known for her fashion sense, and are playing off of that to get more attention. Unfortunately, in the article linked here, the Washington Post's fashion columnist simply parrots the designers' false claims about how such copying "harms" the industry, despite the evidence saying exactly the opposite. I guess it's too much to ask the Post's fashion columnist to actually understand or research the issue, but it's unfortunate that these false ideas are being reported as fact, and that the First Lady may get dragged into a battle that would ultimately harm fashion design by establishing protectionism where none is needed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), Apr 30th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    So what?

    If they're stupid enough to destroy their industry with copyrightus maximus, let them learn the hard way. Let's face it, if people want to play Russian Roulette with semiautomatic weapons, there's not a lot you can do about it.

    "Experience is a harsh school, but fools will learn in no other."

     

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      Whisk33, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 8:52am

      Re: So what?

      because then the consumer suffers by a lack of product and elevated prices?

       

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        Hulser, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: So what?

        because then the consumer suffers by a lack of product and elevated prices?

        Yes actually, but...that might not be a bad thing in the long run. Sure copyright and trademarks are being abused more these days, but people are used to these laws being applied to music, movies, books, etc. But what would happen if they started to apply already abusive levels of copyright and trademark protections to the fashion world?

        Maybe this is a bit sexist, but can you imagine the reaction from the women of America if the price of clothes went up dramatically? You'd have a revolution on your hands. (Hell hath no fury like a woman who gets sticker shock when they go to Macy's.) Maybe that would be enough to spur overall reform of copyright and trademark.

         

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          nasch, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: Re: So what?

          The question is, how many people would connect the dots between increased prices and decreased selection, and fashion design copyrights? I'm not sure.

           

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    James (profile), Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    A lack of fashion!!! O noooooo! say it isn't so!

     

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    Tgeigs, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Hmm

    As Jerry Sienfeld once said, based on TV and movies we all are going to end up in the single piece jumpsuit of the future anyway. Maybe copyright is how we get there.

     

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      John, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:36am

      Re: Hmm

      Time to copy the single-piece jumpsuit!

       

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      Hulser, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:42am

      Re: Hmm

      Ha! I was actually thinking about that when writing my comment above. As a guy, I wouldn't really care if I had to wear a grey jumpsuit to work every day as long as everyone else wore the same thing.

      So, what would you call the group of people who were responsible for policing the enforcement of fashion copyrights? ;-)

       

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    Mechwarrior, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    How long till we get the Pirates Closet?

     

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    Wayne, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Evidence to the oppposite

    I love your site, however my only complaint is that when you say there is lots of evidence to the contrary, would it be possible to offer a few links or locations to find the information to support this? I would love to be able to be able to say that in the various discussions I have with people that there is evidence, and look here is some of it. not asking to be spoon fed, but it is helpful to have a better idea of where to find these types of items.
    thanks very much

     

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      Shirley Willett, May 3rd, 2009 @ 8:14am

      Re: Evidence to the oppposite

      In my "Position Against Copyright Law in Fashion Design" I presented evidence to the opposite. I am a well-known Boston fashion designer, and had a manufacturing business for 20 years. I was intensely creative but argue against anything being really original in clothing design (graphics for textiles, yes). Please read my blog of that title
      http://fashionsolutions.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html
      I explain that I presented my position at the Copyright Society last June, and in their recent law journal. The blog gives you many details of evidence to the contrary.

       

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    Ima Fish, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:43am

    I cannot believe that someone seriously thinks that a person should be able to have an exclusive and essentially a perpetual monopoly over the concept of an a-line skirt. Or the button down collar. Or Capri styled pants. Tgeigs is right. If this law is ever put into effect we'll probably have to walk around naked.

     

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      Tgeigs, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      "Tgeigs is right. If this law is ever put into effect we'll probably have to walk around naked"

      Ok, I'm now reversing positions. If we can couple this law w/an aggressive nationally instituted excersize memorandum, I'm in...

       

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    John Doe, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    First off, lets hope that there are tons of prior art already out there so most things couldn't be copyrighted anyway.

    Secondly, this is yet another news column that proves that current news outlets do not provide value to the news. They parrot one source and never look for the counter opinion. News people are a lazy bunch these days and should be going out of business in droves. Maybe new journalists will fill the vacancies and actually research an article more thoroughly?

     

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    Sean, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    It is up for debate if the difference between real and fake actually gives the brand further value. Louis Vuitton bags and goods have become absolutely ubiquitous, to the point where now each one I see I perceive as being fake; not real.

    So in this regard, it's possible for a brand to be diluted by fakes.

     

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      Ima Fish, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 10:37am

      Re:

      So in this regard, it's possible for a brand to be diluted by fakes."

      And that's exactly what trademark law is for, so additional copyright protection is not at all necessary.

       

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      JEDIDIAH, May 1st, 2009 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      > It is up for debate if the difference between real and fake > actually gives the brand further value. Louis Vuitton bags > and goods have become absolutely ubiquitous, to the point
      > where now each one I see I perceive as being fake; not real.
      >
      > So in this regard, it's possible for a brand to be diluted by fakes.

      No. What dillutes the name of something like Louis Vuitton is easy money. A flood of cheap consumer credit means that you don't actually have to be rich to pay an absurd amount for a dress or a purse anymore. It ends up on par with the corner Starbucks.

      It ceases to be any sort of real status symbol. It perpetuated to the point that it might as well be generic.

      No, the housing bubble is responsible for a Vuitton something appearing generic.

       

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    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    It encourages more innovation because designers know that they need to keep coming out with new works to stay on top, rather than relying on their old designs.
    That's the rub. Is it fair to fashion designers to force them to keep coming out with new designs when authors and musicians (and their heirs and their heirs' heirs - "Happy Birthday to You" still brings in $2M annually - 74 years after it was first copyrighted) can live perpetually off a single creative work without ever having to innovate again?

     

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      Ima Fish, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      "Is it fair to fashion designers to force them to keep coming out with new designs"

      You don't really understand how the fashion industry works. The industry wants constant and continual change. The industry does not want you wearing the same clothes season after season. That's why fashions continually change, to force people to buy new clothes even though their old clothes are still wearable.

      "Did you see Sally? Her dress is so last year!"

       

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    bubba, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    everything has already been made...

    well a good deal of it. fashion is about taking the past and making it presentable for the present. a six month non-renewable copyright would be fine. but i'm sure they want 20 years minimum. current designers such as armani and ralph and calvin and tommy would never have been able to make a dime had this existed 40 years ago. and no new small designers would try to make it in the fashion world if they thought they would probably be sued by high-priced lawyers for everything they made. make a t-shirt with a black dot on it? probably been done and copyrighted so i would have to do an expensive search before i even though of making it. by the time you found out wether it was ok or not the trend would be over.

    i hope this happens only to see how much fun it will be...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Sent a link to this article to contact Whitehouse and asked that Mrs. Obama read it. Wonder if it will get to her.

    No one mentioned the slippery slope argument. If cloths designs, then what about hair styles, nail polish, and makeup patterns. What about food recipes and presentations on the plate (some are pretty creative). And why aren't all forms of speech creative in some way. I don't want anyone to repeat and pattens of language that I create, whether written, performed, or just talk between friends. After all, I created them.

     

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    Thor, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Be careful what you wish for

    It is said that when the gods wish to punish you, they give you what you ask for.

    Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

     

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    Spencer Crandall, Apr 30th, 2009 @ 12:34pm

    Thanks for bringing to the forefront

    Great article about the perils of placing restrictions on this flourishing industry. Let's hope Michelle Obama does not support it. Spencer Crandall www.dressmichelle.com

     

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    Lennon, May 2nd, 2009 @ 3:20am

    Good Article

    This article shines a light on an important subject in fashion

     

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    spareplanet, Jan 16th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

    IP protection for you only

    To the author:

    I am sure you believe in what you are writing here, but it is complete fantasy. It is a total croc.

    "The fashion industry is thriving." Nope

    "It's creative." No, it's actually quite stagnant. Have you been to GUESS lately? Jeans and T-shirts. Wow, that's original.

    "Innovation is spurred by rampant copying." That's completely ficticious. Rampant copying discourages innovation.

    "Numerous and repeated studies have shown..." if they are so numerous, why no references? Because you made that up to try to legitimize your wishful thinking.

    You sound like one of those radio show hosts who will say anything, just to get people on both sides heated up.

    The first law that should be made is to bar consumers from debates about what producers rights should be.

    They know not what the producers go thru, and therefore as literally as literal can get...do not know what they are talking about.

    From the biased perspective of just wanting stuff as cheap as possible, preferrably free, they invent baseless claims, and make nonsensical statements that are nothing but wishful thinking.

    The debate would be very different if it was their 40, 50 or 60 hours per week that was supposed to go unpaid.

    Please understand that IP laws are not for the protection of ideas. Ideas are cheap and easy to come by. "A dime a dozen" as one person put it. Anyone can sit there and say, "Wouldn't it be nice if TV's were flat, thin & wall-mounted"

    But try engineering one! THAT takes a lot of expensive education and countless frustrating hours. THAT is what is being protected by IP/copyright laws. THAT is what people expect to get paid for. And THAT is what people WILL NOT ATTEMPT if someone else can easily cash in on the fruits of their labor, for 10 cents on the dollar, because of having no R&D costs to recoup.

    Innovation is not coming up with ideas. It is the blood, sweat and tears of making an idea into a reality.

    Innovation IS stimulated by competition.

    It most assuredly is not stimulated by allowing copying.
    It is stifled.

     

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    SparePlanet (profile), Jan 16th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    Upon tracking down one of your "repeated studies" which you cite as proof of your point, it turns out not to be a study at all, but actually a legal paper. Legal papers put forth ARGUMENTS. They are completely unscientific and deliberately ignore any evidence contrary to the predetermined conclusion. 50% of arguments are shot down by the judge, and even those that are accepted are not considered facts, they are just precedents. Studies do just the opposite. They set up test conditions vs. known or verifiable facts. A well-conducted study automatically precludes the possibility of false conclusions. A study of the fashion industry which followed basic scientific principles, would include measuring how much innovation occurred with and without the rampant copying. Science deals in reality. Law is about the power of persuasion. Your proof is like stating that X=45. Meaningless. Here is the link to your proof, and it is very clear why YOU didn't provide the link. In the abstract of the document, the authors state: "We argue that the fashion industry counter-intuitively operates within a low-IP equilibrium in which copying does not deter innovation and may actually promote it." Nothing but opinion. "OJ was framed" http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=878401

     

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    Fashion Guide, Aug 16th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Re:Fashion Designers Hope That Michelle Obama Gets Them Copyright On Clothing Design

    Thanks for this articles.......I like this.....This articles is very wonderful,good and lovely and likely..... The first law that should be made is to bar consumers from debates about what producers rights should be........ They know not what the producers go thru, and therefore as literally as literal can get...do not know what they are talking about.well a good deal of it. fashion is about taking the past and making it presentable for the present. a six month non-renewable copyright would be fine...... A study of the fashion industry which followed basic scientific principles, would include measuring how much innovation occurred with and without the rampant copying. Science deals in reality. Law is about the power of persuasion.......... ======================================================== Fashion Guide

     

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    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 7:07pm

    Er, you wut? ↑ ↑ ↑

     

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